Whiteville’s Luke Little named head coach at Morganton Freedom

Cheryl M. Shuffler, Public Relations Officer with Burke County Public Schools released the following Tuesday morning announcing the hiring of Luke Little as the head football coach at Freedom High School in Morganton, NC. Little’s last day at Whiteville is reportedly March 20.

Morganton, NC – Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Freedom High School Principal Felicia Simmons announces Luke Little is slated to be the Patriots new head football coach. Little has 17 years of teaching and coaching experience and has been a high school head football coach since 2007. He comes to Freedom after six seasons as head football coach at Whiteville High School in Columbus County, North Carolina.

Little said the region, the tradition at Freedom and the Burke County school system attracted him to Freedom High. “We are excited,” Little said. “The sky’s the limit for us, and my family and I are looking for a successful transition on and off the field.”

Simmons said, “I am excited about Coach Little’s stability, organizational goals and his vision for the Patriot football program. He has a passion for students to not only succeed as great athletes but also as great citizens.”

Freedom Athletic Director Casey Rogers said, “Coach Little will bring a foundation of toughness and stability to Freedom High School football, which is something our football program has been looking for. He has a proven track record, and he’s a guy I think our kids will respond well to and play hard for. Good things are in store for us.”

Little played linebacker and running back at West Stanly High School before going on to play college baseball at Appalachian State University. A shoulder injury sidelined his football playing career. Little completed his bachelor’s degree in recreation management at ASU and in addition to coaching, teaches physical education.

As a high school head football coach at Whiteville and South Stanly high schools, Little has a combined record of 88 wins and 55 loses. At both schools he turned around losing football programs. Little’s coaching experience also includes assistant football coach and head baseball coach at West Brunswick High School.

Whiteville High School’s football team was conference champions four times under Little between 2013 and 2017, and Little was named 3 Rivers Conference and Columbus County Coach of the Year four times.

Little’s father, Mark Little, is a retired, long-time high school football coach, and the two coached together at Whiteville and against each other in Stanly County.

“My dad taught me how to treat my players and the importance of having a relationship with the kids,” Little said. “I believe in building good, strong relationships and treating each other like family. When you do that, the wins and loses take care of themselves.”

Little said he has great expectations from his players. He said, “My teams are disciplined and well behaved on and off the field. We are hardnosed and give a lot of effort. As far as the Xs and Os, we will be well balanced with the run-pass game. I want people when they leave the game from watching us on Friday nights to say, ‘That is a well-disciplined, well coached team.’” For Little, it’s not all about his players’ work on the field. “I will keep up with their grades and check in with their teachers on their academics and their behavior. That’s the main goal. That they succeed in the classroom. That they have a background of a strong work ethic and are prepared for life after high school whether they are going on to college or the military or the workforce.” Little also expects his players to be disciplined outside of school and ballgames. “Their actions are a direct reflection of me and this football team and the high school.”

Little will be moving to Morganton with his wife, Nikki, who is a teacher, and their three children. He said, “I have a 13-year-old son who is very athletic and a fifth-grade son who also is athletic and a daughter in kindergarten who is our biggest cheerleader on the sidelines.”

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Larry Putnam said, “I appreciate the Freedom High School administration for taking their time in the selection process and using their professional judgement to hire a teacher and a coach that will have the best interest of our kids in mind.”

