The 3-AA champs open the season atop the Super 7 despite graduating a good chunk of their starters from a season ago. But the defense won’t skip a beat with their collection of star linebackers, the secondary is very good and they have they have the guys up front to bang with anyone. Offensively, this team is multi-dimensional, but it doesn’t hurt to have the nation’s No. 1 running back lingering in your backfield in Will Shipley. There is a lot to like here, and the Warriors have a real shot to run the table if they can finally topple Charlotte Catholic.
2. Charlotte Catholic
Speaking of Catholic, the Cougars come in as the “1A” team in the county after winning the 3-A title last season. Like with Weddington, they lost a lot but they are also nearly unbeatable since Mike Brodowicz took over as coach. They will be able to run the ball at will with Lamagea McDowell, that huge offensive line and the Wing-T they employ. Jacob Schachte and the linebackers are the best foursome in the county. They have some big-run stuffers up front to force teams to pass on them where the above-average secondary will take over. There aren’t many weaknesses despite the loss of their huge senior class.
3. Metrolina Christian
The Warriors have gone from the little private school trying to find its way among the big boys of the NCISAA to nearly becoming a state champion. The defense will be outstanding with two-way stars Jadus Davis, Colby Girard and Luke Roffler patrolling. Most of the rest of the defense returns intact, which should put the Warriors right back in the title hunt.
As a luxury, even if the defense isn’t quite as good as last season, the offense will be exceptional with quarterback Angel Gonzalez, receivers Jed Wooten and Davis and new running back Luke Gaskins.
The Redhawks appeared in and out of the Super 7 last season, but they feel like a mainstay and one of the top teams in the Southern Carolinas this year. Quarterback Matt Bennett started last year at Ardrey Kell and can make all the throws. He’ll benefit from throwing to star receivers Shaleak Knotts and Salen Streater, who will both accrue gaudy statistics in the Redhawks’ passing game, and the running of Metrolina Christian transfer Jack Crump, who surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground last season. Towering twins Omarian and Te’marion Rushing will anchor a defense that should be able to slow the high-powered Southern Carolinas offenses especially if linebackers Crump and Damian Sanchez have big years.
5. Sun Valley
The Spartans have won a school record 21 games during the past two seasons, but enter a new era. Skill guys like Tacory Robinson (nearly 1,000 rush yards in 2017), Decue Wilson (740 rush yards last year) and Gavin Blackwell (51 catches, 1,136 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns) will key the offense, but the Spartans are far more than just finesse with a line featuring Michael Gonzalez. That side of the ball will be fine, but there are some questions about the defense.
6. Porter Ridge
Kirkland Harris, Brandon Perry and Alex Chapman will be tasked with taking the pressure off new quarterback Mason Cox as the Pirates welcome nine starters to that side of the ball. There probably will be an adjustment period to get that side of the ball up to speed, especially early on. But it won’t last long as Porter Ridge is too good on both sides of the ball not to be among the county’s top teams.
7. Marvin Ridge
The Mavs are the biggest mystery team of the season to me. While receiver Ian Hutter turned into a bonafide star last season and new quarterback Sully McDermott flashed signs of brilliance at times last year, there are questions surrounding the run game and the offensive line. The Mavs are also introducing six new starters to the defensive side of the ball, so their season will depend on how quickly everyone can become acclimated to their new roles.
– Andrew Stark