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Mackenzie Gibbs received quite a bit of notoriety as a freshman soccer player this past season.

The Coastal Carolina University freshman scored the tying-goal in the 89th minute of a 2-1 double overtime victory over Troy University on Sept. 22, 2017 that was aired on ESPN Sports Center as a top 10 play of the day.

“The season went really well,” said Gibbs, a 2017 graduate of Fellowship Christian School. “It started off good, and was kind of up-and-down for us as a team. But it was a great experience, and we finished the year strong.”

Gibbs appeared in 20 games for the Lady Chanticleers, including 12 starts and logged a total of 1,045 minutes played. She scored three goals on 29 shots, including her first career goal an insurance score in 3-0 victory against Wofford College. Gibbs netted for the game-winner – her third career goal – in a 2-1 Sun Belt Conference first-round playoff victory over Texas State.

“Making it all the way to the Sunbelt Champions was a season highlight,” she said. “Although we lost, it was a great experience. Having my goal against Troy played on Sports Center was also something to remember.”

A 2017 Coastal Carolina Dean's List student, Gibbs played attacking midfield as a freshman after beginning preseason as a winger. 

“The transition [to college soccer] was a challenge,” Gibbs said. “Adapting to a new team and being part of a new system took some getting used to. The girls in college are stronger, the speed of the play is faster and the players are better conditioned. They work out a lot more.”

Gibbs said her main goals for the 2018 season are to come into the season more fit, and “earn the highest GPA I can.” She is focused this summer on work, the weight room and being prepared preparing the season.

Gibbs majors in Biology at Coastal Carolina.

She joined the Lady Chants program following a stellar career under the tutelage of former FCS head coaches Tripp Hughes and Tim Rice, current coach Andy Trevers and their staffs. 

While at Fellowship, Gibbs was a three-time MVP (sophomore, junior, and senior seasons), and earned the Max Prep Player of the Year award as a Lady Paladin senior.

FCS captured the GHSA Class A State Championship during Gibbs’ sophomore season. She helped the team reach the state title game in 2015, and the GHSA Elite Eight during her senior campaign as team captain. She notched 172 points (62 goals, 48 assists) in her four-year high school career at Fellowship.

(Photo courtesy of Coastal Carolina)

Michael Bruno has completed his first season of college soccer.

The 2017 graduate of Fellowship Christian School helped the Division III LaGrange College soccer team to a 5-11-2 record and a trip to the USA South Tournament (the Panthers fell 7-0 at Maryville College in Tennessee in the first round). He played midfield at LaGrange, where he notched three assists in eight games.

“It went decent,” Bruno said. “I was pretty happy about everything. I honestly hoped to play more, but athletically college did not seem to be a huge leap. I enjoyed college soccer last season.”

During a recent interview, Bruno shared that he’s transferred to Georgia State for his sophomore year. The Panthers have both a NCAA Division I team and a pair of club soccer teams. He will try out to see which team he’ll land for the season.

 “[Transferring] does not mean soccer is going away,” he said in a recent interview. “I am not sure how soccer looks for me this year yet, but I will know soon [following tryouts]. I want to grow as a player and see more minutes whether at the semi pro, club or college level.”

Bruno, sociology major with a minor in psychology, faced a few big adjustments to college.

“The conditioning for college athletes is much harder than high school,” Bruno said. “There are really so many adjustments really. Dorm life was a struggle at times. Plus the challenge for any new college athlete is fitting in and impressing the coaches.”

After having his freshman season behind him, Bruno has some advice for this year’s freshman class of college athletes from Fellowship heading off to college.

“When it comes to college sports, being more independent is my one key takeaway from last season,” he said. “Freshman need to listen, be coachable, focus on physical fitness and learn to play to your strengths and abilities as a player.”

Freshman can’t worry about playing time, but make the most of it when they are on the field, he also noted.

Bruno, who played under Andy Trevers, Ari Durham and James Williamson at FCS, was a two-time All-Area selection at Fellowship, where he helped the Paladin squad reach the GHSA Class A state finals as a junior in 2016. He was selected for the 2016 GHSA All-Star team.

(Photo courtesy of Hudl)

Harrison Mansell had to battle through a hamstring injury during his first season of track & field at The Citadel, but the season still included a pretty big highlight.

“It went well,” the 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School said about his first collegiate track season. “It wasn’t until the end of the year before I could show the coaches what I could do. I think it goes for all college sports, but the practices aren’t as intense in high school. It’s a bigger deal at college. We are all more motivated because we choose to be there.”

Mansell competed in three meets last season in the high jump, including the SoCon Championships.

His happiest memory of the season was placing fourth in the high jump with a personal best six-feet, six inches at that meet. It was two inches longer than his previous career best.

“My previous best was 6-4 when I won the state championship as a junior at Fellowship,” he said.

Managing college classes and the schedule as an athlete at the Citadel was not always easy for Mansell. Then add the routine of attending a military institution, and the schedule becomes even a little bit more demanding. To say it’s an adjustment for a freshman held true for Mansell.

“It was very tough at first,” he said. “Brandon Wilson, who I went to Fellowship with, helped me out. It was something to adjust too. The days are long. I would leave my room at 6 a.m. and not be back until 10 p.m. Having Brandon there really helped me adjust quicker.”

Mansell’s typical morning routine includes getting up at 6 a.m., followed by weight room, training, running and military exercises before heading to class.

He quickly adjusted to the college and cadet rotunines, which helped his transition into the winter track season.

As an athlete, Mansell competed in the indoor track season during the winter, and the outdoor track and field season that begins in February and run through May.

Mansell was selected by the Bulldog coaching staff to travel with his team to all the winter and spring meets, where his team competed against former FCS teammate and classmate Emma Grace Hurley, who enters her junior season at Furman University.

Mansell is hoping to have an injury-free sophomore season at The Citadel. He has been participating in a summer conditioning program to prepare for the track seasons.

“I am looking forward to the season,” he said.

(Photo courtesy of The Citadel)

Red-Shirt Freshman: Jack Hardin to Battle Back from Shoulder Injury at Furman this Fall

Unfortunately Jack Hardin enters the Furman University football team’s preseason on the injured list.

The 2017 graduate of Fellowship Christian School tore the labrum on his right shoulder during the spring game. Hardin was a member of the Paladins’ scout team last fall, and was awarded a redshirt and extra year of eligibility. He was named to the SoCon Academic Honor Roll.

“It went really well,” Hardin said about his freshman season. “I red shirted, but I got hurt in the spring game. The doctors told me it was a six-month recovery time. I have not started throwing yet. I hope to get the clearance in early September [to begin practice]. My playing time this year depends on how my shoulder heals. I was working my way up the depth chart before the injury.”

One of six quarterbacks on the Furman roster, Hardin has been working out this summer with former FCS and current Furman teammate Reed Kroeber, who is switching to center this season. Hardin has been taking snaps from Kroeber, who is learning the art of the center position quickly this offseason.

Kroeber was a welcome sight for the new freshman.

“It was a good experience,” Hardin said about his first year of college. “It was hard not playing, but I knew it would be a learning experience. I have enjoyed being at Furman. It was brand new, but Reed helped. I was blessed to have him there. I was prepared for not playing, but I was not expecting an injury.”

Hardin, who also played basketball and soccer at FCS, was used to being busy in high school but his activity level ramped up at the Greenville, S.C., college.

“I was used to time management,” he said. “But you really have to balance your time as a college athlete. With meetings, workouts, practices, games, travel, four classes and school work, you’re pretty busy.”  

Hardin is part of a growing program that won eight games in 2017, and reached the second round of the league playoffs. The club finished 8-5 overall.

Furman opens the 2018 season at intrastate rival Clemson University on Sept. 1 at 12:20 p.m.

The Paladins are ranked 16th in Hero Sports Preseason Top 25 for FCS schools. Kroeber and Hardin will face former FCS teammates Clay Buchweitz (Samford University) and Ian Berryman (Western Carolina University) on the field this season.

Hardin, a two-year QB starter at FCS, led the Paladins to an 18-6 record in his two years at the helm of the Paladin offense from 2015-16. He led Fellowship to the GHSA Class A Private Championship Game, Region 6-A and sub-Region championships and a school-record 13-game win streak that season. The 2016 team finished with a single-season record 13-1 mark.

At FCS, Hardin also played strong safety and linebacker. He finished with 3,308 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns and rushed for more than 1,000 yards during his career at Fellowship.

In his senior campaign, Hardin threw for 1,774 yards and 24 TDs, ran for 754 yards and 16 scores. He received several honors that year, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution All-State Class A Private School Offensive Player of the Year Award, and the All-Region 6B Offensive Player of the Year Award. He was also selected for the North Fulton All-Classification First Team.

He is both a second-generation Furman athlete and college football player. His mom Nicki is a 1991 Furman graduate, and was the school’s track and field MVP in 1987. His father, Greg, played football at Murray State.

