The Observers high school football previews conclude. Past previews are at charlotteobserver.com/prepspreview. Coming Sunday: the Observers prep football kickoff package debuts, with the Carolinas Top 50 recruits, top area games and players to watch, plus the preseason Sweet 16 high school football poll.
Butler, East Mecklenburg, Garinger, Independence, Myers Park, Porter Ridge, Rocky River
Butler: The Bulldogs lost 31 seniors and 16 starters to graduation but still are one of the more talented teams around. The tradition three state titles in four years isnt bad, either.
Independence: Remember the old Independence offenses from 2000-08? This one has the potential to be scary like those, and junior QB Kelvin Hopkins could be the next breakout star in Mint Hill.
Porter Ridge: Moving into a much tougher conference and facing all 4A teams in league play will be a challenge, but the Pirates have been to back-to-back state championship games for a reason.
Rocky River: One of the more athletic teams in the area. West Charlotte transfer Elijah Jett boosts an already strong running game, led by Deron Davis and Rashad Brannon. And four of the Ravens five offensive line starters will be in that spot for the fourth straight season.
5 Players to Watch
Michael Dunleavy, Rocky River, Jr, OL (6-0, 265): All-conference star anchors what could be his teams biggest strength, its deep and experienced offensive line.
Chasz Cosby, East Mecklenburg, Sr, OL/DL (6-2, 230): Two-way star is one of best-kept secrets in town. Hell try to make all-conference in the states toughest league for the third straight season.
Isaiah Robinson, Independence, Sr, RB (5-10, 211): All-conference star and Wake Forest recruit rushed for 1,549 yards and 16 TDs in 2012.
Jaquavion Alexander, Myers Park, Sr, RB (6-0, 210): After rushing for 1,159 yards as a junior, Alexander could thrive in new coach Scott Steins wide-open offense.
Jerrick Robbins, Porter Ridge, Sr., RB/DB (5-9, 170): All-Union County star ran 153 times for 1,313 yards and 13 TDs. Had four interceptions on defense.
Butler (No. 2), Porter Ridge (No. 8) and Independence (9) are all ranked in the N.C. Preps 4A preseason poll, so this looks again like the states toughest league. Stein has been a winner wherever hes gone and he inherits a pretty talented team. Rocky Rivers scary good. This league wont be easy, but we still see it coming down to what it always does in the final week of the season....
Nov. 8: Butler at Independence: For the longest time, Butler was always looking up at Independence and couldnt quite get past the Patriots when it mattered. In the past four years, thats changed. Independence feels this is the year that it turns the tide again. Theres not a better rivalry or higher stakes games in the state than when these two annually play.
Langston Wertz Jr.
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