Finishing the playoffs with a victory is a luxury that few teams enjoy.
But there was something particularly painful about the way Kings Mountain’s postseason run ended last November.
The Mountaineers fell 47-46 in overtime to Concord Jay M. Robinson, in a game in which Kings Mountain had a 522-386 edge in total yardage and a 27-14 advantage in first downs. The Mountaineers did commit 10 penalties and lost a key fumble.
“Robinson had a really good team, and that was a great game,” Kings Mountain coach Greg Lloyd says of the 2017 finale. “But the way we finished? Wow!”
That might be a big part of the fuel in the tank this season for Kings Mountain, which figures to be a N.C. 3AA power once again. The Mountaineers have 15 returning starters, including a quarterback who threw for 2,200 yards and a running back who rushed for nearly 1,900 more.
Add in a standout receiver, several excellent linemen and some talented defensive backs, and you have a team ready to go a little deeper than last year’s third-round playoff setback.
“We would’ve liked to have played Catholic,” senior quarterback Kaylon Wade says, referring to Charlotte Catholic, whom the Mountaineers would’ve played the following week. “That was really disappointing. That playoff loss was motivation for this season.”
The 12-2 record marked the second-most victories in a season for Kings Mountain, and Lloyd has coached the Mountaineers to 40 wins in the past four seasons.
The building blocks for this year are Wade and junior running back Rikaylen Mack.
Wade says he spent the summer concentrating on football.
“It’s my passion,” he says. “I love the competition. I tried to work hard over the last few months.”
Lloyd says having Wade on the roster is a treat.
“An experienced quarterback makes all the difference,” he says. “He sets an example for the other players. He’s really a godsend for us.”
The other key part of the offense is Mack, who was Big South 3A Offensive Player of the Year in 2017.
“He’s a power back, and he can really run over you,” Lloyd says. “I’d like to see him break some longer runs this season, and I think he can do that. We’ve been talking to him about that.”
There are some question marks in the Kings Mountain camp. Lloyd says defensive end Javari Rice, nose guard Jeremiah Brown, linebacker Titus Clark and safety Marquis Fewell are potential standouts, but he says the defense overall is young.
“We’re a lot younger on defense than last year,” he says. “We’ll be playing some new people.”
And Kings Mountain must replace kicker Micah Randall, who made 7-of-9 field goals and scored 78 points this season. Randall will play this fall at Western Carolina.
“Yeah, that’s a big pair of shoes to fill,” Lloyd says. “It’s a big weapon we won’t have this time. But we’ve got several soccer players who look promising.”
Lloyd says his main goal is “building consistency.”
“Look,” he says, “12-2 is a really nice season. But we need to be successful every season.”
Editor’s note: The Observer is previewing all 16 teams in its preseason Sweet 16 poll. The order will be revealed before the season kicks off Aug. 15.
2017: 12-2 (lost 47-46 in overtime to Jay M. Robinson in 3AA regional semifinals).
Conference: Big South 3A.
Top players: QB Kaylon Wade; RB Mikaylen Mack; WR Kobe Paysour; DE Javari Rice; OLB Titus Clark; S Marquis Fewell; NG Jeremiah Brown.
Analysis: Kings Mountain looks capable of repeating as Big South 3A champion, although Boiling Springs Crest will have a say in that. The Mountaineers are not deep, so avoiding injuries will be crucial. If everyone stays healthy, they might go deep into the postseason again.