(Photo courtesy of Furman University)

 

Jake Williamson has had a pretty busy summer, highlighted by an opportunity to play soccer in South America.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School traveled to Brazil from May 28-June 6 with a team of NCAA Division III all-stars for four games against under-22 teams from Brazil in Jundial, Valinhos and Rio de Janeiro.

Williamson, FCS’ all-time leading soccer scorer with 150 career goals, was among a team of players from NCAA Division III schools who were recognized as All-Americans, All-Region or All-Conference athletes and selected for the trip. The 16 players on Williamson’s squad came from eight different schools and eight different states. His teammates from Berry College – senior Caleb Ford and junior Alec Jones – were also part of the squad that competed in Brazil.

“It was awesome,” Williamson said. “It was a great experience. The first two teams we played were two of the best teams I have played in my life. We went 2-2 overall, and we had some very tough games. It was an honor to be part of this opportunity. All the players there from our team and Brazil were very, very good.”

Williamson is coming off a very strong sophomore season at Berry. He scored six goals and assisted six others, tallied two game-winners, took 64 shots (30 were on goal) and started all 17 games for Berry College (8-8-1 overall and 3-3-1 in SAA play). Following the season, he was selected for the All-SAA First Team. He set career highs in goals, assists, points (18), game-winning tallies, games, starts, shots and shots on goal in 2017.  

“I thought we did really good last year,” Williamson said. “We’re still young, so we are really looking forward to next year. We had some bumps throughout the middle of the season last year. We went four or five games without a goal, but then we got on a roll later in the year. Personally I was happy with my season too. I was free from injuries and I started every game.”

The Vikings lost to Oglethorpe University in the SAA semifinals. Oglethorpe went on to win the league title and advance deep in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

In addition to his trip to Brazil, Williamson is working at Camp Highland for part of the summer and working with a local production company in Alpharetta that specializes in documentaries, short films and commercials. “It has been a good experience,” said Williamson, a communications major at Berry.

Williamson finished his Fellowship career with 150 goals and 45 assists, and helped the Paladins advance to the 2016 GHSA Class A Soccer Championships title game.

He brought plenty of talent to Rome, Ga., where he appeared in 14 games (four starts) as a collegiate freshman in 2016. He tallied five goals and collected an assist for the Vikings, who finished 10-9 overall that year and 3-4 in SAA contests. That season he took 24 shots, including nine on goal, and had one game-winning goal.

“I feel like I have figured out the college game, so I am really looking forward to this year,” Williamson said. “Our team dynamic has been working very well. We only had two seniors last year, and one is coming back [earned another year of eligibility due to injuries], so we’re returning pretty much the same team. We are excited.”

The Vikings open the season at the BSC Labor Day Classic in Birmingham, Ala., Aug. 31-Sept. 2.

(Photo courtesy of Berry College)

Dariean Ward has completed her successful collegiate softball career believing the old adage that defense wins games.

“It went very well,” she said about her career at Lander University in Greenwood, S.C. “This year we made it to the conference tournament, and we made it past the first round. I wound not change [my experience] at Lander. It’s hard being a college athlete, and balancing it all but it was rewarding too. College sports help your mental focus stay sharp.”

Ward, a 2014 graduate of Fellowship Christian School, earned a bachelor’s degree in business-marketing management from Lander.

Eventually the Marietta native eyes a career in real estate, and a potential move back to the Atlanta area, but she is currently working in the office of a Greenwood company.

“It has been a very good experience for me,” she said.

Ward wrapped up a four-year career for the Lady Bearcats this spring, helping the club finish 32-18.

She played in 47 games, which matched her career high, and hit two home runs, smacked three doubles, drove in 15 runs – her second-highest season total at Lander – and scored 10 runs. But the infielder and utility player prides herself on her defense.

“Hitting numbers are important, but my defense was good this year,” Ward said. “I am proud of how I performed defensively over my final three years. It was consistent and helped our team win games and improve. I overcame my freshman year injury [being hit in the face with a batted ball], and wound up with a very good career.”

In 2018, she started 45 games and finished with four 2-hit games for the Lady Bearcats. She matched her career best for homers.

As a junior, Ward appeared in 38 games and made 33 starts. At the plate, she collected one double, two home runs and 12 RBIs.

She also scored six runs and belted a three-run walkoff homer in a 6-3 victory over Columbus State on March 24, 2017.

Arguably Ward’s best season at the plate came as a sophomore.

She appeared in all 47 games, made a career-best 46 starts and set career highs with 21 RBIs, two home runs, a team-leading 16 doubles, 25 runs and a .317 batting average.

On April 2, 2016, Ward finished with five hits, three RBIs and two runs during a doubleheader against Georgia Southwestern. She registered a career single-game best four hits against USC-Aiken on March 16, 2016. On March 14, 2016, she collected four hits, including three doubles, scored four times and drove in three more runs during a doubleheader against North Greenville.

As a freshman, Ward played in 40 games at Lander. She finished with one homer, 13, RBIs, six doubles and 15 runs. 

(Photo courtesy of the Lander University)

AJ Baumann has been part of the growth of the University of South Carolina’s beach volleyball team. The 2015 graduate of Fellowship Christian School has played on the Game Cock team for the past three years.

“We were one of eight teams to reach the NCAA Tournament last season,” Baumann said. “I have really enjoyed my time there. It’s been a real progression there. It’s very nice to have been part of the improvement.”

What’s the reason for the success?

“I would say a big part of our season last year was that our team bought into the mental aspect of the program,” she said. “We believed we could win. We had a couple of great recruiting years and our coaching staff is great, so we knew we could do well.”

In collegiate beach volleyball, two players are on the sand “court” at one time in a best-of-five match. Each school has one to five pairs on their roster during the season that runs from late February through May.

USC is part of the CCSA Conference, and is only one of two Southeastern Conference Schools to have a beach volleyball program (Louisiana State in the other). Baumann estimates that there are 60-70 beach volleyball programs around the country.

“We have high expectations for this season,” she said.

This summer, Baumann is working out to get ready for the season, and has an internship with a women’s clothing company called fab’rik. Her major at USC is fashion merchandising with a minor in business administration.

“It’s been a great experience,” Baumann said about her internship.

She feels the same way about her indoor volleyball career at Fellowship.

In her last season at FCS, Baumann helped lead the Lady Paladins to the GHSA Class Volleyball Championships Final Four.

“That was one of my favorite memories at FCS,” she said. “I always remember that season. It was a dream. We had an awesome ride to the Final Four. We had a great coach [Kirbie Wallace] and a terrific bunch of girls. We were good enough to win, but we believed in our team and we worked very hard to get that far. We also had an amazing group of fans. I remember the uniqueness and advantage we had at Paladin Gym. Our classmates came out to support us and were very vocal.”

In 2018, Baumann played in three duals during the exhibition season (including a 1-1 record with partner Caroline Skaff) for USC as a junior.

In her sophomore season, Baumann played in a match with Hannah Edelman in a loss to Jacksonville State on April 15, 2017. She played in six exhibition matches that year for the Lady Game Cocks. As a freshman, Baumann went 1-0 in match action and competed in three exhibition matches.

Scholastically, Baumann was named to the 2016-17 Spring SEC Academic Honor Roll and was placed on the CCSA 2015-16 Beach Academic Honor Roll during her collegiate career.

(Photo courtesy of the University of South Carolina)

Emma Grace Hurley had the distinction of holding the Furman University record time in the steeplechase for a while last spring.

The Fellowship Christian School graduate set her personal record and school record time of 10:06.35 during her sophomore season before the mark was eclipsed by her teammate at the NCAA East preliminaries. She battled through injuries and placed 23rd in the event at the NCAA Championships (10:18.97).

To say that Hurley has had a busy first two collegiate years at Furman is a bit of an understatement.

The former FCS standout and state champion ran cross-country in the fall, indoor track in the winter and outdoor track & field in the spring for both of her first two seasons. She enters her junior year at the Greenville, S.C., university in August.

“We don’t really have an offseason,” said Hurley, who is working fulltime this summer at Camp All-American at Perimeter Church. “I am still running 50 miles a week. I am probably busier over the summer [than during the school year]. I enjoy going to work more than class. Freshman year was a hard adjustment, but this year was very good. We worked together as a team, and it did not seem like we were competing against each other.”

Among Hurley’s highlights her sophomore year was the Paladin squad placing seventh at Nationals, and winning the conference title in indoor track.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better two years,” she said. “I really like Furman.”

Hurley plans to take a year off of outdoor track as a junior to have an opportunity to run outdoor track as a fifth-year senior. “I am looking towards the 2020 Olympic trials in the steeplechase,” she added.

Hurley is preparing for her third collegiate cross-country and indoor track seasons.

“We really want to place in the top four at nationals,” she said. “For me personally, I want to be an All-American in cross-country and indoor track.”

