With football returning to The Daily Record area, that also means it’s time for the return of the Gridiron Jury.
Four members of last year’s jury will be returning for the 2019 season, including reigning champion Sharon Stevens.
Stevens, executive director of Dunn Tourism, narrowly edged out Jay Hardison last season in the final week. The outcome hinged on one game between Memphis and the University of Central Florida. Hardison gambled on Memphis, while Stevens correctly picked UCF, making her the undisputed champion.
“I hope to be able to continue my winning streak this year,” Stevens said with a laugh. “A lot of it is luck and very little is skill. But I look forward to this year’s competition, and I hope it brings out as much chatter as it did last year, because that was fun. Especially with a lot of women coming together and rooting for me, it felt like I was competing for more than just myself.”
Hardison, the District 11 Director of North Carolina Dixie Youth Baseball, will also be returning, hoping to get a little bit of sweet revenge.
“I’m really excited to come out and try to take it from her this year,” Hardison said. “She’s really good though, so I’m sure it’ll be close.”
Also returning to the jury is Stevens’ husband, Erwin Parks and Recreation director Doug Stevens. He said that he enjoyed the friendly competition with his wife last season, and he plans to step up his game this year.
“I’m gonna have to do my homework a little bit harder to try to be a step ahead of her,” he said.
The fourth returning member is Dunn Parks and Recreation director Brian McNeill. And while he finished next to last a year ago, he thinks he’s got a shot at knocking Stevens off.
“I’m not going to let her win it this year,” McNeill said. “This is going to be my year.”
The jury will feature two new additions this year: J. Mike Blake, a sports writer at HighSchoolOT and Western Harnett alumnus, and Matt Smith, the Benson Parks and Recreation director.
“I’m really excited to be joining this year’s jury,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The first edition of this year’s Gridiron Jury will come out Friday. Be sure to check out the jury’s rulings each week and make your own verdict.