Mallard Creek's Jela Duncan had one of the best seasons a Mecklenburg County running back has ever had. Today, he is named The Charlotte Observer's All-Observer high school football offensive player of the year.
Duncan, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound senior, was the top offensive player on the Mavericks team that was a nationally ranked top-20 team for most of the season. Duncan, who had a 74-yard scoring run in the Shrine Bowl, finished the year with 2,307 yards on 220 carries and 30 touchdowns. Duncan also caught 27 passes for 465 yards and five scores.
His rushing yards are the fourth-most in Mecklenburg County history. His touchdowns are tied for 12th.
Each year, the Observer names all-star teams for the 127 high schools in its coverage area in North and South Carolina. The All-Region team, released Friday, encompasses schools outside of Mecklenburg County within the newspaper's coverage zone; the All-Mecklenburg team, released Saturday, is the best players in the immediate Charlotte area. The All-Observer team encompasses the players who had the best players from the entire area.
The teams are picked by the Observer's high school sports staff and players must be nominated from their schools to be considered.
The All-Observer Defensive Player of the Year is Fred T. Foard's Tanner Fleming, who had a remarkable season. Fleming, a 6-2, 280-pound defensive lineman, finished the year with 80 tackles, including 25 for a loss. He also had 12 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Fleming blocked 12 kicks - five punts, six extra-point and a field-goal attempt. He returned two of the blocked punts for touchdowns. He's a two-time all-conference pick who has verbally committed to Air Force.
The All-Observer Coach of the Year is Rock Hill South Pointe rookie Strait Herron, who led his team to a 14-1 record and a 42-27 win against previously unbeaten Bluffton in the S.C. 3A championship game. It was the Stallions' second state title in three seasons.
QB: Riley Ferguson, Butler, 6-3, 195, Jr.: Completed 184 of 279 passes for 3,345 yards and 48 TDs, setting school records. Passing yardage is 12th-most in county history; TDs rank 7th.
RB: Jela Duncan, Mallard Creek, 5-10, 195, Sr.: Shrine Bowl pick and I-Meck 4A Offensive Player of the Year ran 220 times for 2,307 yards and 30 touchdowns. Caught 27 passes for 465 yards and 5 TDs. Rush yards are fourth-most in county history; TDs rank 12th.
RB: Dinkin Miller, West Rowan, 5-10, 180, Sr.: Ran 365 times for 2,570 yards and 26 touchdowns. North Piedmont 3A Offensive Player of the Year led his team to N.C. 3A championship game.
WR: B.J. Boyd, Rock Hill Northwestern, 6-0, 170, Sr.: Picked for North-South all-star game and being heavily recruited by Georgia Southern, Boyd caught an area-best 97 passes for 1,295 yards and 14 touchdowns.
WR: Marquez North, Mallard Creek, 6-3, 210, Jr.: 36 catches for 922 yards, 10 TDs; ran 18 times for 410 yards and 3 TDs; also had 4 kick returns of at least 87 yards for scores; runs 4.3-second 40.
WR: Zach Ferguson, Butler, 6-3, 205, Sr.: Set a school record with 75 catches for 1,161 yards and 15 TDs. Getting recruiting interest from Vanderbilt, The Citadel and Princeton.
OL: Dylan Hopper, Crest, 6-3, 285, Sr.: Top offensive lineman for two-time N.C. 3AA finalist. Two-time all-Big South 3A pick led his team in pancake blocks. Committed to Gardner-Webb.
OL: Thomas LaBianca, Porter Ridge, 6-3, 282, Sr.: Had 42 pancake blocks, helping team reach N.C. 4A final. Coastal Carolina recruit and two-time all-Southern Carolina 4A pick didn't allow a sack in two years.
OL: Hunter Mashburn, West Rowan, 6-1, 230, Sr.: Two-year starter and Shrine Bowl pick anchored one of the area's top rushing attacks.
OL: Mark Harrell, Charlotte Catholic, 6-5, 275, Sr.: All-American committed to Notre Dame anchored line that produced 333 rush yards and 43 points per game. Three-time all-ME-GA 7 3A/4A pick and two-time first-team All-Mecklenburg and All-Observer.