As a Furman freshman, Hurley set a new Paladin outdoor record in the 3,000 meters of 9:44.41 at the Tiger Outdoor Track Classic. She was named to the SoCon All Freshman team for cross country, indoor track (mile and 3,000) and outdoor track (3,000-meter steeplechase and 5,000 meters).

“It seems like my freshman year was a really long time ago,” Hurley said. “A lot of high school you can get by natural talent. But you have to work much harder in college.”

(Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Camaratti/Furman University)

Fellowship Christian School graduate Clay Buchweitz saw his first collegiate football action for the Samford University team last season, and is hoping for more time on the field in 2018.

“I am not 100% sure where I am on the depth chart,” the sophomore linebacker said. “But I played in one game last year and made two tackles. It was a great experience. I know that I am working as hard as I can to get on the field, and that I am playing linebacker again.”

The 2016 FCS graduate will have the opportunity to see some familiar faces on the field in 2018. Buchweitz will face former FCS teammates Reed Kroeber and Jack Hardin (Furman University) on Oct. 20, and Ian Berryman (Western Carolina University) on Oct. 6.

“It’s a blast to play against those guys,” Buchweitz said. “Reed and I graduated together. We always talk after the games. It’s fun to see them again.”

Buchweitz stayed in Birmingham, Ala., this summer to work out with his teammates and work for Magic City Wordworks. Buchweitz enters his redshirt sophomore season on the field and his junior year in the classroom with hopes for more playing time.

“It’s one of those things,” he said. “Everyone on the team has their job. I go out and compete for a job, but I also know my role on the scout team is important. I help our offense see the look that our opponent’s defense has. Everyone has a different style of defense, so we get them ready for it.”

The Bulldogs enter the season in the top 10 of the FCS polls.

“We have really built our program over the past two years,” Buchweitz said. “We made the playoffs the last two seasons. Obviously we want to make the playoffs and advance further this year.”

In 2017, the Bulldogs lost to Kennesaw State, 28-17, in the first round of the FCS playoffs. The team dropped a 38-24 decision to Youngstown State in the first round in 2016. Samford finished 8-5 last season, and was 7-5 in 2016.

Last season’s highlights for Buchweitz were games against the University of Georgia in Athens, and a road victory at Virginia Military Institute.

“Being on the field in that stadium [in Athens] was fun,” he said. “That was a fun trip. We had an 11-hour bus trip to VMI, and another back. And that was after we took care of business and won.”

In addition to helping grow the Samford program, Buchweitz had a similar opportunity in high school.

“I hope we made an impact,” Buchweitz said about his FCS senior class that went 5-5 and set the stage for a 13-1 season. “We lost four games by like a total of just 12 points as seniors. The next year, the pace picked up and the program really grew. You could it coming though. It was a progression there from my freshman to senior years.”

He fondly recalls his Fellowship career.

“There are a whole list of great memories,” Buchweitz said. “I remember my interception against Christian Heritage, and that we beat Riverside Military Academy and our defense held them to less than 100 years of offense.”

(Photo courtesy of Samford University)

 

Soccer has been a big part of the summer break for Megan Hudgens.

The junior to be at the University of Alabama-Birmingham is participating in her school’s off-season strength and conditioning program and also has found the time to play for the MOBA Soccer Academy team of Peachtree City that competes in The Women’s Premiere Soccer League.

The WPSL “strives to provide the highest level of development opportunities for amateur players in the United States. Entering its 21st season, the WPSL has grown to more than 100 clubs and is the largest women’s soccer league in the world,” according to the league’s website. It does not affect a player’s college eligibility.

“It has been a good experience,” said the 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian school. “Our team has different college players from all around. We play teams from Nashville and Memphis. Our home games are in Peachtree City.”

She entered this offseason coming off a very successful sophomore soccer season at UAB.

In 2017, Hudgens helped the Lady Blazers to a 13-4-3 record and a berth in the Conference USA Tournament. She finished second on the club with a career-high 19 points, shared second with seven goals and was tied for first on the team with five assists. Her 33 shots shared third on the Lady Blazers. Her goal and assist totals were career bests. She suited up for a career-high 20 games.

UAB kicks off the season against Jacksonville State on Aug. 12 at 1 p.m.

“It was a great season,” Hudgens said about 2017. “We had a new coach and we did a lot better. We had a new team atmosphere and got better and better as the season went on. This year, we look to grow on that improvement. I want to score more goals and become even more of a leader.” 

As a freshman in 2016, Hudgens led UAB with 11 points. She played in all 17 games and shared the team lead with four goals and was second with three assists. She topped the squad with a career-best 36 shots and 22 shots on goal.

“I have found a good balance of school and soccer at UAB,” said Hudgens, a finance major. “I love the game, the school and the girls on the team.”

One of her biggest highlights for UAB this season was scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory over the University of Alabama during the spring season. 

(Photo courtesy of University of Alabama-Birmingham)

 

Reed Kroeber has already shown his versatility during the early years of his collegiate football career.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School enters his redshirt sophomore season (and third academic year) at Furman University with an eye on the starting center position. It’s his third position on the offensive line for the Paladins since starting 13 games at left tackle or right guard as a redshirt freshman last fall.

“It was really a neat year for me,” Kroeber said. “My first year was tough as a freshman not playing at all, but then getting to start 13 games last year and being a contributor on the field was a big deal. We had a rough start at 0-3, but we finished 8-5 and beat Elon in the first round of the playoffs.”

The Paladins, who open the 2018 season at intrastate rival Clemson University on Sept. 1 at 12:20 p.m., fell to Wofford College in the second round of the playoffs in 2017.

“Last year I played left tackle and right guard, and I played there in spring practice,” the 6-foot-4, 284-pound lineman said. “But this summer the coaches told me I need to plan to play center. This is a new thing.”

Kroeber has been practicing taking snaps this summer with Furman redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Hardin, a name familiar to FCS fans. Hardin led Fellowship to the state title game in 2016, graduated from the school in 2017 and was redshirted as a freshman at the South Carolina school last fall.

“Jack has been helping me,” Kroeber said. “He’s helping me get used to snapping the ball. It’s different kind of offensive line transition than from guard to tackle or tackle to guard. I have never played center before. But it’s good to be able to play multiple positions on the line.”

It’s actually very good for job security for the former FCS football and basketball star.

He received several accolades following the 2017 season. Kroeber, a member of the SOCON All Freshman team, was named first team offense for the HERO Sports Freshman All-American team, and was picked for second team offense for the Phil Steele Freshman All-American Team. As a note, there are 124 FCS teams across the country.

Furman is ranked 16th in Hero Sports Preseason Top 25 for FCS schools.

“Our goal is always to win the Southern Conference championship,” Kroeber said. “If we do that then we’ll make the playoffs. Personally I want to play as much as I can and contribute.”

Kroeber and Hardin will face former FCS teammates Clay Buchweitz (Samford University) and Ian Berryman (Western Carolina University) on the field this season.

(Photos courtesy of Furman University)

 

Fellowship Christian School graduate Marshall Kent accomplished something last season that very few avid golfers, not to mention weekend duffers, attain.

On March 26, 2018, Kent made Covenant College golf history by becoming the first Scot to record a hole-in-one during a competitive round when he aced the par-3, 11th hole at Wynlakes Golf & Country Club during the Wynlakes Collegiate hosted by Huntington College in Montgomery, Ala.

“I used a 4-iron on the 192-yard hole, and the ball landed on the front of the green and rolled in,” he said. “It was a super cool experience.”

Kent, who graduated from FCS in 2015, played in all seven team events as a junior for the Scots in 2017.  He finished seventh – his best finish of the year – at the Eagle Invitational with a 161, that included a first-round 74. He finished third on the team with a scoring average of 82.13.

As he enters his senior year with the Scots, Kent has set his sights on consistency.

“It was a crazy spring this season,” he said. “I played a lot, but was not consistent. I played a few good rounds this season, but I want t be better. I was inconsistent in both our fall and spring seasons. It was a weird pattern of good rounds and then bad rounds.”

Kent is working on his game as he prepares to participate in the US Amateur tournament qualifier this summer being hosted by Jennings Mill Country Club in Watkinsville, Ga. The top six performers move on to sectionals.

“I am looking to enjoy it,” Kent said of the summer practice rounds, the qualifier and his upcoming senior season at Covenant. “It’ll be a fun year. We’ll be a much better team this year. I believe we will be more competitive.”

Kent will have four roommates this season, including two freshmen. That allows him to take on a mentor role that he enjoys. “They are the future of Covenant golf,” he said. “I look forward to helping them adjust to college and college golf.

As a sophomore, he carded his career-low college round of 70 at the Piedmont Fall Invitational. He wound up tied for second with a two-round 147 (his career-best 36-hole tourney total), and earned all-tourney honors.

