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Family support credited as Gray’s Creek baseball field named in honor of coach

Women’s tennis postseason play begins with Terry Sanford, Cape Fear in mix

Jeff Nance, center, with brothers Terry Luck, left, and Ronnie Luck, right.
Jeff Nance, center, with brothers Terry Luck, left, and Ronnie Luck, right.
Contributed photo

Jeff Nance has an athletic family tree that would be the envy of almost anyone.

His eldest brother, Terry Luck, was a multisport star at old Massey Hill High School who came off the bench in 1974 and led Nebraska with a game-winning drive over Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

His brother Ronnie Luck was also a Massey Hill star who went on to a college career at UNC-Pembroke and served as both coach and athletic director in a number of Cumberland County schools.

But this week, Nance scored an achievement that pushed him past both his older brothers in the accomplishment category as the Cumberland County Board of Education voted to name the baseball field at Gray’s Creek High School in his honor.

“It just humbles you and makes you very thankful of your family and all of the support that I’ve had,” said Nance.

He had a lot of people he wanted to thank, among them some well-known coaches from the community he had the privilege of working with. It included people like longtime American Legion baseball coach Brad Barbour and his wife, Melissa, and football coaches like Bob Paroli and Mark Heil.

There were also athletic directors, among them Mark Pepper, Troy Lindsey and Doug Caudill, along with Gray’s Creek principal Lisa Stewart.

He looked back to his early days playing baseball at Douglas Byrd High School, when Roger Hackett used to drag the baseball field using a hunk of chain-link fence pulled by a chain behind his Volvo.

“We were playing on a goat ranch,” Nance said, laughing. “No grass, no lights.”

He also thanked his longtime assistant coach of some 25 years, Tyler Hackett, whom he called his best friend.

But most of all, Nance cited his family, especially the matriarch, Grace Nance, who suffered from crippling arthritis and was rarely able to see any of her sons play.

Nance said his mother was an athlete in her own right, playing basketball in high school.

“She always pushed us to do our best,” he said. “She never put up with any excuses about practice or leaving practice early, or if you had bumps and bruises.”

Nance said she told her boys they had to “suck it up.”

Ronnie Luck also credited their mom for the success all three boys enjoyed.

“The rules were pretty cut and dried,” Ronnie said. “Mother said if you want to play, you keep your grades up. That’s the whole criteria.”

Ronnie said the trio spent their youth outside, playing games in the street and on the recreation fields.

“I’m just proud of him,” Ronnie said of his youngest brother.

Terry, who now lives in suburban Atlanta, agrees with Ronnie that their mother molded the athletic careers of the three brothers.

“I remember her saying to me, Jeff and Ronnie, ‘You let other people tell how well you did. You don’t say that,’” Terry said. “It was respect for other people.”

But from recreation league to his days at Gray’s Creek coaching baseball, Nance said he always looked to his brothers.

“They kind of steered me,” he said. “They pushed me to be the best I can be.”

Earl’s Pearls

  • The N.C. High School Athletic Association is preparing to kick off this year’s women’s tennis postseason competition, and a couple of Cumberland County teams figure prominently in the action.

Terry Sanford is ranked No. 2 in the N.C. High School Tennis Coaches Association 3-A poll of Oct. 8 while Cape Fear, the two-time defending dual team state champion, is No. 4.

The dual team brackets will be announced on Monday, Oct. 16, with the first round set for Wednesday, Oct. 18.

The first round of state individual regional competition is Friday, Oct. 20.

  • Congratulations to Jack Britt High School athletic director Tracie Taylor, who was recently recognized as a certified athletic administrator by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Prior to her career as an athletic director, Taylor was a successful women’s basketball coach at Seventy-First High School, where her teams led by future North Carolina and WNBA standout LaToya Pringle earned state 4-A titles in 2003 and 2004.

Earl’s Picks

Last week’s record was 5-2, making the mark for the year 39-14, or 73.6%.

Here’s this week’s forecast:

E.E. Smith at Western Harnett: The Golden Bulls have a chance to get back into the win column … E.E. Smith 21, Western Harnett 14.

Westover at Terry Sanford: Terry Sanford seeks a bounce back after the loss to Pine Forest … Terry Sanford 28, Westover 12.

Pine Forest at Triton: This isn’t the Triton team we’ve been used to seeing over the years … Triton 20, Pine Forest 12.

Cape Fear at Jack Britt: This should be another win for the Colts … Cape Fear 30, Jack Britt 10.

Seventy-First at Purnell Swett: I don’t see the Falcons facing a serious challenge until the state 3-A playoffs begin in a few weeks … Seventy-First 39, Purnell Swett 6.

Gray’s Creek at South View: The Tigers haven’t lost in this rivalry since 2015. I expect the streak to continue tonight …  South View 29, Gray’s Creek 12.

Douglas Byrd at Lumberton: Lumberton gets a slight edge because of home field … Lumberton 21, Douglas Byrd 20.

Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on X (Twitter): @EarlVaughanJr.

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Fayetteville, Cumberland County, sports, high school, tennis, baseball