Before Cody Reece started his junior year at Mount Pleasant, the Tigers’ running back predicted he would rush for 2,000 yards.
But Reece struggled early, rushing for 79 yards on 17 carries in a frustrating season-opening 40-34 loss to Central Cabarrus, where he also suffered full body cramps.
The frustration brought back bad memories from Reece’s sophomore season, when rushed for 688 yards in 12 games, averaging 3.8 yards per carry. He also spent most of his sophomore year battling injuries. But Reece didn’t settle for a mediocre season.
“With me being a younger guy, I had never had a bad football season in my life, and never dealt with injuries, so my sophomore season was rough,” said Reece. “I had worked hard all offseason, but coming into the Central Cabarrus game, I still hadn’t taken care of myself the way I needed to. So, right after that game, I put myself on a strict diet. I was determined to be a better player.”
The Mount Pleasant junior tailback never looked back, as he exploded for 2,791 yards and 35 touchdowns during the 12 games. He also led his team to 12 straight wins in that same span, as Mount Pleasant won the Rocky River conference title, and advanced to the 2A state semifinals, before losing at Shelby.
By season’s end, Reece had complete re-written the school record books, becoming the first Tiger to eclipse 2,000 yards and break 3,000 yards. Reece’s 3,141 yards shattered the previous school-mark of 1,770 yards, set by former Tiger running back, Jose Sanchez in 2007.
Reece says his goals this season include better rushing numbers from a year ago, but his main focus is winning and helping his team to contend for a state championship.
With 10 starters and 30 letterman back, Reece says they have plenty of talent and motivation.
“Losing to Shelby was heartbreaking,” Reece said. “I have pictures everywhere of that game on my phone from that game and a picture of Shelby’s state championship ring. I look at those pictures all of time, and it makes me want to work even harder to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Reece, 18, will play a major role in Mount Pleasant’s success, but he’ll have help.
That effort will start at the quarterback, where junior, Jacob Irby (6-4, 190), senior Stewart Laws (6-2, 200) and senior, Mason Sweet (6-3, 180) will compete for the starting spot.
Whoever starts will benefit from an experienced offensive line, featuring senior center, Jackson Skey (5-9, 260) and classmate tackles, Zach Mayo (6-3, 285) and Caleb Spears (5-11, 280). Reece also will have a familiar teammate blocking for at fullback, his younger brother, senior Dylan Reece (5-9, 175).
Cody Reece has had a busy summer, working on his speed and strength, as the now 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior can bench 335 pounds, squat 405 pounds and run a 4.56, 40-yard dash.
While Reece hopes his accomplishments will earn him a chance to play college football – where he being recruited by such schools as Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Western Carolina – his focus is completely on his final season at Mount Pleasant.
“It’s been my dream my whole life to play college football,” Reece said. “But my focus right now is all on having the best season we’ve ever had at Mount Pleasant.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
Prep football in Cabarrus County
For the past two seasons, Concord has dominated the South Piedmont conference going 16-0 in league play.
But with only seven starters back, the Spiders’ task of a SPC three-peat won’t be easy.
Hickory Ridge (2012 SPC champion) and Central Cabarrus (2013 SPC runner-up) are eager to prove they can take that top spot.
Meanwhile, A.L. Brown also looks to contend in the MECKA 4A conference, but will have the daunting task of going through two-time, defending 4AA state champion, Mallard Creek, to get there.
Mount Pleasant is looking to repeat as Rocky River conference champions and make a run at a 2A state title, after going unbeaten in league play in 2014.
Concord: The Spiders have seven starters back from the core of a team that has gone 27-2 during the past two seasons, including 16-0 in SPC play. Concord will have to rely heavily on QB Keenan Black and stingy defense while younger standouts emerge.
A.L. Brown: The Wonders are led by QB Damon Johnson, RB Sandon McCoy. They have the talent and experience to make a run at a MECKA 4A title and more.
Mount Pleasant: The Tigers won their first conference title since 2007 last year, going to the 2A state semifinals; and with 11 starters back, they are hoping for another championship run.
Hickory Ridge: The Ragin’ Bulls won 10 games last season, and return a veteran team, including two of the area’s most dynamic players in QB Greg Walso and DE Will Putnam.
Concord First Assembly: After winning four state titles between 2007-2011, the Eagles have posted only nine wins. However, with a strong combination of experience and the influx of several key transfers, the Eagles are confident they can get back to their winning ways.
Keenan Black, Concord, Sr., QB (6-3, 185): Spiders’ quarterback is 27-2 as a starter in two seasons under center, but now must prove he can lead a younger, Concord team.
Cody Reece, Mount Pleasant, Sr., RB (5-9, 190): Tigers’ tailback had a historic junior season with 3,141 yards rushing. Now, can he do it again as a marked man?
Will Putnam, Hickory Ridge, Sr., DE/OL (6-2, 275): South Carolina commit sets a dominant tone on both sides of the ball for the Bulls.
Greg Walso, Hickory Ridge, Sr., QB (5-10, 195): The Ragin’ Bulls quarterback has emerged as one of the top QB’s in the league (1,300 yards passing, 976 yards) and forms a dynamic duo with RB Jaylen Rudisell (6-1, 215) who rushed for 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns last season.
Sandon McCoy, A.L. Brown, Sr., RB (5-11, 200): The Wonder senior is latest in a tradition of great backs at Brown, looking to be even better than his 1,247-yard season from a year ago.
Players on the rise
Damon Johnson, A.L. Brown, Sr., QB (6-0, 180): The senior signal caller can get it down with his arm (19 touchdown passes last year) and legs (552 yards rushing last season).
Tyler English, Central Cabarrus, Sr., QB (5-11, 185): In his second-year as the starting QB, the Vikings are on the verge of a breakout season.
Devin Cobb, Cox Mill, Sr., SB/KR/PR (5-9, 170): Chargers’ burner has the game-breaking speed to make plays from several positions.
Anthony Caldwell, Northwest Cabarrus, Sr., WR/SS (6-2, 215): If the Trojans are going to make a move up the SPC standings this season, Caldwell will have to make big plays on both sides of the ball.
Ben Wyatt, Cannon School, Sr., LB (6-1, 240): All-state linebacker is a playmaking machine on defense with 107 tackles last season, including 18 for a loss, and should be even better under the tutelage of new head coach, Brad Hoover.
Must see games
Central Cabarrus at Mount Pleasant, Aug. 20: The Vikings and Tigers kick off the entire, Observer area football season on Thursday night in a game that will set the tone for both teams.
Concord at A.L. Brown, Aug. 21: The 85th “Battle for the Bell,” is the season-opener for the third straight season, which makes for a great opener, but just doesn’t seem right. The Spiders have won three straight in the series.
Concord at Hickory Ridge, Sept. 11: Concord has won 17 straight SPC games dating back to a 24-21 overtime loss at Hickory Ridge in 2012. This is a dangerous game for the Spiders and could ultimately decide the league title.
Mount Pleasant at Monroe, Oct. 16: This matchup could decide who wins the Rocky River conference title.
A.L. Brown at Mallard Creek, Oct. 23: The MECKA 4A conference title goes through the two-time defending 4A state champion Mavericks until someone takes it from them. The Wonders have a chance to be the team that knocks them off their pedestal.