That season he finished with three top-10 finishes. His 70 at Piedmont wound up being the team’s low round of the season. He also had three of the team’s lowest individual scores of the season.

In 2015-16, Kent played in all seven events for Covenant. In his first collegiate event, he shared sixth at the Piedmont event with a season-low 152 (79-73). He made the all-tournament team. He carded two 73s on the season, including the second-round score at Piedmont and during October’s Chick-fil-A Collegiate.

(Photos Courtesy of Covenant College)

National Champion: Bryant Has Memorable 2017 Season at Alabama

The 2017 college football season will not be one that Hunter Bryant will soon forget.

The 2014 Fellowship Christian School graduate saw his first collegiate football game action for the National Champion University of Alabama football team this past fall, and also helped the Tide capture its second national championship in three years.

On Nov. 18, 2017, Bryant played in his first collegiate game during his fourth and final walk-on season with the Crimson Tide in a 56-0 victory over Mercer University on senior day in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“It was pretty surreal,” Bryant said about game day against Mercer. “The day of the game came, and none of us [senior walk-ons] knew if we would get on the field. We talked about it, but we didn’t know. You’re nervous, and not sure if you’ll get in. But I finally had the chance to play. I’ll never forget that feeling of accomplishment.”

Bryant, who earned his bachelor’s degree in marketing in three years at Alabama, enters his fifth year at the school this fall in pursuit of his MBA with a concentration in finance.

“It’s the first summer away from football,” he said. “I’ll be interning with the Atlanta Falcons during training camp before I head back to school. It’ll be nice to see my former teammate Calvin Ridley at camp, and see how he does.”

Bryant has had time to reflect on his college career.

“It’s a little sad to see it coming to a close,” Bryant said. “But I am ready. All my friends have graduated, so I’ll be a lone wolf in Tuscaloosa. Pretty soon it’ll be time to get a real job!”

Bryant no longer looks back at his decision to forgo an opportunity to play and probably star at Division III Berry College for the opportunity to play for coaching legend Nick Saban at Alabama as a four-year walk-on.

“I probably could have started at Berry for four years,” Bryant said. “But I love Tuscaloosa. For a couple of years I wondered. It was tough at times [not playing], but truly I maximized my time there. I love the people there. The size of the campus was intimidating at first, but it’s like home now. I have had a blast there. My senior year made it all worth it. We won two national championships and made it to three title games in four years. But probably my second year I realized my purpose on the team was not to be a star, but to support the guys on the team. It really strengthened my faith. I know what God’s purpose was for me at Alabama.”

Now it’s time for Bryant to become a football spectator, and watch his younger brother grow on the football field at Fellowship.

“Our family is all so proud of Brooksie,” Bryant said. “He really has done so well at quarterback at FCS. I look forward to coming home to watch him play this year.”

 

 

 

As Ian Berryman enters his fifth season with the University of Western Carolina football team, he is taking his future in stride.

“Everybody thinks about it heading into their fifth season,” Berryman said about an opportunity to play in the NFL. “But my focus is on the season, and being the best punter I can be. If the NFL comes, it comes. This summer I am focused on being in the best shape I can be. I want to be prepared for teams looking at me, but really I want to help my team win football games.”

Berryman, who is spending the summer in Atlanta working out a sports performance gym, reports back to Western Carolina on Aug. 3 for practice that begins the next day.

For the second consecutive season, Berryman has received preseason honors. Recently, the 2014 graduate of FCS was selected as the second team punter on the HERO Sports 2018 FCS Preseason All-American team.

Prior to the 2017 season, Berryman was selected as a preseason All-American by STATS FCS, and was named to the 2017 Athlon Sports and College Sports Madness All-American team. Also that year, Lindy’s Sports selected Berryman as a Preseason First Teamer, and league coaches named him as an All-Southern Conference Preseason First Team Selection.

Last season, Berryman helped the Catamounts to a 7-5 season. He punted 58 times for a career-best 2,578 yards, an average of 44.4 yards per boot. Berryman’s punts topped 50 yards 17 times in 2017, including a long of 62 yards. He finished with a career-high 26 punts downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line.

In 2017, Berryman went 1-for-3 on field goal-attempts and was 1-for-1 on extra-point kicks to notch his first four collegiate points.

“I had the opportunity to punt, place kick and kick off,” Berryman said. “It was a fun season. We went 7-5, but a couple of games could have gone either way. Overall it was a great season, and the seniors and I are working hard to finish strong. We want to win that Southern Conference Championship.”

The Catamounts kick off the season against Newberry on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at home in Cullowhee, N.C.

As a sophomore, WCU struggled to a 2-9 record but Berryman set a career bests with a 44.9 punting average and 19 boots that topped 50 yards. The Catamounts finished 7-4 in 2015 and Berryman averaged 43.7 yards per punt as a redshirt freshman, including his career best kick that covered 65 yards. He did not play as a true freshman in 2014 when the Catamounts finished 7-5.

“We have won seven games three times since I have been here,” Berryman said. “We’re in every game we play, and always have a never-say-die attitude. It’s a great place to play football, go to school and develop lifelong friendships. It’s exciting for all these preseason accolades, but I want to help us win football games the most. Winning football games is something that I can talk about for 15 or 20 years. This next year will be fun. We will have the opportunity to play Carolina again in Chapel Hill.”

Among the 2017 highlights for Berryman was playing against the University of North Carolina, and at the University of Hawaii at Aloha Stadium, the site of the NFL Pro Bowl.

“Getting to play at a venue like that was awesome,” he said. “And I scored my first college points in that game [a 41-18 loss to open the season]. It was also memorable to beat Samford, 38-34, on the last play of the game [Sept. 23, 2017].”

Berryman has certainly bulked up during his career with the Catamounts.

“It’s interesting to think I came here as a 6-foot, 170-pound freshman,” he said. “Now I am around 205 and continue to train to get into the best shape of my career.”

During his WCU career, Berryman has kicked to the NFL Rookie of the Year, first-round draft picks and NFL players. Now hopefully he’ll have the opportunity to have his name called on NFL Draft Day in the spring of 2019.

(Action Photo Courtesy of Catamount Sports Blog)

 

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine's attempt to qualify for the 2018 Olympics came up just a little bit short as she failed to qualify for fifth World Cup Race of the season.

Following a 15th place finish in a Nation's Cup race in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Dec. 15, Germaine did not reach the next day's World Cup race that may have ended her 2018 Olympic hopes.

Although Germaine didn't make the Olympic Team, she has been selected as the official Olympic Women's Luge Alternate. This position requires she slide the 30-day period prior to the Olympics. She will continue to train and maintain her focus on her original goal of 2022 in Beijing, China.

"Her start [for the last run on Dec. 15] was safe and adequate, but when she hit the entrance to curve 7, her sled climbed the curve and went into a skid," said Bob Germaine, Raychel's father. "She had a similar issue in curve 18. As Raychel reflected on what went wrong, she didn't feel she missed a drive, so all she could conclude is that she made her steels too sharp during preparation. Ironically, she thought going sharper would be safer. That one issue in curve 7 marked the end of her quest to make the 2018 Olympic Team. To say she was devastated is an understatement. She came into this season with such confidence and optimism, but it proved to be an uphill struggle all year.

"Thank you all for your continued prayers and well wishes. Although one might consider the prayers not to be answered, I know they were answered, but in God's own way. She has just gone through one of the most stressful and challenging experiences in her life, but she pushed through each trial with a stronger and stronger attitude. I'm so very proud of her, and all she has accomplished."

(Photo -- USA Luge)

 

Fellowship Christian School graduates Ian Berryman and Reed Kroeber have both received post-season Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) honors.

Berryman, a junior punter and kicker at Western Carolina University, was named to the Second Team of the Associated Press All-America Squad as a punter. Berryman punted 58 times this season or 2,578 yards, an average of 44.4 yards per kick. He downed 26 of his punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line, and had only two punts blocked all season. As a place kicker, Berryman went 1-for-3 in field-goal attempts, and made his only extra-point attempt of the season. He also completed a team-high 25 kickoffs for 1,368 yards.

Click on this story for more information about Berryman's honor.

Furman University offensive lineman Reed Kroeber has been named to the 2017 Hero Sports FCS Freshman All-America Team.

Kroeber, a 6-foot-4, 284-pound redshirt freshman from Roswell, Ga., earned starts in all 13 games this past season at Furman. Kroeber started the first three games at left tackle and final 10 at right guard for the Paladins. Click on this article for more information about the Freshman All-America Team.

He played a total 752 plays for the Paladins this season, and earned SoCon All-Freshman Team honors as well. To read more about Kroeber's season, please click on this link.

(Photos courtesy of WCU, Furman)

 

Six recent Fellowship Christian School graduates recently received accolades during their fall sports seasons.

A punter on the Western Carolina University football team, junior Ian Berryman was named First Team All-Southern Conference (SoCon). Click here to read the school's release.