Freedom is hosting a meet-and-greet for Coach Little and the community at the school in the teaching theater from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Luke Little’s coaching highlights include:

January 2012 – present – Head Football Coach at Whiteville High School

53-24 overall record (Previous 5 years Whiteville was 27 wins 30 loses)

Conference Champions – 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017

3 Rivers Conference and Columbus County Coach of the Year 4 times.

August 2007 – December 2011 – Head Football Coach at South Stanly High School

35 – 31 overall record (Previous 5 years South Stanly was 28-37)

August 2006 – June 2007 – West Brunswick High School

Varsity Football Offensive Coordinator, JV Head Baseball Coach and Physical Education Teacher

August 2002 – June 2005 – Whiteville High School

Varsity Offensive Coordinator, Varsity Assistant Baseball Coach and Physical Education Teacher

August 2001 – June 2002.  West Brunswick High School

Assistant Varsity Football and Head JV Baseball Coach         

Friday’s TRC Softball action

South Columbus 5 St. Pauls 0 at SCHS

 South Columbus’ Anna Suggs struck out 10, allowed two hits and walked two in the Stallions 5-0 win. St. Pauls’ first hit came on a bunt in the fifth inning. By that time South Columbus had moved out to a 5-0 lead.

Hailey Chestnutt and Tressie McQueen reached base to open the Stallion second on multiple miscues by the Bulldogs. Alexis Suggs drove in the first South Columbus run with a single. McQueen scored when Rita Cartrette’s grounder was mishandled.

Morgan Nye singled leading off the South third. She advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on Libby Blosser’s base hit for a 3-0 lead. The Stallions final two runs scored in the fourth. Caila Turbeville tripled. Nye singled to score Turbeville. Blosser’s triple scored Nye for a 5-0 Stallion lead.

That was more than enough offense for Suggs. Suggs and the Stallion defense only allowed one Bulldog runner to advance to second base in the game.

Libby Blosser led Stallion hitters with two hits and two RBIs. Alexis Suggs and Morgn Nye also contributed two hits each and a run batted in. Caila Turbeville was 1-2 with a triple and sacrifice bunt.

South Columbus sits atop the TRC standing with a record of 4-0.

Whiteville 15 Fairmont 0 at FHS

The Wolfpack earned its third consecutive “run rule” win at Fairmont Friday. Whiteville has now outscored the opposition 49-1.

Ivy Hayes allowed four hits, struck out seven and walked one to earn the win. Five Wolfpack players collected two hits, Santana Best, Kaitlyn Gordon, Ivy Hayes, Raeganne Sholar and Carrie Ann Wilkins. Best and Wilkins drove in three runs apiece. One of Sholar’s hits was a triple.

Whiteville (3-0) trails South Columbus by one-half game in the conference standings.

East Bladen 8 West Columbus 7 at EBHS

The Eagles jumped out to a 7-1 lead after two innings and withstood a Viking final frame, four-run rally for the 8-7 win. Leah Floyd led West Columbus at the plate with two hits, including a triple. Kristen Meares contributed a double. Ashley Washington added a run-scoring single.

West Columbus drops to 1-3 in the TRC. With its second consecutive win, East Bladen improves to 2-2.

East Columbus catcher, Brittany Little, puts the tag on a Red Springs runner. Hannah Bullock photo.

East Columbus 18 Red Springs 1 at ECHS

East Columbus softball picked up its first win of the season with a resounding victory over Red Springs. The game was called after two and one-half innings of play. The Gators scored five, first inning runs and 13 runs in the second.

Alanna Deal pitched for East Columbus, striking out four and allowing four hits. Deal was 2-2 at the plate with a double, triple and three runs driven in. Brittany Little also drove in three runs with two hits, one a double. Diamond Porter added a double and single to the Gators’ 10-hit attack.

East Columbus, now 1-1, travels to St. Pauls Monday for a game rescheduled from February 28. Red Springs is now 0-4 in TRC play.

West Bladen 17 South Robeson 7 at SRHS

West Bladen improves to 3-1 in conference play. The Knights will host Whiteville Tuesday at 6 p.m.


History made in TRC Friday baseball

If you like close baseball games, the Three Rivers Conference was the place to be Friday evening. One run decided each of the five games played.

Whiteville 3 Fairmont 2 at FHS

Fairmont took an early 2-0 lead on two unearned runs, but Jake Harwood’s two-run homer provided the tying and go-ahead tallies as Whiteville defeated the Golden Tornadoes.

