When Ry McCreary is in school, he plays by the book. The 12-year-old Davis Lake resident is an honor roll student at Hickory Grove Christian School and carries a 4.0 grade point average.
On the football field, Ry likes to improvise. He expresses his sense of freedom by roaming the field on defense.
“You don’t have to follow a script,” said the seventh-grade defensive end. “You can do what you want to do and go hit people.”
The well-rounded style of Ry and his 32 teammates on the Lake Norman Giants Pee Wee team were recently rewarded. The Pee Wee Giants were named the 2015 Pop Warner Defensive/Scholastic Team of the Year by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
The team, comprised of 9- to 13-year-olds, was honored at the club’s recent Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet, which also honors college football’s national Defensive Player of the Year award. On Dec. 7, nine players and coaches representing the Giants rubbed elbows at the Westin Hotel with some college football’s best players and some legends from years past.
“That was amazing,” said 13-year-old Cornelius resident Tyler Ellenburg. “It was a wonderful opportunity for us. We were just happy we could be presented in such an amazing award ceremony.”
The Lake Norman Giants is a youth football organization comprised of approximately 260 players with teams in five age groups. They practice at Bailey Middle School and play their home games at Hough High in Cornelius.
Giants president Rob Ellenburg said the organization draws players primarily from Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson. The Giants is one of 13 organizations in the Charlotte-metro area that play within the umbrella of the Pop Warner Little Panthers league, which has 94 teams.
Rob Ellenburg said his team’s average GPA at the beginning of the season was 96.7. Fourteen of its 33 players, including Ry McCreary and Tyler Ellenburg, are eligible for all-American status.
On the field, the Pee Wee Giants posted a 7-1 overall record and were undefeated through Pop Warner Little Panthers league play. They recorded five shutouts during the regular season and the only score they relinquished came on a “pick six” interception by an opposing team.
The only touchdown the Giants allowed all season came by the Durham Eagles during regional play. The Eagles downed the Giants 7-0.
At the Nagurski Award banquet, Giants players and coaches mingled with the college award nominees including Duke defensive back Jeremy Cash, Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson, and the winner Tyler Matakevich, a Temple linebacker. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was the banquet’s keynote speaker.
Giants players attending included team captains McCreary, Ellenburg, John Whelan, Ryan Viruso and Ethan Robb, and teammates Cody Schmidt, Darryl Taylor Jr., Austin Ackerman and Blaise Atkinson. Coaches attending included Rob Ellenburg, Mark Atkinson, Darryl Taylor, Brad Robb and Jackson Ellenburg.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.