Freshman soccer player player Mackenzie Gibbs was named to the Sun Belt Conference Women's Soccer Championship All-Tournament Team for Coastal Carolina University.

Sophomore Emma Grace Hurley helped Furman University's woman's cross country squad place seventh in the recent NCAA Championships.

An offensive lineman on Furman's football team, Reed Kroeber was selected for the SoCon All-Freshman Team. Click on this link to read the Furman release.

A freshman soccer player at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Megan Hudgens has been placed on the Conference USA All-Academic First Team presented by InTouch Credit Union. See the school's release for more information.

Berry College sophomore Jake Williamson was named Southern Athletic Association First Team All-Conference in men's soccer.

(Photos submitted by UAB, WCU and Furman)

FCS Grad Megan Hudgens Honored by Conference USA

Fellowship Christian School graduate Megan Hudgens has been selected All-Academic First Team by Conference USA.

As a freshman at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Hudgens earned a 4.0 grade point average in finance and on the field became one of the biggest Conference USA scoring threats. Hudgens, a native of Alpharetta, Ga., is a 2016 graduate of FCS.

She ranked second on the Lady Blazers with 19 points (seven goals and a team-leading five assists). She started all 20 games at forward and helped UAB notch 21 more goals than during the previous season. As a team, the Lady Blazers finished 7-2-1 in conference games and 13-4-3 overall for one of the best seasons in school history.

(Photo courtesy of UAB)

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine took one step closer to making her first Olympic team after being one of four women named to the 2018 World Cup Team by USA Luge. The selections were made following the Norton Seeding Race held Nov. 5 at the 2018 Olympic Track in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Team USA will announce the 10-member team competing in the 2018 Olympics, being held PyeongChang, South Korea, following the five-race World Cup circuit that wraps up Dec. 16. The first race is being held in Igls, Austria later this month.

Team USA’s Olympic squad will feature three men, three women and two doubles teams. The women’s four-member World Cup Team includes 2014 Olympians Erin Hamlin and Summer Britcher.

“Raychel’s race did not go so well [in South Korea],” said her father, Bob Germaine. “She did not have a single clean run through curve 9. She ended up in fifth place, but the junior athlete competing against her for the fourth spot, ended up in fourth place. This created a tie between Raychel and the junior and forced the selection to follow the Olympic Team Selection process. According to the process, the tie breaker was based on the performance at the first race in Whistler. In that race, Raychel finished ahead of the junior in both runs. It wasn’t how she wanted to do it, but the outcome was in her favor.” After six more days of training at PyeongChang, the Americans head off to Igls, Austria.

(Photo submitted by Bob Germaine)

 

 

Raychel Germaine, who spent several days training with the United States Luge team at Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, and is hoping to secured a spot on the Team USA Senior Luge squad and take a step toward qualifying for the 2018 Olympics.

In what’s known as the fastest track on the circuit, the former Fellowship Christian School student wrapped up a week of training with a fourth-place finish at the first United States seeding race of the year this past weekend (Oct. 14-15). The second leg was held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She recently finished training in Lillehammer, Norway.

“For those who have been following her career, Raychel has always been fighting for sports due to her small stature,” said her father Bob Germaine, a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team. “I cannot think of an athlete who has had her luge career on the line for more races than my daughter has. But what makes it even more challenging is the fact that it’s an Olympic year.”

Germaine did feel some extra pressure heading into the first seeding race.

“The prospect of making the Olympic team has a way of adding even more pressure,” Germaine said. “We encouraged her to enjoy the moment, lean on her Savior and keep God as the focal part of her journey.”

It has worked so far as Germaine prepares for the next leg of the three-race trials to be held in Lake Placid, N.Y. (an Olympic format with four runs over two days).

Germaine was in fourth place following the first two runs, including as personal-best time of 39.403 seconds in her second run of the day to hold fourth place by a mere 0.15 of a second. She had two more runs to hold down fourth place.

In her final runs of the seeding race, she hit just under 81 miles per hour and wound up fourth overall.

 

This is Germaine’s ninth season in luge.

Fellowship grad Emily Sonnett helped the Portland Timbers capture their second Women’s National Soccer League championship. She set up the game-winning goal in the title game played against the North Carolina Courage on Oct. 14.

The team claimed the title in the league’s inaugural season in 2013.

Fellowship Christian School graduate Jake Williamson, a current sophomore soccer player at Berry College, has been named the Southern Athletic Association (SAA) Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career, as announced by the league office.

Williamson, Fellowship's all-time leading soccer scorer, netted two goals and had two assists last week. He was also a standout football player and kicker for the Paladins.

 

Despite a pair of part-time jobs this summer in Big Canoe, Ga., Fellowship Christian School graduate Marshall Kent has managed some valuable time to work on his golf game.

“I have put in some good hours on the golf course,” said Kent, who enters his third year on the Covenant College Division III golf team this fall. “I have been busy, working two jobs for about 40 hours a week and also on my game.”

 

The Scots will kick off the fall season against Brevard College, and will have a full slate of matches this fall and spring. The squad will compete in 8-10 invitational matches that will feature tournament fields of 5-10 schools, including an opportunity to potentially close out the season at a California tournament.

 

Kent played in all 10 tournaments for the Scots in 2016-17. He shared second and earned all-tournament honors at the Piedmont Fall Invitational with a two-day score of 147 (70-77).

“I am excited to play at Piedmont again this fall,” he said. “That’s the tournament where I did the best last year. I was two-under par on the first day there.”

Kent has been pretty aggressive with his goals heading into his junior season at the Lookout Mountain, Ga., institution.

“There are a lot of them,” he said. “One is to finish under par for a tournament. That gets you a long way in Division III golf. It’s only been done twice in Covenant College history. I’d also like to set the single-season scoring average record of 74 and single round score of 68. If I want to shoot 73 or better for a season average, then there’s no room for rounds in the 80s.”

As a sophomore, Kent owned three of the top 10 scores by Covenant golfers in 2016-17, including the team’s best score of the season (two-under 70 at Piedmont).

The 6-foot Kent also notched three top-10 finishes on the year for the Scots, including 10th place with a 165 (84-81) at the Reeder Cup. He also shared 40th in the Wynlakes Intercollegiate with a two-round total of 154 (78-76).

“My [sophomore season] got off to a hot start,” he said. “The Piedmont tournament was a highlight. It was a good season. I had to show frit and determine to score well, especially with my driving. When you aren’t hitting fairways consistently, you need to hit your other shots well. I have been working on that. I am super, super competitive, so I want improve my game.”

The Scots are counting on Kent hitting good shots all season long.

“With two freshmen coming in and several sophomores, I want to be a good leader this year,” Kent said. “We have a lot of drive on this team. We will be ready.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Covenant College)

Jake Williamson has always had a knack for finding the net in soccer, and even kicking game-winning field goals in American Football.

So while he felt ready for college soccer at Berry College in Rome, Ga., he now realizes staying healthy is the key for the college level as it relates to playing time. More playing time also equates to more opportunities to score more goals.

“It had a lot of ups and downs,” Williamson said about his freshman year. “It took a little bit [to get used to the college game]. It’s a lot faster, a little different and more intense. I felt behind at first, but then I got the hang of it.”

Enough to tally five goals and notch one assist in 14 games for the Vikings. He actually earned four starts, and wound up with 24 shots (including nine on goal).

Williamson, who had 150 goals and 45 assists during his high school career at Fellowship, lost three weeks of practice time and missed five games due to a pulled hamstring and then later suffered an injured ankle.

“I am really excited more about this year,” he said. “The coaches have said I could have a key role this year. I want to stay healthy and be away from injuries. I see an opportunity for more playing time.”

The Vikings finished 3-4 in SAA conference play in 2016, and finished 10-9 overall.

“This year we want to win conference and get to nationals,” Williamson said.

Berry opens the 2017 campaign with a trip to California for the UC Santa Cruz Tournament on Sept. 1 and 3. The Vikings face Pacific (Oregon) on Sept. 1, and will battle the host school on Sept. 3.

It will be Williamson’s second trip to California since his freshman season ended.

In June, Williamson participated in a California camp with Athletes in Action, an organization that teaches college athletes of all sports and levels how to integrate faith into sports with spiritual truths and focal points.

“It teaches you how to look at college sports differently,” Williamson said. “It was a terrific experience.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Berry College)

 

Fellowship Christian School graduate Chad Davenport helped the Wheaton College football program reach some pretty good heights during his four years at the Illinois school located 40 miles west of Chicago.

“It was a very good experience at Wheaton,” Davenport said. “We made the playoffs three out of my four years there. My class was the winningest in Wheaton history.”

NCAA Division III Wheaton was a good academic and athletic fit for Davenport, who will wrap up his degree in Christian education and ministry this summer. “I’d really like to go into ministry,” Davenport said.