Starters Brooks Baldwin (WHS) and Randy Floyd (FHS) hooked up in a pitcher’s duel as neither allowed an earned run. Baldwin was especially impressive with 14 strikeouts, no walks and three hits allowed in six innings pitched. Harwood earned the save by striking out the side in the seventh. Fairmont’s Floyd struck out 12 and walked two.

East Columbus 3 Red Springs 2 at ECHS

Alex Ellis and Daniel Wells combined to hold Red Springs to two runs on five hits despite four Gators errors as East handed the Red Devils their first loss of the season. East Columbus scored twice in the second and plated the winning run in the fifth. Ty Sampson went the distance for Red Springs, striking out six and walking no one.

East Columbus, now 1-1, will travel to St. Pauls Monday for a game rescheduled from February 28.

South Columbus 11 St. Pauls 10 at SCHS

Will every South Columbus home baseball game end 11-10? The first two have! However, the Stallions came out on top this time by holding off a St. Pauls seventh inning comeback.

The teams combined for 15 hits, nine walks, five batters hit by a pitch, nine errors and one balk. Andrew Davoren came on with one out in the seventh to earn the save. Errors allowed three St. Pauls runs to score in the final frame before Davoren recorded the final out with Bulldog runners on the corners.

South Columbus scored in every inning except the first. South put up four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Tate Lee had two hits including a double for South Columbus. Joseph Ward drove in three runs.. Grayson Stocks started on the mound for South, followed by Chandler Ward and Davoren.

South Columbus improves to 2-2 with the win. South travels to East Columbus Tuesday. Game time is 6 p.m.

West Columbus 6 East Bladen 5 at EBHS

Cody Benton’s two-run single in the top of the seventh provided the tying and game-winning runs for the Vikings. Jerry Locklear pitched an inning and two-thirds of scoreless relief to pick up the win.

Dylan Blackwell started the West Columbus rally with a walk. Nigel Ceesay singled and Benton’s hit drove Blackwell and Ceesay home.

Cody Benton was 3-3 with three RBIs. Jagger Haynes started on the hill for West, pitching five and one-third innings, striking out nine.

West Columbus is now 3-3 overall and 3-1 in TRC play. The Vikings host St. Pauls Tuesday evening before taking on North Brunswick in a non-league affair Thursday.

South Robeson 1 West Bladen 0 at SRHS

 South Robeson scored an unearned run in the second inning to take the victory. West Bladen’s Logan West was the hard luck loser, allowing just two hits and striking out 10 Mustangs.

Pitching gems highlight Thursday baseball

Whiteville’s Dylan Lawson pitched his first career no-hitter in Whiteville’s 12-0, five inning win over South Robeson. Lawson struck out 11 and walked three. Whiteville committed one error.

West Bladen’s Scott Bowen used almost his entire allotment of pitches to shut out East Columbus 2-0. Bowen threw 103 pitches to strike out 15 Gator batters. He allowed two hits and did not issue a walk. Kenji Bowen had the Gators first hit, a fourth-inning double.  Chan Floyd singled in the seventh. Nick McLamb made the start on the mound for East Columbus. McLamb pitched five innings. He allowed just two hits and struck out six. However, he did give up six walks and hit two batters.

West Bladen Softball worked out of a bases loaded, no out predicament in the top of the seventh, allowing just one run to hang on and defeat East Columbus 5-4. The Knights jumped out to a 5-0 lead after two innings. The Gators came back with three runs in the third, but could only manage to scratch across the single run in the seventh. Diamond Porter had three hits for East Columbus. Arianna Daniels, Izzy Lennon and Rosalind Harper contributed two hits each. Alanna Deal added an RBI single. Daniels went the distance in the circle for East Columbus, striking out six.

Whiteville pounded South Robeson 19-1 to improve to 2-0..

