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Langston Wertz Jr.: Davidson Day QB Will Grier deserves all of his accolades

By Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Will Grier will play his final high school football game Friday night.

In 25 years of working at this newspaper, I can’t think of too many athletes who have been scrutinized more heavily. As Grier burst onto the high school football scene two years ago at Davidson Day, putting up video-game statistics, the critics have been strong and loud. They say he’s too old (he’s not). They say he’s not that good (he is). They say he throws short passes and his receivers, Division I-size kids with Division I speed, run past smaller private-school defenders and inflate his numbers.

Most of all, , they say he plays weak competition (well, this one is hard to argue, but he does run up amazing stats against good teams, too).

Friday, Grier will try to help his team win a third straight state championship. Davidson Day won a Division III title when Grier was a sophomore. Last year, the Patriots won the Division II title. They will be heavily favored to win a second straight Division II title.

Davidson Day will play Harrell’s Christian at home Friday, and Davidson Day beat Harrell’s 64-14 earlier this year. And perhaps it’s fitting that Grier ends his career against the Crusaders. They are the team that really put Grier on the national map.

Last season, Davidson Day faced Harrell’s Christian in the state semifinals, and Grier became the favorite son of Twitter after throwing for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns. In one game. Davidson Day won 104-80.

No one had ever run up those kind of numbers. Because Davidson Day is a private school and not a member of the N.C. High School Athletic Association -- it belongs to the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association – the record was not made official.

I’m asked often where I rank Grier among all the great quarterbacks who have played in Mecklenburg County. I still believe Independence’s Chris Leak is the best. He helped change the way football in North Carolina was played at the start of the 21st century. He won three straight state titles against the best competition in North Carolina and threw for a still mind-boggling 15,593 yards in his career. He was named a national player of the year twice.

I wouldn’t put Grier in front of former Independence QB Mark Maye, who threw for 4,000 yards 30 years ago, when high school teams focused more on running the ball. After those two, though, Grier fits in with guys such as former Independence star Joe Cox, who threw for a county-record 66 touchdowns in 2004; multiple state champion Riley Ferguson at Butler;West Charlotte’s Keith Matkins, a two-sport standout in the mid-’90s; and Myers Park’s Rick Arrington, who was an All-American in 1964.

I think Grier would be effective at any level of high school football. He has a strong arm. He’s fast. At 6-foot-3, he has good size. He’s on the player-of-the-year watch for several national services and was a finalist in the Elite 11 competition for the nation’s best QBs. ESPN ranks Grier the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat college quarterback prospect. Regardless of what you think of who he plays against every Friday, he’s the real thing.

Florida wouldn’t waste a scholarship.

Friday night, he threw for 508 yards and eight touchdowns in a state semifinal win. That gave him 188 career touchdowns, passing Leak’s 11-year-old record of 185. Grier also broke his own single-season passing touchdown mark, from 69 to 70. For the season, Grier has completed 282-of-404 passes for 4,390 yards. That yardage ranks No. 7 all time. Grier also owns the single-season record of 5,785 yards, which he set last year.

Friday’s passing yardage ranks fifth best by a Mecklenburg County quarterback. Grier owns six of the top-10 performances ever.

Regardless of the competition, those are impressive numbers.

• At least two area schools are getting new coaches. Garinger fired coach Ryan Alston last week, and Newton-Conover‘s Brint Russell resigned. Russell led Newton-Conover to nine wins in his first season in 2012. Newton-Conover was 2-9 this season and lost its final six games. Garinger, which has lost 20 straight games, finished 0-11 this season and hasn’t won since Oct. 21, 2011.

• Charlotte Christian finished the season at 12-0 Friday with an easy win over Charlotte Latin in the N.C. Independent Schools’ championship game. The Knights have won 19 straight games and look to be favorites to win again next season. Christian tailback Elijah Deveaux rushed for more than 300 yards in Friday’s champonship, and he’s just a sophomore. Deveaux has two years left. The Knights might have at least that long to be a big factor in the private-school playoffs.

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