“It was a very great place for me,” Davenport said. “It’s a unique community, where I actively pursued my faith. The typical type of person who goes to Wheaton is probably not your typical college student. Which I think is a good thing. Faith and growing your relationship with God are very important there.”

Davenport, a two-way lineman at Fellowship, split his career on the offensive and defensive lines at Wheaton. He spent two years on the offensive line before transitioning to the defensive line in time for the playoffs his sophomore year.

FCS prepared Davenport well for college, athletically and academically.

“I learned at Fellowship that I needed to work hard at practice, but also on my own to get better,” he said. “Guys like myself, Jacob Miller and Conor Linneen really put in the effort after practice.”

On the academic side, Davenport felt prepared for the rigorous Wheaton class schedule.

“I also knew I had to actively make time for school,” he said. “Some schools have mandatory tutoring and study halls, but not at Wheaton. It’s a hard school, and they expect you to get the work done on your own. Their message to athletes and all students is don’t neglect your school work. If you don’t get it done, they can easily find another athlete to take your place.”

What advice does Davenport have for high school students and fellow Fellowship graduates heading to college football?

“Don’t go into with a big head, or think that you are God’s gift to the game of football,” he said. “You are very much a big fish in a small pond [at FCS], and when you reach that level the expectations are high. Essentially playing high school football teaches you the value of hard work, so you’ll need to take that work ethic with you to college.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Wheaton College).

The 2016-17 season is one that Fellowship Christian School graduate Grant Kierpa might like to forget about.

The pitcher struggled on the mound for the Covenant College baseball team.

"It was not my best year," Kierpa said of his sophomore campaign. "It was a combination of things. I think I was a little bit complacent after a good freshman year, and then I had issues with my mechanics."

Kierpa made 11 appearances with four starts in 2016-17, finishing with a 0-4 record, one save and an ERA of 10.68. Kierpa fanned 11 batters 30.1 innings. He struck out a season-high four batters in a loss to Maryville College on March 4, 2017.

The team struggled a bit too.

The Scots finished 14-24 overall, including a 6-12 conference mark.

"As a team we did not play that well either," Kierpa said. "It was a tough year. I was not throwing a lot of strikes, which made me lose my confidence. It kind of snowballed."

As a freshman, Kierpa posted a 2-0 record and recorded one save in seven games, including five starts for the Scots. The club finished 23-17 overall, including a 9-8 conference mark. Kierpa struck out 11, walked seven and allowed 18 hits in 28.1 innings.

He was even named USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Week for March 21, 2016.

"I am working hard this summer to work my way back into the rotation," Kierpa said. "I started throwing with my old pitching coach [Chance Beam] two weeks ago, and I already feel a lot better. He told me, 'let's get back to basics,' and he went over everything with me. I can feel my confidence coming back."

The 6-foot, 165-pound Kierpa said he and his teammates are focused on getting better and finishing with a much better record this season.

"We'll set our team goals after our fall practices," he said. "But our senior short stop received a medical red shirt and is coming back. That's a huge help and will benefit the team. For me, my main goal is to pitch better. I don't want to give anything away. I want to keep hitters honest. I am working hard this summer to make that happen."

Kierpa is majoring in history with a minor in business at the Lookout Mountain, Ga., school.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Covenant College)

Conor Linneen showed great patience during his Division III collegiate football career at Centre College.

After spending three years as a key special teams performer and defensive backfield backup, Linneen finally earned a starting role in the defensive backfield as a senior in the fall of 2016. He hung on tight, especially after a shaky first start.

"After our first game, the coaches pulled me aside and said we may start someone else next week," Linneen said. "But I got to work, and had the best week of practice in my career, and got the start in week two. I made 12 tackles and had an interception that next game. I hung on to the starting job the rest of the year."

Linneen, who earned an economics degree with a minor in political science from the Danville, Kent., school this spring, eyes a career in business on the analytical side.

"It went very well," the Fellowship Christian School graduate said about his senior year. "Other than my first game, it was very good. We went 8-2 and were second in our conference [Southern Athletic Association]. I led the team in tackles, was honorable mention All Conference and was voted on as most improved player by my teammates."

The Colonels only losses in 2016 came against Rome, Ga.'s Berry College (21-19 on Nov. 12) and at Hendrix College in Arkansas (35-28 on Oct 1). Linneen finished with 55 tackles, including 30 solo stops and 25 assists. He registered 5.5 tackles per contest overall, and 5.8 tackles per conference game.

What was Linneen's favorite accomplishments in college football?

"The most improved player award," he said. "That's my favorite! They recognized me after I waited my turn to start. It was awesome."

Linneen will also cherish the opportunity to have played college football and being part of the Colonels for four years. He'll take what he learned on the football field to the business world.

"My background in football will help me in the world," he said. "Being part of a team is important to your personal development. The team is more important than any individual. Plus you learn to overcome adversity. When you get knocked down, it's how you respond that counts."

Football helped Linneen develop his work ethic and a positive attitude.

"Taking care of your own business is important to being part of a team," he said. "Everyone has to trust each other and do their job to be successful. You have to learn to work hard and accomplish your goals."

 

(Photos courtesy of Frank Linneen, and Centre College)

Fellowship Christian School graduate was the typical freshman at Samford University last fall during his first year in NCAA FCS.

“I practiced with the team, dressed out for the home games, but I couldn’t step on the field during games, or I’d lose my red shirt,” said the young linebacker from FCS. “It was an awesome first year. I loved the program, my teammates and coaches.”

An offensive lineman and linebacker at Fellowship, Buchweitz was ready for college.

“Fellowship prepared me well for the field and the classroom,” he said. “It’s a tough schedule though. It’s super strict, especially with fall and spring practices, meetings and working out.”

Buchweitz learned a lot practicing with Samford’s linebacker corps last season.

“I learned the basics at Fellowship,” Buchweitz said. “I was on the right path, but I had to learn the formations and the plays.”

Buchweitz, a sports administration major with a double minor in political science and marketing, is hoping to reach the field for the Bulldogs this fall.

“I’d like to make the travel squad,” he said. “I am working my way up the ladder, and that would give me more opportunities to play. I’d love to play on special teams too.”

With two seniors in front of him, Buchweitz “is working my tail off this summer” to be prepared for fall camp in August.

Samford opens the season at home against Kennesaw State on Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. Buchweitz will face two former FCS teammates in Southern Conference matchups at Western Carolina University (Ian Berryman) on Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m., and at home against Furman University (Reed Kroeber) on Nov. 18 at 3 p.m.

 

(Photos courtesy of the Samford University)

Hunter Bryant, who earned his undergraduate degree in marketing in just three years of college, enters his fourth season as a preferred walk-on with the University of Alabama football team.

 

The 6-foot-5 Bryant has plenty of happy memories during his time as part of the storied Crimson Tide program.

Bryant, a 2014 graduate of Fellowship Christian School, has been a part of one national championship team, three Southeastern Conference title squads and has won the Cotton Bowl and the Peach Bowl with the Tuscaloosa school. The Tide fell just a little bit short in the national title game in January to Clemson.

“It’s been the hardest of three years,” Bryant said. “With the level of competition in practice every day, the training and all the hard work [in football and in school], it’s not been easy. But it’s been an experience I would not have traded for anything.”

Bryant, a three-sport star at FCS, has been a part of quite a collegiate football program under the direction of legendary coach Nick Saban, a former walk on himself.

“Training with guys every day who wind up playing in the NFL has been amazing,” he said. “Coach Saban and his staff are incredible. You really learn what to expect from yourself [being part of one of the top NCAA Division I programs].”

Managing practices, workouts, travel and away games on the way to accomplishing his degree in just three years is a testament to the dedication Bryant possesses.

“It feels hard to believe I accomplished that,” Bryant said. “At FCS I loaded up on AP classes, which helped. My teachers there also helped me be very prepared for college. All that has worked out in my favor.”

Bryant, who enters his first year of a two-year MBA program this fall, enters his final year of eligibility at the Tuscaloosa, Ala., school hoping for a shot at taking the field with the Tide. Fall camp for the Crimson Tide starts Aug. 4.

“I have given it my all,” he said. “It will be bittersweet when it’s over. I have been part of a team since I was four, and am so used to being part of the locker room. It’s been incredible to be part of this team for four years.”

The Tide open the season against Florida State on Sept. 2.

“It will be a dangerous game for us,” he said. “They are a potential national championship contending team. It’ll be a tough matchup.”

 

(Photos courtesy of Kevin Bryant and the University of Alabama)

Emma Grace Hurley’s first year in college included plenty of running.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School competed in cross country, indoor track and out track & field for NCAA Division I Furman University.

“It was an interesting adjustment in the first semester,” said Hurley, who began her track career as a fifth grader at Fellowship. “The second semester was easier. We only had about a week off between the seasons. We all run on all three teams.”

