HENDERSON — Crossroads Christian athletic director Scottie Richardson knew that it was only a matter of time before one of his athletic teams brought home the first NCISAA 1A championship in school history.
The Colts’ men’s golf program would be the first to achieve this milestone, as they outlasted a strong field of competitors at Bryan Park in Greensboro to secure the state championship with an overall team score of 245.
“This is all of the adjectives and superlatives that you could think of in this moment,” Richardson said. “When I presented our administrator Jonathan Capps with his state championship medallion this morning, both of us couldn’t help but get emotional because of the journey that we set out on three years ago with the athletic program.”
When Richardson first arrived at Crossroads in 2018, he could see the potential that the men’s golf team possessed due to the talent and leadership of Noah Pendergrass, who made history himself in 2019 by being the first student athlete at the school to obtain a paid college scholarship.
Even with Pendergrass graduating to Chowan University, he fully expected the men’s golf program to make a run at the NCISAA 1A championship in 2020 after finishing runner-up the year before. The quest ended up being delayed one year after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of the 2020 season.
The Crossroads men’s golf team used the extended offseason to prepare for another opportunity at the state title in the spring of 2021, with the only member not returning being head coach Finley Woodward, who moved away to a different state.
Assistant coach James Darnell took over the program after Finley’s departure and helped the team pick up from where it left off in 2019. By the end of the regular season, the Colts found themselves on top of the NCISAA 1A team standings.
Darnell never envisioned that he would have to lead a golf team during a pandemic, but he used the circumstances to emphasize safety and maturity both on and off the golf course so COVID-19 would not derail another strong championship campaign.
“There were a lot of obstacles we had to overcome, especially since we were still playing during [the pandemic],” he said. “Everyone was really disciplined about where they went off the field so we could stay eligible for golf.”
Richardson knew that Darnell’s background in football made him the right person to take over the men’s golf team, and praised him for all of the hard work he put in to help get the roster ready in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“James has been a tremendous coach,” Richardson said. “Coaching golf is tough because sometimes you have to be a psychologist, but he managed the kids well. He’s aggressive, he’s sports-minded and was in-tune with everything. James did everything for us [on Monday].”
Seniors Caden Woodward and Tyler Darnell were crucial to the team’s success and placed third and fourth respectively in the NCISAA 1A individual standings. Freshman Merritt Cogdill also worked his way into the Top 10 at the end of the regular season.
Richardson believed that Crossroads had a great chance of winning the state title as long as Caden and Tyler shot in the 70s at Bryan Park. Caden led Crossroads with an individual score of 77, while Tyler and Cogdill followed with a 79 and 89 respectively to lead Crossroads to victory by two strokes.
James Darnell credited Caden and Tyler for not only being solid role models to Coghill, who is expected to take on a larger leadership role next year, but for also going out of their way to make significant strides with their own performance during the offseason.
“Tyler and Caden can both hit the ball an extremely long way for their age,” James Darnell said. “Like a lot of kids, they really want to hit the driver a lot but they’ve really matured in club selection and how to dissect the golf course. They can really think their way around.”
Richardson said that each coach at Crossroads played their own role in offering advice to the members of the men’s golf program as they embarked on their journey towards the state championship. Everyone was anxiously waiting to hear good news from Greensboro on Monday.
“You would think all of our coaches from different sports were assistants on the golf team,” Richardson said. “That’s what we’ve tried to do with the culture, which is the desire to be the best. All of our coaches had a hand in this and they were all excited to see James become the first to win a title here.”
The men’s golf team will see a lot of turnover during the upcoming offseason with Caden, Tyler and Colby Taylor all graduating from Crossroads, but Richardson is confident the program will use the momentum from the first state title to progress next year with a new crop of players.
“We always say that winning breeds success,” Richardson said. “As kids were coming during carpool [on Tuesday], I heard about a lot of middle schoolers who were keeping their eye on the social media accounts [Monday night] and were very excited about the opportunity to play golf on the state championship team next year.”