Macon Middle School takes Blue Ridge Conference Championships


Dan Finnerty – Sports Writer

To Coach Craig Kurimay’s knowledge, Macon Middle School’s (MMS) golf team has not ever won the western division of the Blue Ridge Athletic Conference (BRAC) – nor have they placed in the conference playoffs previously. This year, both of those facts changed. 

With his team comprised of four eighth graders (Nicco Abbate, Ryland Angel, Nolan Raby, and Michael Strange) and two sixth graders (Bryce Bradley, Reid Willis), Kurimay reached previously unmatched levels of success for MMS golf.

The BRAC is made up of two divisions with MMS, Canton, Waynesville, Bethel, Asheville Christian Academy (ACA), and Smoky Mountain comprising the western division. Six matches comprised the regular season in which MMS finished in first place with a cumulative 951 score, which put it 35 points better than Waynesville (986) and 42 points better than ACA’s 993. 

In the conference playoffs, the Panthers barely missed taking first, finishing with 382 points after two matches compared with winner Rugby Middle School, from the eastern BRAC division, which scored 380 to take the championship. 

“After scoring their second highest, not good, score all year on day one, they were 13 shots out … Showing grit, determination, and Panther Pride on day two, they ‘clawed’ back and scored their second lowest [less is more in golf] score all year and made up 11 shots,” Kurimay said.

Regarding the outcome of the season, he added, “I’m most proud of numerous comments that parents from other schools made about these players’ character, conduct, friendliness, and helpfulness toward each other and their competitors. I’m excited about the opportunity to build next year’s team around such talented players as Bryce and Reid.”

Baseball brings home first championship

Randy Phillips just finished his inaugural season as MMS baseball coach. After six years at Franklin High School working with the baseball team there as a position coach, he started coaching the middle school team this year. While he would probably be the last person to take credit for it, he led the team to an undefeated season. With a 14-4 win over the Rugby Raiders, Phillips capped a perfect season with the team and, as far as he knows, the first BRAC championship for MMS baseball in at least seven years. 

Phillips listed his favorite memory of the season as when he was short of players for a period of time and his guys never quit. 

“We had so many kids that stepped up and performed well,” he said. “I think another positive was our defense was vastly improved … and we didn’t have too many multiple error games.” 

He also went on to note that “we outscored our opponents 252-54.” 

The coach pointed out that he is looking forward to next year as well, although he admitted it will be different. 

“We will have a smaller group of experienced players coming back, but with those guys, and a solid group of young players coming up, it should be another good year.”

Not to be outdone, the MMS girls’ softball team won a championship of its own. By also defeating the Raiders, 11-1, the Lady Panthers avenged an earlier season loss to Rugby Middle School enroute to winning the BRAC title. Also in her first year, Coach Sarah Carpenter overcame the loss of many players from an undefeated 2022 season to orchestrate the second consecutive championship for MMS softball.