LAURINBURG — On Saturday, several star athletes will once again don Scots blue as they take the Pate Stadium field — not in a jersey, but a cap and gown.
The 2014-2015 athletic campaign was one filled with memorable moments and compelling stories, many of which were written by its standout senior class.
Scotland enjoyed Southeastern Conference regular-season championships in football and boys and girls basketball, and its softball team brought home an SEC tournament title. Each of those programs were led by hard-working seniors that laid the groundwork for current and future success.
The Scots football team capped its most prolific four-year stretch in school history with its fourth straight SEC title and an appearance in the 4A quarterfinals this season. Graduating seniors, including Jaylend Ratliffe, Robert Beacham and Robert McKoy leave Scotland with 54 wins during that period and a 2011 state championship ring.
The 2014 Scots began the season with sky-high expectations after the team advanced to the title game in 2013 and returned its best player in Ratliffe. But those dreams were quickly derailed after the local star was critically injured in an ATV accident days before the first official practice. However, the team quickly rallied together, and with their fallen teammate watching from the sidelines after he healed from his brain injury, the Scots finished 12-2 and defeated rival Richmond Senior for a fourth consecutive season. No other Scotland senior class had previously accomplished that feat.
“You win 39 games in three years, you’ve done pretty good, and that’s what these seniors have done,” said Scotland coach Richard Bailey, who took over the program in 2012 after Chip Williams retired. “This has been the three most successful consecutive years in the history of Scotland football. I know we didn’t win a state championship in the past three years, but as far as the number of wins, how far we advanced in the playoffs, conference championships, it’s been a successful era … this group has been special.”
Seventeen Scots were named to the all-SEC team at season’s end, a group that included seniors Ben Utter, Jaleel McLean, Robert Beacham, Cordell Campbell, Quadrin Willians, Nevin McDonald, Brandon McMillian, Tyrek Smith, Tyquan Ingram, Robert McKoy and Ahmed Monley.
Several were rewarded for their performance on the field and in the classroom, earning scholarships to continue their academic and athletic careers at universities across the southeast. McKoy, who was named the Scotland Male Athlete of the Year, is off to Gardner-Webb University and McMillian is heading to Georgia Military College. Beacham, Williams and Utter will head east to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, McLean is set to continue his education at Louisburg College, and Ratliffe signed a letter of intent to attend Georgia Tech.
Scotland boys basketball broke through with its first conference title in 14 years, paced by the steady play of two of its most experienced players — Jeremias Easterling and Travis Miles. Both seniors made the all-SEC team.
“They’re great and they deserve the award because they were a part of the two-year group that started out with me on this mission to improve Scotland basketball,” said coach Michael Malpass.”We wanted to become competitive not only in the conference but also in our state, and I think they’re a big reason we got to (the playoffs).
“They’re great kids, they’re great students, and they’ve been fun to coach.”
Easterling averaged 12.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists and a block per game while providing steady leadership on and off the floor.
Miles averaged 12.2 points, and he also tallied 5.5 rebounds and an assist per game. The soft-spoken senior carried Scotland in some of its most important games this year, none bigger than the two meetings with rival Richmond. He scored 24 points and sank six 3-pointers in the first matchup, a 74-53 road win, then drilled nine 3-pointers in a 30-point effort to help the Scots defeat the Raiders 99-86 on senior night.
The girls basketball team finished undefeated in conference play and brought home another SEC title, its fourth in as many years. Coach Janie Hodges could always count on her best player, senior Destiny Campbell, when she needed a big play.
Campbell, who has signed to play for Cape Fear Community College next year, scored SEC Player of the Year honors while being named to the all-SEC team. She was a walking double-double, averaging 17.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per game along with 4.7 blocks and 2.0 steals.
“I’m really happy that was she was able to finish undefeated in her senior year. She’s worked really hard,” Hodges said.
Scotland softball finished second in the SEC regular season standings behind Richmond, but came away with a thrilling victory against the Raiders in the SEC Championship game thanks to huge play by — who else — a senior.
Veteran Ashleigh Bailey, who was named Scotland’s Female Athlete of the Year, drilled a two-run home run late in the game to give the Scots the go-ahead runs it needed to win 5-4.
“Not a better person for that to happen to,” said coach Patrick Williams . “She’s been a senior that’s been a part of the program for forever and a day. Great kid, couldn’t happen to anybody better.”
Bailey, Hailey Clark and Darby Cribb were Scotland’s seniors to make the all-SEC team.
Clark, who will continue her career at Florence-Darlington Technical College, was Scotland’s best fielder this season while playing the pivotal shortstop position. She also provided power at the plate while batting in the middle of the lineup.
Cribb, who was one of the team leaders in the dugout, played every inning at catcher this year and was a formidable wall for Scotland pitchers, rarely letting passed balls get by her.
Numerous other Scotland seniors scored accolades as well.
In girls tennis, Sallie Wegner earned all-SEC honors, and boys cross country is set to graduate four all-conference runners in Logan Ward, John Holloway, Kytel Collins-Jackson and Jarred Torgerson. Ward was an all-region runner, qualifying for the state championships and he inked a letter of intent to UNC-Pembroke. Collins-Jackson and Torgerson earned academic scholarships to N.C. State.
Volleyball finished second in the conference and qualified for the playoffs led by Bailey, who was the senior captain and the emotional spark plug for her team.
Collins-Jackson also made the boys soccer all-SEC team, as did seniors Stone Phillips and Daniel Williams. Phillips is off to Mercer University while Williams will attend Richmond Community College.
The boys golf team, which qualified for the 4A championships in Pinehurst, featured an all-SEC senior in Blake Bathie. Boys tennis also had an all-SEC performer in Robert Beacham, who served as captain for coach Atondra Ellis in his final season. Deanna McLaurin was the lone Scotland senior to make the all-conference girls soccer team.
The boys 4×100 track team, which consisted of three seniors in Robert McKoy, Cedric Terry, Quadrin Williams and freshman Zamir White, garnered headlines by setting a school and SEC record with a time of 41.80 at the conference meet. The Scots went on to win a silver medal at the 4A championships in Greensboro.
And in baseball, Grant English and Sam Gray also made the all-conference squad in their final year. English, who batted .345 this season, signed a letter of intent to attend Winthrop University last offseason. Sam Gray was fourth on the team with a .328 average and will take his talents to Danville Community College in Virginia.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.