Three Rivers Boys Tennis is in full swing

Early season conference results indicate defending champion South Columbus is still the team to beat. However, Whiteville is off to a strong start and hopes to unseat its county rival. Results from recent matches are below.


Whiteville 9 Fairmont 0 at FHS


Antoine Gamble (W) def. Richard Locklear (F) 3-6, 6-2, 10-8

Bridger Warlick (W) def. Anthony Hyatt (F) 6-2, 6-1

Tyler Floyd (W) def. Ethan Gromme (F) 6-0, 6-2

Tanner Hester (W) def. Dylan Jackson (F) 6-1, 6-0

Andrew Cahn (W) def. Bryan Lima (F) 6-3, 6-0

Bryce Russell (W) def. Brandon Ricardez (F) 6-0, 6-0


Gamble/Warlick (W) def. Locklear/Jackson (F) 8-0

Floyd /Hester (W) def. Hyatt/Gromme (F) 8-1

Cahn/Russell (W) def. Lima/Ricardez (F) 8-1

East Columbus 7 West Bladen 2 at WBHS


Marco Borja (EC) def. Jose Osorio (WB) 6-4, 6-3

Hector Palacios (EC) def. Edgardo Lara (WB) 6-0, 6-1

Devan Young (EC) def. Victor Arellano (WB) 6-1, 6-3

Luis Salmeron (EC) def. Jacob Hester (WB) 6-3, 6-3

Desmond Lesane (WB) def. Rylan Bordeaux (EC) 8-6, 4-6, 10-8

Logan West (WB) def. Jordan McKoy (EC) 5-7, 6-4, 10-5


Borja/Palacios (EC) def. Osorio/Hester (WB) 8-3

Salemeron/Bordeaux (EC) def.Lara/Arellano (WB) 8-4

Young/Chris Strickland (EC) def. Lesesne/West (WB) 8-5

South Columbus 7 St. Pauls 2 at SCHS


Griffin Hanna (SC) def. Israel Gonzalez 6-2, 6-1

Carlos Luna (SP) def. Noah Jarman (SC) 7-5, 3-6, 12-10

Will Sellers (SC) def. Victor Delacruz (SP) 6-1, 6-2

Brandon Cox (SC) def. Leo Garcia (SP) 6-1, 6-1

Jorge Martinez (SP) def. Andy Zheng (SC) 3-6, 6-4, 10-7

Carson Ransom (SC) def. Greg Hill (SP)


Sellers/Jarman (SC) def. Gonzalez/Luna (SP) 8-0

Hanna/Cox (SC) def. Delacruz/Garcia (SP) 8-3

Zheng/Ransom (SC) def. Martinez/Hill 8-6


Whiteville 8 West Bladen 1 at WBHS


Antoine Gamble (W) def. Jose Hernandez Osorio (WB) 6-0, 6-7 (8-10), 10-8

Bridger Warlick (W) def. Edgardo Lara (WB) 6-0, 6-2

Tyler Floyd (W) def. Victor Arellano (WB) 6-2, 6-1

Tanner Hester (W) def. Jacob Hester (WB) 6-1, 6-0

Andrew Cahn (W) def. Desmond Lesesne (WB) 6-7 (6-8), 6-1, 10-7

Bryce Russell (W) def. Logan Lewis (WB) 6-2, 6-2


Gamble/Warlick (W) def. Osorio/Hester (WB) 8-0

Floyd/Hester (W) def. Lara/Arellano (WB) 8-1

Lesesne/Lewis (WB) def. Cahn/Russell (W) 9-8 (7-5).