Hurley, who started cross county as a freshman at Fellowship, had her best college results in cross country.

“I had the most success at cross country individually,” she said. “As a team we won conference and placed fourth in regionals.”

The Furman squad was “close” to going to nationals – only five points out. “It was close,” Hurley said. “It’s the difference of about five places, or between 1-2 seconds a runner.”

Hurley, who won three GHSA Class A championships during her scholastic career, was among six freshman runners at Furman.

“Such strong competition [in college],” Hurley said when asked about the biggest difference in the next level. “Top state performers in high school can find it tough to place in the top 50-100 in college races. We are not used to that much talent or pace every race. I even placed 170th in one race. I know I was sick, but I still did not run a good race that day.”

A strong performance at conference, and good performance at Southeast Regional “was a huge breakthrough for me” were among Hurley’s season highlights, she said.

Her goals entering the cross country season are to win conference with the team, qualify for NCAA meet and finish among the top 10 schools in the nation.

“All my goals are for cross country,” Hurley said. “I have not thought about track yet.”

In the Eye Opener Invitational held on Sept. 2, 2016, Hurley placed third in 5K at 17:57.5 for her highest finish of the cross country season. She tied that finish with third place at the SoCon Championships 5K at 16:55.4 on Oct. 29, 2016.

In indoor track, Hurley’s best finish came at the mile trials at the SoCon Championships on Feb. 25 (second place with a time of 5:04.78). She was fifth in the finals (4:57.6).

On April 8 during the outdoor track & field season, Hurley placed second in the 3,000 meters at the Tiger Track Classic (9:44.4). She notched a time of 17:02.9 to claim second in the 5,000 meters at the SoCon Championships on May 11.

 

Furman’s cross country team kicks off the 2017 season on Sept. 2 at the Eye Opener Invitational in Spartanburg, S.C. The Furman Invitational is slated for Sept. 10.

Reed Kroeber enters the Furman University fall football training camp with an opportunity to win a starting role on the Paladin offensive line.

Kroeber, who earned a red shirt as a true freshman in 2016, has spent the last month training and building up his conditioning at Furman in preparation for the upcoming fall training camp.

The 2016 graduate of Fellowship Christian School did not play as a true freshman.

“It was good [first year at Furman,” Kroeber said about his first year at the Greenville, S.C., school. “Football wise, I had a learning curve. It was a big adjustment going up against guys in practice who were All Region and All State. Playing against those guys is a challenge. But I really, really like Furman. The class sizes are similar to Fellowship, and it’s not too far from home.”

Kroeber’s confidence grew after a successful spring camp under new head coach Clay Hendrix, a long-time Air Force Academy assistant and Furman graduate, and his staff, that includes Air Force Academy graduate Peter Lusk as offensive line coach.

“Right now I have a good outlook,” Kroeber said. “I had a pretty good spring, and I know I will compete for a job in fall camp.”

The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Kroeber worked out at left tackle and guard this spring. He played right tackle at Fellowship.

“We only retained two coaches [from last year’s staff],” Kroeber said. “I have a different line coach. Coach Lusk is a former player under our new head coach. It’s been great [under the new coaching staff]. Coach Hendrix was an offensive line coach for 30 years, so he’s heavily involved with the line and the offense. All of the guys really like him.”

Furman finished 3-8 last season, but is looking to turn it around.

“We had a tough opening six games last year,” Kroeber said. The Paladins started 0-6, but went 3-2 over the final five contests.

The Paladins will face a pair of Kroeber’s former FCS teammates this season in the Southern Conference: at Western Carolina University on Oct. 28 at 3:30 p.m. (Ian Berryman) and in Birmingham against Samford University (Clay Buchweitz) on Nov. 18 at 3 p.m.

 

Furman kicks off the season at Wofford College in nearby Spartanburg, S.C. on Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. The Paladins face Elon University in the home opener in Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 9 at 1 p.m.

 

Fellowship Christian School graduate Dariean Ward is heading into her fourth and final season as a member of the Lander University softball team in a few short weeks.

The Lady BearCats play a short three-week fall season, and have a full season scheduled in the spring.

“We lost a lot of our outfield, but we do have a good mix of recruits and returners,” said Ward, who graduated from FCS in 2014. “We did not make the conference tournament last year, but we hope to reach it this year. We want to build on last year.”

Ward, the returning starter at third base, helped Lander post a 21-29 record in 2017, including a 12-10 home record and a 9-15 conference mark in Peachbelt contests.

Ward, who was hit by a line drive in practice during her sophomore season, battled back to start 33 contests and play in 38 games as a junior. She scored six runs and collected one double, matched her career high with two home runs and finished with 12 RBIs.

“My coach [Glen Crawford] helped me a lot to recover from confidence at the plate,” she said. “I had to re-learn every thing at the plate. But my confidence improved as the season went along.”

Ward belted a three-run walk-off home run in 6-3 win over Columbus State on March 24, and went 2-for-3 with and knocked in both runs of a 3-2 loss to North Georgia on April 2. She scored two runs in 8-0 victory over Emmanuel on April 6, went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in 10-2 win over Georgia College on April 8 and was 2-for-3 with a run scored in 2-1 victory over USC Aiken on April 14.

“It’s been a fine experience here,” she said. “I have enjoyed playing here.”

As a sophomore, Ward appeared in all 47 games with 46 starts (both career bests) for the Lady BearCats. She batted a career-high .317 with 25 runs scored, two home runs and 21 RBI. She led team with 16 doubles. She set career highs in home runs, doubles and RBIs.

 

Ward appeared in 40 games as a freshman in 2015. She batted .230 with one homer, 13 RBIs, 15 runs scored and six doubles.

Fellowship Christian School graduate Caroline Long learned a valuable lesson in perseverance this past season.

Long, who graduated from Georgia College and State University with a communications degree in May, wrapped up her four-year collegiate volleyball career at GCSU last November. But her senior season at the Milledgeville school was filled with plenty of ups and downs.

"It was a tough situation to start the season," said Long, who is completing an eight-week internship with Samaritan's Purse in Boone, N.C. this summer. "I was a three-year starter and captain, and helped start our program. But when the year started I found myself on the bench. I was coming off an injury, but for whatever reason the coaches decided not to play me."

But Long did not quit. She showed her dedication and kept on working hard in practice and waited for her opportunity. Eventually she returned to the lineup and helped her team win its fair share of matches down the stretch and reach the league tournament.

"We played 28 matches, and I think I started the last half of them," she said. "I knew going in I had it in me [to not quit]. I earned my spot back before conference play. I had to be patient, and learned that you shouldn't take life too serious. I learned that the things high in my mind aren't always as big as you think in the grand scheme."

Long, whose father Mike is a former FCS high school principal, felt her spiritual side grow and sees her internship with Franklin Graham's international ministry as "a blessing."

The Lady Bobcats posted the first winning season in school history with a 17-14 record, including an 8-10 mark in Peachbelt Conference matches.

GCSU fell to USC-Aiken 3-0 in the Peachbelt Conference quarterfinals on Nov. 18, 2016.

"We lost in the tournament, but overall we had a very good season," Long said. "I am glad my team did well, and that I personally finished the year strong."

Long, who graduated from FCS in 2013, helped the Lady Bobcats start their volleyball program back in the fall of 2013.

Long finished fourth on the team with 191.5 points and recorded 41 digs.

 

(Photos courtesy of GCSU)


Megan Hudgens really made a name for herself as a freshman on the University of Alabama at Birmingham's women's soccer team this past season.

The Alpharetta, Ga., native led the Lady Blazers with 11 points, shared the team lead with four goals and was second with three assists.

As a senior at Fellowship Christian School in 2016, she led the Lady Paladins to the GHSA Single A Girls Soccer Championship.

"It was a great experience," said Hudgens, who reports to UAB on July 17 for practice. "It was a lot of work, but it was worth every minute of it."

She said the major differences between FCS and NCAA Division I soccer were an increased intensity level and more extensive practices.

"The level of play is outstanding," said Hudges, who helped the Lady Blazers finish 4-11-2 overall and 1-7-2 in Conference USA matches last fall. "But we definitely improved. We did fine overall. It felt like a family. I learned a lot. We hope for more victories this season."

She has set some goals for 2017.

"[I want to] Be the best I can be, score more goals and get better every game," Hudgens said.

She led the Lady Blazers, who went 4-4-1 at home, with 36 shots and 22 shots on goal. Hudgens tallied the game-winning goal in a double OT win over the University of Texas El Paso on Sept. 25, and assisted the game-winning tallies in wins over McNeese State on Sept. 4 and UNC-Asheville on Sept. 1.

Hudgens started all 17 of UAB's games and logged 1475 minutes.

The four-time All-State selection at FCS helped the Lady Paladins become the first team in school history to capture a GHSA championship.

"It was a great experience," she said. "It was a cool legacy to leave at FCS. It is one of my favorite high school memories."

