About 12 months ago, East Lincoln High brothers Chazz and Sage Surratt sat in the kitchen of their two-story brick home and laid out their athletic goals for the 2014-15 school year.
The plan was to go unbeaten in football and basketball and to win a state championship in each sport.
They almost did it.
After leading East Lincoln to the second 16-0 football season in three seasons, Chazz, the quarterback, and Sage, the team’s top receiver, turned their attention to basketball. East Lincoln went undefeated en route to the N.C. 2A championship game before losing to Kinston and McDonald’s All-American Brandon Ingram, who later committed to Duke.
Along the way, Chazz became the state’s top male athlete, an Associated Press all-state pick in two sports and committed to play quarterback at North Carolina. He and Sage, who led the basketball team in scoring, became celebrities in Denver, a town of about 13,000 residents and about 40 minutes west of uptown Charlotte.
“What these kids did last year was nothing short of remarkable,” said East Lincoln football coach Mike Byus.
As Chazz approaches his senior year, the goal is pretty straight forward for himself, Sage and their teammates.
“The only thing we can do is try to repeat the same success we did last year and win that game at the end, the state championship in basketball,” Chazz said. “We know it’s tough, but we have good teammates around us. It’s an achievable goal for us, and that’s what our expectations are.”
Keys to the season
High school football season officially kicks off Saturday with practice, and the Observer begins its Sweet 16 countdown. East Lincoln is No. 16 and a favorite to repeat as state champion. The brothers are the biggest reasons why.
Chazz, who is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, returns after throwing for 4,338 yards and 51 touchdowns last season. He rushed for 1,283 yards and 22 scores. It was one of the greatest individual seasons in N.C. history. Sage, a junior at 6-2 and 195 pounds, also had a big year. He caught a team-best 87 passes for 1,237 yards and a team-best 18 touchdowns.
“I’ve haven’t seen two brothers this good,” said Byus, the East Lincoln football coach. “To be able to get to coach two kids who have their talent level and their work ethic is special. (Chazz and Sage) don’t take a day off. You have to almost make them. So not only are they great athletes, their work ethic matches their athletic ability and that’s as rare in this age as anything.”
The Surratt brothers are also honor-roll students. Until last year, Chazz had never made a B in school. He has a 4.66 grade-point average taking advanced-level classes. Sage, who was president of his school’s sophomore class, carries a 4.88 GPA.
They’re also extremely close.
“They’re best friends,” said Brandi Surratt, the boys’ mother. “Very rarely do you see one without the other. In Denver, when they’re not together, they miss each other. So when Chazz goes off to college next year it’ll be the first time in their lives they’ll ever be separated.
“I call them ‘An Old Married Couple.’ They don’t argue. They don’t fight. They just push each other. We’ve always taught them (as parents) that when we’re gone from this earth, this is all you’ll have, your brother, your closest living relative. I think they take that to heart.”
Big success at school
At East Lincoln, the brothers’ record is 110-18 combined in football and basketball. They’ve become major-college recruiting targets. Chazz, who was selected for ESPN’s Elite 11 national quarterback competition this summer, originally committed to Duke but switched to North Carolina last month.
North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams has promised Chazz a walk-on spot on the basketball team if he wants. North Carolina football coaches have also offered Sage a scholarship, and Williams has extended a walk-on offer to him.
Sage said he is leaning toward playing basketball on scholarship in college. He scored 25 points against Kinston in the state final, frequently challenging Ingram on tough drives to the basket. Sage said he doesn’t have basketball offers yet, but has received interest from Clemson, Wake Forest, Stanford, Yale, Brown, College of Charleston and Nebraska.
“Going to college with your brother is basically what people would expect,” Sage said. “And if you had the opportunity, I think most people would take it. UNC is currently a favorite, but I’m keeping my options open. When Carolina offered (for football with the basketball walk-on), that was really good, but I just want to see how I get recruited for strictly basketball and I will weigh my decision.”
So this could be the Surratts’ last year together as teammates.
“Can I imagine not playing with Chazz?” Sage said. “I haven’t really thought about it, but the closer and closer it gets to the start of the season, it becomes realistic, that this could be it. So I’m trying to make this our best season together, knowing it might be our last.
“We want to do everything we need to do, just cherish it, and make some more memories.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr
Surratts By The Numbers
Chazz and Sage Surratt have had amazing careers at East Lincoln, helping the Mustangs to a state championship game in basketball and two state football titles the past three seasons. All Lincoln County teams combined, including East Lincoln, have won four state titles. A breakdown of the brothers’ careers:
Junior season: In football, accounted for 5,621 yards of offense and 73 touchdowns, one of the best seasons in N.C. history. In basketball, averaged 20 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Surratt made the Associated Press all-state team in both sports, a rare feat.
Sophomore season: Led East Lincoln’s football team to the state quarterfinals, setting a Lincoln County record with 62 total touchdowns, rushing for 1,618 yards, 34 touchdowns and throwing for 2,523 yards and 28 touchdowns. In basketball, averaged 21 points, 7.5 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Freshman season: Helped East Lincoln win the N.C. 2AA football championship. He played six positions on offense, including starting at quarterback for two games. He finished with nearly 500 yards rushing, more than 300 yards passing and more than 1,000 yards receiving. He accounted for 25 touchdowns. In basketball, he averaged 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Sophomore season: In basketball, averaged team-leading 24.6 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.6 steals. In football, he caught 87 passes for 1,237 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Freshman season: Caught 55 passes for 843 yards and 11 scores. In basketball, averaged 18 points, five rebounds and two assists on a team that finished 24-4.
Langston Wertz Jr.