South Columbus 9 East Columbus 0 at ECHS


Griffin Hanna (SC) def. Marco Borja (EC) 6-1, 7-6 (7-4)

Noah Jarman (SC) def. Devan Young (EC) 6-0, 6-2

Will Sellers (SC) def. Rylan Bordeaux (EC) 6-1, 6-3

Brandon Cox (SC) def. Luis Salmeron (EC) 6-1, 6-2

Andy Zheng (SC) def. Jordan McKoy (EC) 6-1, 6-4

Carson Ransom (SC) def. Waya Locklear (EC) 6-2, 6-2


Sellers/Jarman (SC) def. Borja/Young (EC) 8-1

Hanna/Cox (SC) def. Bordeaux//Salmeron (EC) 8-2

Boyce Soles/Ransom (SC) def. McKoy/Chris Strickland (EC) 8-2

 St. Pauls 9 West Columbus 0 at WCHS


Israel Gonzalez (SP) def. Andrew Soles (WC) 6-0, 6-2

Carlos Luna (SP) def. Logan Enzor (WC) 6-3, 6-4

Victor Delacruz (SP) def. Ryan Meadows (WC) 6-1, 6-0

Leo Garcia (SP) def. Timothy Britt (WC) 6-4, 6-4

Jorge Martinez (SP) def. Jaylon Powell (WC) 6-0, 6-2

Greg Hill (SP) def. Austin Ritchart (WC) 6-0, 6-2


Gonzalez/Luna (SP) def. Soles/Meadows (WC) 8-4

Delacruz/Garcia (SP) def. Enzor/Britt (WC) 9-7

Martinez/Hill (SP) def. Powell/Ritchart (WC) 8-3

Fairmont 7 East Bladen 2 at EBHS

Non-league soccer action continues

Girls Soccer squads got their final tune ups in before TRC play begins March 13. East Bladen and West Columbus are expected to be among the challengers to Whiteville’s run at the top of the Three Rivers standings.

Whiteville’s record fell to 1-4 with a 6-2 loss at North Brunswick. Shawnee Young and Jennifer Stocks scored the Wolfpack goals. Whiteville had a similar start in non-conference play last season before going through league play undefeated.

Whiteville’s junior varsity girls team has raced off to a 3-0 start. Their most recent win was 3-0 over West Brunswick Monday. Whiteville will host West Brunswick Friday evening in a JV/Varsity double feature beginning at 5 p.m.

West Columbus suffered two, one-goal losses. The Vikings lost to Loris, SC 2-1 Wednesday. 4A Lumberton handed the Vikings a 4-3 defeat Thursday. Both matches took place at West Columbus. West Columbus is now  0-2-1. The Vikings and Wolfpack meet March 13 at Whiteville in the conference opener for both.

South Columbus has two losses to border rival Loris by scores of 3-2 and a 4-2 loss on Monday (3/5). The Stallions open conference play at West Bladen March 13.

Weather has been the opponent East Columbus can not defeat as the Gators have yet to play a match. They will get an opportunity to see what type of product will be displayed on the pitch Monday (March 12) when they make up a home match against Pender. The Gators will jump into league play the next day at Red Springs. East Columbus is fielding a junior varsity squad this season. The Gators JVs have played once, losing to South Brunswick.


Middle School Spring Sports underway

A quartet of Columbus County middle schools took the field for non-league play prior to regular season play beginning today (Monday, March 12).

The Hallsboro Tigers played host to Evergreen in the middle school softball/baseball season opener Monday. Hallsboro softball took a 17-0 win. The Tiger baseball team won by a score of 9-3.

Nakina defeated Waccamaw Ash 11-6 in softball Wednesday. Ana Reese Blake had two hits. Jakiyah Graham, Maddy Watson, Kaylee Etheridge and Brileigh Ward added one hit each. Brileigh Ward struck out nine to earn the win.

Waccamaw won the baseball game 7-4. Daquan Cox led Nakina with three hits and two runs. Ethan Cullipher contributed two hits.