OL: D.J. Humphries, Mallard Creek, 6-6, 275, Sr.: No. 1 recruit in North Carolina has committed to Florida. U.S. Army All-American did not allow a sack during his entire career.
ATH: Uriah LeMay, Butler, 6-3, 200, Jr.: Led Bulldogs in scoring with 19 touchdowns (14 receiving, 5 rush). Had 842 yards receiving (19.5 yards per catch) and 397 rushing (10.4 yards per carry) plus 92 yards on five kick/punt returns. Has ACC/SEC offers.
K: Paul Griggs, Charlotte Latin, 6-1, 195, Sr.: Made 4-of-6 field-goal attempts with a long of 57 yards (a Mecklenburg record) and is third in state history. Purdue recruit made 33-of-37 PATs and is a U.S. Army All-American and made the USA Football U-19 team.
PR/KR: Germone Hopper, Berry, 6-0, 185, Sr.: Clemson recruit and U.S. Army All-American had more than 1,500 all-purpose yards and 26 touchdowns. Four-time all-ME-GA 7 3A/4A pick holds school records for rushing, punt and kick return yards.
DL: Jonathan Bullard, Crest, 6-4, 260, Sr.: Big South 3A co-defensive player of the year had 16 sacks and 82 tackles. U.S. Army All-American will attend Clemson, Florida or South Carolina for college.
DL: Carlos Watkins, Chase, 6-4, 290, Sr.: 7 tackles per game and had 15 sacks, plus an interception, 5 forced fumbles and 4 fumble recoveries. U.S. Army All-American.
DL: Tanner Fleming, Fred T. Foard, 6-2, 280, Sr.: 80 tackles, 25 for losses; also had 12 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 12 blocked kicks. Verbally committed to Air Force.
DL: Romeo Okwara, Ardrey Kell, 6-5, 230, Sr.: Led team with 76 tackles, 14 sacks and 27 tackles for loss. Also had 18 QB pressures, 3 pass breakups, a forced fumble and a FG block. Two-time All-Meck pick is a Shrine Bowler and Notre Dame recruit.
LB: Peter Kalambayi, Butler, 6-3, 235, Jr.: Two-time all-Southwestern 4A performer was a MaxPreps sophomore All-American. Finished with 79 tackles, 6 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Recruiting interest from schools like Clemson, Florida and South Carolina.
LB: Nick Dawson, Berry, 6-4, 225, Sr.: U.S. Army All-American had more than 600 yards rushing. On defense, had 87 tackles, including 12 for loss plus three fumble recoveries and five sacks. Has 15 offers from Bowl Championship Series schools like Auburn, Louisville and N.C. State.
LB: Larenz Bryant, Vance, 6-2, 215, Jr.: Perhaps No. 1 junior LB in the state and has several ACC/SEC offers. Ran for 1,423 yards and 22 touchdowns; had 154 tackles, 23 tackles for a loss, four interceptions and three INT returns for a score. Had five forced fumbles and two recovered fumbles.
DB: Corey Neely, Rock Hill South Pointe, 6-1, 170, Sr.: 72 tackles, 18 pass breakups, 7 interceptions, 6 defensive TDs. Also returned 11 kicks for 395 yards and 14 punts for 266 and 3 TDs.
DB: Rhaheim Ledbetter, Crest, 6-0, 200, Sr.: 45 tackles, 4 sacks for Florida commitment and Shrine Bowl pick. Also ran for 1,059 yards and 20 scores.
DB: Marcus Kincaid, Freedom, 5-10, 185, Sr.: 130 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 3 interceptions and 25 pass breakups. On offense, caught 37 passes for 580 yards and 7 TDs. Shrine Bowl pick.
DB: Chris Duffy, Porter Ridge, 6-0, 185, Jr.: Had 55 tackles, 5 interceptions plus 1,500 total yards and 22 touchdowns on offense for N.C. 4A runner-up. Two-time all-Southern Carolina 4A and all-Union County pick.
P: Bradley Pinion, NW Cabarrus, 6-6, 220, Sr.: 52 punts for a 46-yard average; had 19 punts inside the opponents' 20. He had 52 touchbacks on 57 kickoffs. Clemson recruit and U.S. Army All-American is a three-time South Piedmont 3A special teams player of the year.