This really is my favorite time of the year as a high school sports fan, especially as a writer covering a high school football landscape so ripe with talent.
The anticipation builds and builds during June and then reaches a feverous pitch come July and August. By then I’ve seen many of the top players, I’ve been to practices and talked with assistant coaches, trainers, ball boys – really just anyone who will listen to me or offer an opinion. I’ve been on the phone with or spoken to nearly every coach and I’ve had some parents get in my ear about how good their son is going to be.
So, I’ve got this.
I’m going to predict the record and standing of every team, including yours, in every conference that we cover and say why that will happen.
I have all of the information, so here we go.
Am I right? Or is it so far off that this page ends up on a bulletin board in some team’s locker room because of how terribly, awfully wrong it is?
Either way, here we go.
Southern Carolina 3A
Now this is going to be fun.
The Southern Carolina Conference is rich in talent on every team. While there is a clear favorite and and three other title contenders, there are also four teams that could jump into the mix and it wouldn’t really surprise anyone.
Charlotte Catholic took the conference by storm, winning each league game by at least two touchdowns en route to a perfect 16-0 state championship finish.
Scary, but true: The Cougars think this year’s team is even better and I do, too.
They graduated one stud running back, but Lamagea McDowell and Michael Neel combined for over 2,000 total yards and 32 touchdowns between them at running back in their famous – and equally hard to defend – Wing-T offense.
They have receivers when they do go to the air, so they’re set on offense.
Their defense allowed under 10 points per game and could actually improve upon that.
They’re loaded and the clear favorite.
From there, I think it’s a three-horse race behind the Cougars for second with Marvin Ridge, Sun Valley and Weddington all being very, very good.
Sun Valley obviously has one of Union County’s best-ever players in Florida State commit Sam Howell. He led them to the fourth round of the playoffs last year before a three-point loss to A.C. Reynolds in the regional final stopped their season with a school record 11 wins.
They will run the ball and run it well. Howell will be amazing and they will be very good again. If the defense can improve by a touchdown or so, this team can be special.
Marvin Ridge tied their school record for wins last year as well, but fizzled late with two straight losses and an early first-round exit out of the playoffs.
The Mavs lost a lot. But they will be very good again because they have enough pieces on offense to be very good. The defense was a strong point last year and will be again.
Weddington is changing coaches, but nothing else will fluctuate from what the Warriors have been doing. They went 10-4 last year and went to the third round of the playoffs, a tradition former assistant Andy Capone would like to continue.
The offense is extremely talented and explosive. They’ll put up a bunch of points, and some nights will have to carry the defense where a lot of guys go both ways.
Like most teams, they must stay healthy, but they have the talent to line up with anyone.
Cuthbertson caught fire in the middle of last year, but fell off against the meat of their schedule late.
Offensively, they can hang with anyone, but over their last five games last year – which included a playoff win – the Cavs defense allowed 203 points.
That has to change for them to be in the mix, but I think their offense is good enough to keep them afloat.
Monroe won just five games last year, which is the lowest win total in a decade.
Don’t expect that to continue.
Like many teams in this league, the Redhawks won’t struggle to score. The problem last year was the defense that surrendered over 33 points per game. I think that’s partly due to the conference being that good, but I think the Redhawks have a bounce-back year.
Piedmont won three games last year and lost their top quarterback, running back, receiver and two of their top two tacklers.
The Panthers are counting on a lot of newcomers to step up. But sometimes that’s a good thing.
Parkwood won a pair of games last year, but none in conference. They have plenty of talent, but I don’t see much improvement in the Rebels’ bottom line.
Southern Carolina Projected Order Of Finish:
School Conf. Record
Charlotte Catholic 11-0 (7-0)
Weddington 9-2 (6-1)
Sun Valley 9-2 (5-2)
Marvin Ridge 8-3 (4-3)
Monroe 5-6 (3-4)
Cuthbertson 3-8 (2-5)
Piedmont 3-8 (2-5)
Rocky River 2A
Mount Pleasant was the toast of the town last season, and they should be nearly unchallenged to be once again.
Two-thousand yard passer Chance Daquilla is back at quarterback. Garrett Overbay ran for over 1,200 yards, and he’s in the backfield with touchdown machine Landon Honeycutt, who gained about 600 yards but scored 13 times. Honeycutt also made over 100 tackles at linebacker.
Anson had a weird 2017, getting all four wins in conference last season. Their leading passer (Wesley Lear) and rusher (Dequan Sturdivant) will still just be juniors and they can play. That should make the Bearcats better.
East Montgomery won 10 games last year, but I think they were senior heavy and are getting ready to take a step back while they reload.
Sophomore running back Jordan Poole is a star in the making for West Stanly. He’s got Bailey Barker back at quarterback and a bunch of receivers who got experience. They’ll win more than one conference game this year, but how many more is the question.
I think Forest Hills is going in the right direction, but they lost their quarterback and top two runners. Running back Kendrick McLaurin and receiver Keeshawn Tyson are the top two remaining playmakers on offense. The Jackets need big years from them and also must improve a defense that gave up 38 points per game last season.
CATA athletic director Jay Niessner confirmed that the Cougars will not play varsity football in 2018 and probably in 2020 as well as they look at 2020 as a potential relaunch date.
The Cougars, who have gone 1-20 over the past two seasons, hired Chuck Doak to oversee the transition.
Rocky River 2A Projected Order Of Finish:
School Conf. Record
Mount Pleasant 8-2 (4-1)
Anson 5-5 (3-2)
East Montgomery 6-4 (3-2)
Forest Hills5-5 (2-3)
West Stanly 2-8 (1-4)
Coach Thomas Langley has done an exceptional job of starting the Metrolina Christian program and keeping them consistent winners over the past several years.
That won’t change.
I’m picking the Warriors to go 7-3 on the regular season and win a playoff game this year.
They have a cache of players they are counting on electric quarterback Myles Saxton, jack-of-all-trades Forest Hills transfer Jadus Davis, Sun Valley running back transfer Jack Crump and a stable defense led by CJ Parker, Andrew Threatt, Indiana Moen and Jacob Hattaway.
Union Academy is in a tough conference housed in the Southern Piedmont. Pine Lake Prep is an option-based team that’s hard to prepare for. Bessemer City and Thomas Jefferson tied for the league title, and they’ll be good again.
Mountain Island Charter is an ever-improving team with a bunch of Division I talent including quarterback/receiver Marcus Graham, who has committed to Wisconsin.
You never know what Community School of Davidson will do, but the Spartans are usually around the middle of the pack after reaching the regional finals four years ago.
Highland Tech is 4-51 since 2013, but they did win a pair of games last year. They are trending up, just not by much.
So, the question becomes where does Union Academy fit into all of this?
I think they’ll do very well.
They’re rallying around their coach whose daughter has been diagnosed with cancer, and they’re a year better on the field even after winning a school record eight games.
Quarterback Hayden Gosnell passed for nearly 2,000 yards. Running back Chris Hayward nearly had 1,000 yards and scored 15 touchdowns. Derek Young Jr. is an emerging star at receiver who is attracting big recruiting interest, and is also a fine defensive back.
Chris Morgan, Brandon McCrorey and Young will lead a defense that is going to be a strength.
I’m predicting they’ll go 7-3 this year, but end up breaking their school record again this season by winning two playoff games.