First Assembly coach Mike Minter and the Eagles have a huge opportunity to prove just how good they are.
Coming off a 13-0 season that culminated in winning the NCISAA Division II title, First Assembly (1-0) travels to traditional power Charlotte Christian (1-0) Friday.
"Any time you get a chance to play one of the best programs in the state, it is a big deal," said Minter. "We want to continue to build our reputation. We strive to be like the (Charlotte) Latins, the Christians, the Charlotte Country Days - the top programs in the state."
Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep and his team hope to make a statement with an early season win over First Assembly, a team that has rapidly ascended into one of the better private school football teams in the state.
"We want to continue to build what we've been doing here," said Estep, whose senior class has been to the NCISAA 3A state championship game every year, winning it all in 2008. "We have to have a new group of guys step up and lead the team and the program in that direction."
Christian is the favorite, playing at home early in the season, but both teams are young, and anything could happen.
First Assembly (1-0)
Minter and the Eagles badly want to prove that they can play with the best private schools in the state. But with only three starters returning from last year's team, First Assembly will have to prove that they can do it with a different cast of players.
Quarterback Andrew Goodman, who backed up Mallard Creek star Marquise Williams for the last two seasons, will be a major key as he tries to run the offense. Goodman has a pair of talented running backs in Minter's son, Michael Minter Jr. and Northwest Cabarrus transfer Jeremiah Walker.
The Eagles will look to control the ball and the game with Minter and Walker running behind a massive line that features Christian Little (6-5, 315) and Caleb Sheffield.
First Assembly's defense will be big in this game.
Junior tackling-machine Easton Sprayberry will try contain the Knights' running game.
The Eagle secondary could be the key as Christian features a host of talent at receiver, including Notre Dame-bound Matthias Farley. But, all-state corner Tyler Rhyne, who led the state with seven interceptions and runs a 4.5, will be waiting, as will Minter and Olympic-transfer Donte Simmons.
Charlotte Christian (1-0)
After struggling to compete in their own conference for most of the decade, Christian has vaulted itself into the elite teams in the NCISAA.
But like First Assembly, Christian lost a lot to graduation.
Beating First Assembly would be the first step in proving that a young 2010 Knights will be a team to be reckoned with.
"This team has a lot of talent, but a lot of questions marks as well," said Estep. "We will have to have a lot of young guys step up, but I think most of these guys are ready to do that."
Quarterback Simms McElfresh, a converted wide receiver, gets the keys to the offense. McElfresh has a wealth of talent at receiver in Farley and Division I target, Garrett Huneycutt.
Running back is another story, as they try to make up for the loss of all-state tailback, Ty Linton. A committee led by sophomore Jake Cook, Brett Millimen and senior Brett Cherry will take on the rushing duties.
But while Christian's offense must be consistent, the defense has the potential to dominate.
Senior defensive end, Kyler Brown, an all-state candidate, is the key and leads a strong defensive line that needs to shutdown the Eagle running game.