Evan Ward

Nakina traveled to Cerro Gordo Thursday. Cerro Gordo earned a 7-5 win in baseball. Cerro Gordo was led by a strong pitching performance by Evan Ward. Ward pitched five innings, struck out four batters, gave up four hits and one earned run.  Ty Bowen and Ian Williamson contributed two hits and two runs for the Stingers.  Maddox Coleman and Triston Freeman both had RBI producing doubles for CG.  Brian Stewart, Ward and Troy Greene also had hits for Cerro Gordo.  Gavin McRae had two hits for Nakina. Cameron Williams contributed a triple and 2 RBIs.

Nakina won the softball game 20-0.

In other non-conference action Hallsboro downed Tabor City 9-3 in softball and 13-10 in baseball.

Vikings, Stallions fool Mother Nature

On an evening when all other Three Rivers Conference and most everyone else in southeastern North Carolina postponed games, West Columbus Athletic Director Jason Jones went against the predictions of weather that would make his fields unplayable. The game paid off as both junior varsity and varsity softball and baseball games went off without a hitch.

West Columbus baseball received strong pitching performances from junior lefty Cole Benton and sophomore southpaw Jagger Haynes in a 10-1 win over the Stallions. Benton earned the win with 5 and 1/3 innings of one-run, four-hit baseball. He struck out seven and walked one. Haynes finished striking out three and allowing one hit.

Bennett Ivey led the Vikings at the plate with three hits, including two doubles. Ivey also robbed the Stallions’ Tate Lee of a home run in the third inning. Jerry Locklear and Cody Benton each contributed two hits. Nigel Ceesay scored three runs for West. The Vikings were aided by seven walks and three errors by South Columbus. Only Three of West’s 10 runs were earned. Miller Gore collected two hits and a walk for South Columbus. Gore has now reached base in eight consecutive plate appearances.

South Columbus scored two runs in the top of the sixth (and final) inning to nip West Columbus 6-5 in the JV contest.

There is no doubt the West Columbus Softball program is improving. Through three innings Tuesday evening South Columbus thought maybe that improvement was a little too much as the Vikings held a 5-3 lead. Anna Suggs came to the circle for South Columbus, retiring 12 of the final 13 West Columbus hitters. Three Vikings errors proved costly in the fifth as the Stallions scored five times with just one hit to take an 8-5 lead. South added an insurance run in the seventh for a 9-5 win.

Carson Powell led the Stallion attack with two hits, one a double, and scored three runs. Hailey Chestnut added a double and single. Anna Suggs contributed two singles to the offense. Suggs struck out six and allowed just one hit in her four innings of work. Emily Britt batted 2-3 with two doubles for West Columbus. Jada Faison also had two hits. Leah Floyd pitched a complete game for West Columbus, striking out five, walking three and hitting a batter. Floyd allowed eight hits, but was hampered by six errors by the West defense.

South Columbus won the JV contest 20-0.


Monday Columbus sports report

Whiteville Boys Tennis finished up a match with East Bladen that began February 28, but was suspended due to rain with the Wolfpack leading 4-0. Whiteville won the final five matches to defeat the Eagles 9-0 in their conference opener. Highlighting the Wolfpack victory were the first varsity tennis wins for freshman Andrew Cahn and junior Ethan Stoll.

South Columbus opened its season with a 9-0 win at West Columbus.

Individual results can be found in Thursday’s print edition.

West Brunswick downed Whiteville 3-1  in Girls Soccer. Logan Schultz scored the Wolfpack’s goal with an assist from Claire Smith. Cailin Baldwin was credited with seven says. The Whiteville junior varsity won its third consecutive match, defeating West Brunswick 3-0.

Loris, SC scored three first-half goals and held off a South Columbus second-half comeback to take a 4-2 win. Sydney Pickell scored both Stallion goals. Madison Grimsby contributed an assist. Nadelynn McClure had nine saves in goal.

The Hallsboro Tigers played host to Evergreen in the middle school softball/baseball season opener. Hallsboro softball took a 17-0 win. The Tiger baseball team won by a score of 9-3.

McDonald’s Columbus County Athletic Spotlight featuring Zack McKoy & De’Jour Smith