CHAPEL HILL If there is a better defensive player in the state of North Carolina than Butler All-America linebacker Peter Kalambayi, he is not playing in high school.
Kalambayi didnt get the defensive MVP in the Bulldogs resplendent 56-28 state championship win over Fayetteville Britt Saturday. That was mainly because Britt repeatedly ran away from Kalambayi, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound outside linebacker, and it set up Butlers other star linebacker, Sean Wiggins, a 6-3, 230-pound senior.
Wiggins had 16 tackles and won the defensive MVP. Hes going to Ball State and hes good enough to play at a higher level than that.
Kalambayi is good enough if he continues to develop and grow at Stanford to be a star in college. Former West Charlotte quarterback Pep Hamilton, now a Stanford assistant, helped recruit Kalambayi, who is an excellent student.
One of five finalists for the national Dick Butkus high school linebacker award, Kalambayi dominated the state final just as he dominated all season. He made plays that took your breath away.
I saw him fighting a lineman while keeping his eye on an approaching ball carrier. There was an opportunity for a big play, but just as the back tried to pass into the clear, Kalambayi tossed away the lineman and made a sure, crushing tackle. I saw him bust through constant double teams to pressure the quarterback.
He ran down Britt running backs from behind, and he made the kind of tackles that left slow-to-get-up impressions on Britt QB Mark McRae, who played an otherwise splendid game, tossing three touchdown passes.
Kalambayi finished with 12 tackles and had me believing Saturday as I have all season that I was seeing the best Mecklenburg County defender since Independences DeAngelo Lloyd was a Parade All-American in the late 90s and signed with Tennessee.
Kalambayi is the best defender Ive seen period since Rock Hill South Pointes Jadaveon Clowney, who may be a future No. 1 NFL draft pick at South Carolina.
He doesnt always get the credit he deserves, Butler coach Brian Hales said of Kalambayi. Any great athlete like him who makes things look easy, sometimes that can happen, but hes everything you want in a football player.
Said Bulldogs defensive coordinator Steve Shaughnessy: The thing that hurts him statistically is people run to the other side all the time. So he has an impact on the game when hes not making a tackle. Ive seen it throughout the year. Teams try to run over there one time, and boom, they get stuffed and dont go there anymore.
Shaughnessy, the former South Mecklenburg head coach, said Saturday was his last game at Butler. That will leave a big hole in Hales staff. He was one of seven assistants who have been a part of all three state championship teams the past four years, along with Hales (an assistant to Mike Newsome for the first two), Rick Sambratto, Mark Sanders, Chris Pierce, Bryan Raynes and Blaine Reynolds.
Shaughnessy, 62, said after 14 years at Butler it was time to move on.
I think Ive run my course after 14 years, he said. I love these kids and all our coaches; what a great bunch of coaches we have.
Shaughnessy will retire from teaching with 31 years in February. He said he wants to coach again.
Any program around the area would be lucky to have him.
• Saturday had to be special for East Lincoln, which polished off its first unbeaten season and its first state title, and for South Iredell, which won its first state title with a touchdown with 19 seconds left.
I was happy for East Lincoln QB Garrett Young, who put off what wouldve been season-ending knee surgery to keep playing because he had a feeling this season and this team could be special. South Iredells Lachaston Smith, a Virginia recruit on defense, moved to offense in midseason and has been a star. He had three touchdowns in Saturdays title game win.
• Watched Northern Guilfords T.J. Logan rush for a state record 510 yards and tie another state record with eight touchdowns in a 64-26 win over Charlotte Catholic in the 3AA state final Saturday. Looking through Observer records and those at carolinapreps.net, this appears to be the most points Catholic has allowed since a 72-0 loss to Olympic in 1971.
I question, however, some of Northern Guilfords play calls and personnel decisions late in a blowout win. Northern ran a fake punt with less than a minute left for Logans final score, a 73-yard run. It appeared they were running up the score on a classy program, but it was their night.
Logan, a senior who has committed to play for North Carolina, is special, with great vision and breakaway speed. Theres no question that he and Catholic junior Elijah Hood are the best two running backs in North Carolina.