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As I write this column, former Beacon sports editor Doug Rutter is probably resting at home, waiting to begin his new job.
Doug and Beacon publisher Scott Harrell hired me last March to help out with sports—to take some of the mundane tasks away from him so he could continue to produce what I always considered a well-rounded community sports section.
I was told I had been chosen from the applicants while I was driving down I-95 to Florida to tend to personal family matters.
In the year I grew to know Doug, I found out what a few people in Brunswick County know, that Rutter is and always will be a walking encyclopedia of sports lore in southeastern North Carolina.
His off-the-top-of-his head knowledge cannot be replaced, and I hope until the Beacon is able to secure his permanent replacement that coaches, fans, athletes and readers alike will hang with us as we plod on. I’m sure we here at the Beacon will be ringing Doug up for information on a regular basis.
All I can wish him is good luck, and I hope to see him on the golf course. I’m definitely going to miss him.
Last one standing
The basketball season has long passed for the three Brunswick high schools, but Waccamaw 1A/2A Conference members North and South Brunswick still have a rooting interest in the Class 1A championship game the Lady Patriots of Pender (30-1) will be playing Saturday.
Pender, whose only loss this season was to Class 4A Laney of Wilmington, advanced to the title game by beating East Bladen 70-56 last Saturday in a rematch of last year’s regional final at Greenville. This time the Lady Patriots came out on top.
They’ll be facing defending state champion Bishop McGuiness in the final Saturday at noon at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill. The Villains defeated Chatham Central 52-36 in the West Regional final.
I had a chance to see the Lady Patriots in action twice during the holiday tournament between the six Brunswick and Pender schools and watched as Pender handled the Brunswick schools with ease. In fact, Pender was 7-0 against the Brunswick schools for the season.
Coach Gary Battle did double duty at Pender this past season, coaching both boys and girls teams. It was deemed a one-year fix and he is expected to coach only the boys in 2008-09. He really wanted to stay with the girls program he had nurtured a few years.
“We played them four times,” North Brunswick coach Travis Fortune said. “By far they are the most complete team we faced all year. Everything feeds off their defense.
“I’m going to go up there (Chapel Hill) and root for our conference champs.”
Bringing a state championship home to the Waccamaw Conference would say a lot about the league.
Congrats are in order for 2002 West Brunswick grad and Supply native Chad McCumbee for his fifth place finish Friday night in NASCAR’s Craftsman Truck series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
McCumbee, who had said back in December he was hoping to have a truck capable of winning the series point title in 2008, is off to a rousing start with two top 10 finishes in the first three truck races.
Of course, Kyle Busch was a winner for the second time in the three starts, but McCumbee jumped three spots in the point standings, from seventh to fourth and sits behind Busch, Todd Bodine and Russ Hornaday.
The 23-year-old had the No. 8 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet humming at Atlanta, often drawing comments from the TV crew on SPEED Channel as he stayed near the lead most of the night after starting from the outside pole position as the second fastest qualifier.
In fact, a key pit stop by Busch for four new tires was the undoing of McCumbee’s bid for his first Craftsman win.
The West Brunswick grad took the lead with just 14 laps remaining in the American Commercial Lines 200. Busch came roaring out of pit road and went by Mike Crafton and McCumbee in turns 3 and 4 to regain the lead.
McCumbee is still searching for a national sponsor, and races like Friday night can only help him attain his goal.