Student-athletes at local high schools announced their college intentions on Wednesday as part of National Signing Day. While the list is expected to grow over the next several days and weeks through the spring period, more than a dozen seniors from New Hanover, Hoggard, Ashley, North Brunswick and Topsail made commitments, including Division I football recruits Joe Sculthorpe and Hunter Louthan.
A trio from Hoggard will join five other former Vikings currently playing soccer at the next level, while New Hanover’s quarterback found a good fit within the Division III ranks.
A pair of Scorpions will also make the next step on the gridiron, while one hoopster in Leland is set to continue his athletic career on the hardwood.
Drew Walters is headed to Division I Campbell University after helping guide the Screaming Eagles to its most successful season in soccer program history. Ashley went 20-2-1 as Mideastern Conference Champions during his season year, with a school record 18-game win streak to start the year.
Finally, former New Hanover standout Jacen Murphy transferred to North Carolina Central from Copiah Lincoln Community College. The Wolfpack finished the 2015 season ranked No. 4 in the National Junior College Athletic Association final poll. Murphy originally attended East Carolina as a preferred walk-on and missed his entire season as a freshman with a torn ACL and LCL.
Joe Sculthorpe, football, N.C. State
A three-time top three finisher in the state as a high school wrestler, including a 3A individual championship as a sophomore, Sculthorpe decided to focus solely on football for his senior year and drew the attention of Coach Dave Doran at N.C. State prior to his junior season.
After working out at N.C. State, Wake Forest, Georgia and East Carolina, he was offered by the Pirates and Wolfpack and verbally committed to Coach Doran’s program as a junior.
“It’s been good not to have that stress of figuring out where I’d be going after high school over the last year, but I’m ready to get up there and now it’s finally time,” said Sculthorpe. “Coach wanted me to get up there, I’m ready to get there.”
Over the past few seasons, Sculthorpe has been relentless in developing the technique and mindset it takes to be a strong offensive lineman. He credits a strong work ethic, great family support and Topsail Coach Wayne Inman for his success. Inman, current Head Coach at Topsail, is a former All-American lineman and East Carolina University Hall of Famer.
Sculthorpe was one of two players from the area to be invited for the 2015 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. He’s listed as a three-star recruit, according to www.rivals.com.
At 6-foot, 3 inches and 285 pounds, Sculthorpe ran the 40-yard dash in 5.21 seconds and shuttle in 4.53 seconds during the Shrine Bowl combine. He also registered an 8-foot, 7-inch standing broad jump and lifted 185 pounds on bench press 24 times.
Hunter Louthan, football, Davidson
The 6-foot, 4-inch, 215-pound Louthan inked with Davidson College in nearby Charlotte. Louthan was a key blocker and grew as a passing threat at the tight end position over the past two seasons and drew interest from a handful of mid-major schools.
“I had always dreamed about playing college football ,” said Louthan. “My parents and coaches would tell me I had potential, but I didn’t really think it was a possibility until the spring after junior year and summer going into this season when the coaches started coming to Hoggard and talking to me.”
In 11 games played this fall, Louthan had 22 catches for 381 yards and three touchdowns. The number of receptions doubled from his junior year, when he had 11 grabs, 141 yards and four scores. He had a season-high six receptions for 110 yards in week one of the regular season against Seventy-First this year and recorded his longest touchdown catch of the season, a 59 yard scoring play in a 34-6 win over Ashley.
Louthan has been a multi-sport athlete for the Vikings and will soon bear the uniform of the Wildcats, a mascot he hasn’t been very fond of during his high school years with crosstown rival New Hanover donning the same nickname.
“I had some people messing with me about the Wildcats, but they’re different colors,” Louthan chuckled. “We’re black and red. Coach [Paul] Nichols really talked about to about the future and getting a chance to play college football in college, but also put myself into a good place in the future after football.
“Talking with some of the guys on the team they did say it’s a transition, but I think I’m prepared for it.”
Davidson competes in NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), and is one of the oldest programs in college football, dating back to 1897. Louthan is undecided as to what his major will be next semester, but said he’s leaning towards biology or pre-med.
Burke Estes, football, Randolph Macon
Senior quarterback Burke Estes was named Mideastern Conference Offensive Player of the Year after guiding the New Hanover Wildcats to a 12-3 mark and its first appearance in the 4A East Regional since 2009.
After working out for several schools, Estes will join the NCAA Division III Old Dominion Athletic Conference as a member of the Randolph Macon Yellow-Jackets in Ashland, Virginia.
“I’ve been up there twice and I loved it,” said Estes. “My overnight visit was amazing. I had so much fun with all the players and the coaches. I just felt like I really fit in, like I was one of them. They just made me feel at home.”
Estes had over 3,000 yards passing in his only season as an everyday starter at quarterback. He had a career-high 407 passing yards in a single game during the Wildcats 34-0 win over Ashley during the regular season. Estes completed nearly 67 percent of his throws in 15 games, with 26 touchdown passes to just six interceptions. The Wildcats averaged 223 yards in the air per game and eight different receivers had touchdown receptions throughout the year.
“I’m looking forward to more football,” Estes added. “I don’t think I’ll be very homesick. I love the beach, I love Wilmington, but I’m excited to be playing football. That’s all that matters.”
After patiently waiting his turn to get a shot as the starting quarterback, Estes and the Wildcats made his final high school season a memorable one, grabbing the conference title and advancing to the 4A East Regional for the first time since 2009.
While his final game for New Hanover may have not gone the way he planned after leaving the game at the half with a injured throwing hand, Estes is healthy and looking forward to getting to school over the next several months to begin learning the playbook and settle in.
Hannah Wagner, soccer, Salem College
Mary Ormsby, soccer, Salem College
Aimee Darrow, soccer, Mount Olive College
Coach Justin Schatz commented “[They] have had to fight and scrap for this opportunity. All three girls have most importantly done well in the classroom and on the soccer field to get the chance to play at the next level. It’s great Hannah and Mary will be able to join Maddy Crumpton (Hoggard ’15) on the team at Salem. I know all three will contribute and make an impact not only to the soccer programs, but to their schools as well.”
Salem College is located in Winston-Salem. The Spirits is a member of NCAA Division III and competes in the Great South Athletic Conference. Mount Olive is located about 90 minutes from Wilmington and is a NCAA Division II school competing in Conference Carolinas.
Drew Gaither, football, Carson-Newman University
Jordan Howard, football, UNC-Pembroke
Latrell Hill, football, Louisburg College
Mitch Layton, basketball, N.C. Wesleyan
Sydney Parker, soccer, Johnson & Wales
Lindsey Williams, soccer, Carson-Newman University
Ryan Powell, lacrosse, Coker College
Colton Smith, lacrosse, Mars Hills University
Carson Conklin, lacrosse, Birmingham-Southern College