MOREHEAD CITY — Another year means another change for the News-Times Football Friday Pick ’em Panel.
The TV sports anchors have been a staple in its 11 years – Brian Bailey (WNCT-9) and Billy Weaver (WITN-7) have been on the panel for nine years, and Brian North (WCTI-12) has been on it for eight.
But the other team has seen frequent shakeups.
That is the case again this season as Tim Hower accepts the challenge. He takes over for Chris Hughes of CarolinaPreps.com who is pursuing a master’s degree and needs every second he can get.
Hower spent 16 years at Wilmington’s StarNews covering high school sports in New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties. The Easton, Pa. native then decided to take his talents solely to the web by founding Coastal Preps, an online source for high school sports news in southeastern North Carolina.
J.J. Smith, Dennis Thomason and Zack Nally will once again represent Carteret Publishing.
After going 6-1-1 in the panel’s first eight years, the local scribes have failed to win the last two. The TV sports anchors won two years ago, and the online editors captured their first title last year.
Barnes earned his first individual title last year, and Thomason finished second for the second year in a row.
The panel will take on a full 12-game slate of high school games in the first week, including West Craven at East Carteret, New Hanover at West Carteret, Croatan at White Oak, Havelock at Dillon (S.C.), Dixon at Swansboro, Goldsboro at New Bern, Lejeune at Jones Senior, Jacksonville at Southwest Onslow, Richlands at East Duplin, Laney at Northside-Jacksonville, Kinston at Farmville Central and South Lenoir at
The panel is mostly on the same page with three unanimous picks and just one panelist breaking from the pack in five other games.
All nine members go with West Craven over East Carteret, East Duplin over Richlands and Kinston over Farmville Central.
Weaver goes it alone by taking Southwest Onslow over Jacksonville and Laney over Northside. Nally likes South Lenoir over North Duplin, King picks White Oak over Croatan, and North predicts a West Carteret win over New Hanover.
Two panelists apiece team up to go against the grain in two games.
North and Weaver select Havelock over Dillon, while Bailey and Smith go with Lejeune over Jones Senior.
Three games apiece see three panelists in the minority.
North, Smith and Barnes grab Dixon over Swansboro, while Bailey, Nally and Hower nab Goldsboro over New Bern.
King is a lifelong resident of Yadkin County and 1989 graduate of Starmount High School where she played volleyball, basketball, and softball. She is also a 1993 graduate of Wingate University where she played volleyball and basketball.
She has covered high school athletics since 1998 and is currently the publisher of NCPreps.com, a part of the Rivals.com network. King is also a football and basketball recruiting analyst for Tar Heel Illustrated and assistant publisher of AppState Illustrated.
Barnes founded CarolinaGridiron.com eight years ago with Justin Jones. The site covers the state’s high school and college football scene.
Barnes grew up in football-crazy Concord where he attended high school and graduated in 2000. He then moved on to East Carolina where he graduated in 2014. He’s lived all over the state and currently resides in Brunswick County near Oak Island.
North has been the WCTI NewsChannel 12 sports director/anchor for much of the past 21 years. He has been the FOX Eastern Carolina News (WFXI-8) anchor at 10 p.m. since 2008 and the WCTI NewsChannel 12 news anchor at 5:30 p.m. since 2012.
He was born and raised in upstate New York in the small town of Hartford where he grew up on a dairy farm. He played soccer, basketball and baseball at Hartford Central School and went on to James Madison University where he graduated in 1992 with honors.
North’s first job in television was at WHSV in Harrisonburg, Va. from 1992-98 as the weekend sports anchor and sports reporter. He also anchored and produced the VMI Sports Magazine from 1994-98.
Bailey has been the WNCT-9 sports director/anchor for the past 35 years.
His sportscasting career began in his hometown of Chesapeake, Va., where he broadcast high school football and basketball games for local radio and cable television.
He graduated from Indian River High School and then Old Dominion University in 1984.
Bailey serves on the board of directors for the Greenville Chapter of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, the Beau’s Buddies Cancer Fund and the Exceptional Community Baseball League.
Weaver has been the WITN-7 sports director/anchor for the past 21 years.
He got his first job in television right out of East Carolina as a sports reporter for WBTW-TV in Florence, S.C. After his time there, he worked as the sports director from 1995-1998 at WRBL-TV in Columbus, Ga.
Weaver played semipro football for two years for the Tidewater Sharks in his hometown of Virginia Beach, Va.