At Fellowship, Hudgens tallied a school-record 114 goals, was named to the All Area/Region teams four times, earned the Class A MVP Award in 2016, and was also a member of the National Honor Society.

During her career at FCS, she also was a member of the Fire ECNL Team and was the squad's top scorer.

The Lady Blazers open the season on Aug. 8 at Jacksonville State in Alabama, and kick off the home season at BVA Compass Field in Birmingham on Aug. 18 against Atlanta's Georgia State University.

 

The team has a slate of 20 contests. The Conference USA championships will be held Nov. 1-5 in Boca Raton, Fla.

(Photos courtesy of UAB)

While Ian Berryman is thrilled to be recognized for his punting this preseason, he would rather receive similar postseason football recognition.

The Fellowship Christian School graduate was recently named to the 2017 Preseason FCS All-America Team. The team features players from 10 different conferences and 19 different NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division IAA) schools.

"It's a blessing," said Berryman, a junior punter at Western Carolina University. "I have had a whirlwind of a career here. If two years ago you would have told me that I would become a pre-season All-American, I would have laughed at you."

The Marietta, Ga., native enters his fourth year at WCU, and his third season playing on the Catamounts squad.

"I am focused on the season," he said. "I want to be on the All-America list at the end of the season. I want to be among the top three punters this season, average 46 yards a punt and make a name for myself heading into my senior year."

The 6-foot, 205-pound Berryman is coming off a very successful sophomore campaign when he set a WCU single-season record with an average of 44.9 yards per boot. His average was second among Southern Conference punters and fourth in the nation. He was selected for the 2016 HERO Sports All-America Team following his sophomore campaign.

That recognition came following a redshirt freshman campaign in 2015 when he became the Catamounts' lone All-Southern Conference pick and was a finalist for the NCAA FCS top freshman punter honors.

In 2016, the former FCS Paladin punted on 52 occasions that covered 2,335 yards. He booted TWO career-high 64-yard punts, and notched 19 kicks that topped 50-or-more yards. He downed 18 punts inside the WCU opponents' 20-yard-line.

With success like that, has the humble and down-to-earth Berryman thought about the next level?

"Honestly I take it one punt at a time," he said. "That is there, but it's not set prominently in my mind. I want to win a Southern Conference championship and help my team win football games."

Berryman, No. 83, has truly worked hard to get where he is today.

"I really worked hard to develop my punting before I had the opportunity to kick in games [during his true freshman season]," Berryman said. "I added weight to help me take hits, watched, learned and was amazed by the speed of the game. The returners are really, really fast. You have to worry about ball placement. If you don't put the ball in the right place, they can make you pay. Last season, I really tried to take it one step at a time and get better with every kick."

The Catamounts open the season at the University of Hawaii on Sept. 2, and host Davidson College in their home opener being played in Cullowhee, N.C. on Sept. 9.

The Southern Conference media day for football will be held on July 18, and Catamount athletes report for preseason football practice on July 31. A communications major, Berryman is interning at Score Atlanta this summer.

 

Berryman is among four former FCS football players competing in the Southern Conference. The others are a pair of redshirt freshmen – offensive lineman Reed Kroeber at Furman University and linebacker Clay Buchweitz at Samford University, and incoming freshman Jack Hardin at Furman.

 

(Photos courtesy of Western Carolina University)

 

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine finished third in Team USA’s Summer Seeding Races held March 25-26 in Lake Placid, N.Y. With her finish, she earned a spot on the USA Luge summer squad.

Bob Germaine, Raychel’s father surprised her and her brother Robert Germaine (a Skelton athlete) with a visit to Lake Placid.

“At dinner the night, before her first race the next day, she informed me that the two seeding races on Saturday and Sunday were the first Olympic qualifying races, and were actually quite significant,” said Bob Germaine. “Her coaches told her only six women would be selected to the summer team, and only those six would be qualified to race in the four Olympic qualifying seeding races in the fall. Erin Hamlin secured one of the spots, based on her World Championship finish, but the other five positions would be determined by the race results of the two seeding races. Raychel and her two senior teammates would be joined by five of the top junior athletes invited to race. The top three positions after the two races, would have a secured position, and the last two positions would be coach’s discretionary selections.”

 

This wraps up the 2016-17 season for the younger Germaine, who will slide with her senior teammates until the middle of April. They will travel to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., for additional testing and training.

 

Former Fellowship Christian School student Raychel Germaine placed 16th in the three-day Luge World Championships held Jan. 27-29 in Igls, Austria.

Every year, except for the Olympic year, it’s the premier luge race with more countries and athletes competing than any other World Cup race during the season. This year, the women’s event included 45 competitors from 21 countries.

Germaine finished 18th after the first run with a personal track record time of 40.218 seconds. The top 20 qualified for a second run. She finished 16th.

“Her second start was much cleaner,” her father Bob Germaine said. “She looked calm and relaxed on the sled, and she kept her aerodynamic position throughout the run. She completed the run with another personal record time of 40.201 seconds, she moved up two positions.”

In addition, there was also a race within the race for the U-23 sliders in Igls. She finished fifth among the 24 under 23 sliders.

In the seventh World Cup race, held in Oberhof, Germany on Feb. 4-5, Germaine posted a then personal record time of 42.241 seconds and took 12th place in the Nations Cup Race to qualify for the World Cup race. She claimed 24th place in the World Cup event.

“Her next opportunity happens to be pretty exciting,” said Bob Germaine. “She will participate in a week of international training at the 2018 Olympic track at Pyeong Chang, South Korea. And the following week, she will complete in the World Cup race at the same location. This World Cup race will serve as the test race for the 2018 Olympic Games, as it will take place almost exactly one year away from the big event.”

In Sigulda, Latvia, Germaine set a time of 42.82 was ninth overall in the Nations Cup Race on Jan. 13. She qualified for the World Cup Race No. 6 the next day, where she placed 23rd. On Jan. 5-6, Germaine placed 20th in World Cup race No. 5 in Koenigsee, Germany. She was ranked 13th in the world heading into World Cup Race No. 6 in Sigulda.


Fellowship Christian School graduate Kelsey Royalty made an impact on the Samford University softball team as a freshman.

A 2015 graduate of FCS, Royalty finished seventh on the Lady Bulldogs squad with a .287 batting average and helped the team post a 40-20 record. She played in 57 of the team’s 60 games, including 49 starts.

Royalty, who played mostly in right field, collected three home runs, nine RBIs and 37 hits.

As a Lady Paladin, Royalty played four years of varsity basketball and 2-3 years of varsity softball in addition to 5-7 years of travel softball.

She recently discussed her freshman year at Samford and her FCS career during a recent interview.

Question: What was your first year in college like?

Answer: I loved my first year at Samford. I was a little worried making the transition to college from a small high school, but I chose Samford because it was so small. It was a great academic and athletic environment to begin my career. FCS really helped me be prepared for college. I took a lot of AP classes at Fellowship that helped me reduce my course load a little as a freshman. That was very helpful for me.

Question: What was the highlight of your freshman season on the field?

Answer: It was amazing. It was the first time in school history that we won a conference title. We won 14 games four years ago, so it was great for our seniors to go out with 40 wins. We went 0-2 in NCAA Regionals at the University of Alabama, which was tough, but it was the school’s first trip to NCAA Regionals so o overall it was a great season. There was so much excitement on selection Sunday! It was great to be involved in that atmosphere. It’s a very good program. We have a great coaching staff, and a great team.

Question: What was your biggest challenge about becoming a college athlete?

Answer: I’d say time management. We were required to have eight hours of study hall time a week. That is a lot of time with all the practices, games and classes. After posting at least a 3.5 GPA in the first semester, I moved to five hours a week [of study hall] in the second semester. I love school, and love the academics of college, but it’s hard to fit in all the hours sometimes. We practice every day, including 3-4 hours a day in the spring.

Question: What goals do you have for your sophomore year?

Answer: It was a learning experience as a freshman. I must have messed up like a 1,000 times. I played right field this year, but I would really love to play some in center field next year, and also raise my GPA to a 4.0 in both semesters. I played 2-3 sports a year at Fellowship, but I was always a student before being an athlete. It’s no different for me at Samford. Coach [Clay] Price preached that to us at Fellowship. I have that philosophy in college too.

Question: What was your favorite sports memory at FCS?

Answer: I had a lot of great memories at Fellowship. I played two or three years of varsity softball and four years of varsity basketball under coach Price. He was an amazing coach and mentor. I would have to say my greatest highlight was senior night for basketball. Abigail Freemyer and I were both honored at center court with our parents. We both played four years for coach Price, and I also played a fifth year for him at JV. Since we had been in the program for such a long time, he was gleaming at center court when they talked about us. He didn’t have kids, so we were like his kids and he was like a second father to all of us. I never have felt so proud to make someone so proud of me.