West Charlotte and North Mecklenburg renew an old rivalry Friday night, when the Vikings hope to celebrate their homecoming in style.
"If you talk to all the coaches, teachers and administrators around here, West Charlotte has always been our biggest rival," said North Meck football coach Mike Bradley. "I think things have changed a bit with Hopewell being so close to us, but this is still a big game."
North Meck will also be looking to get back into the rivalry, as the Lions have won the last three meetings by a combined score of 82-26.
First-year West Charlotte coach Marcus Surratt knows the Vikings are also a big game on his schedule.
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"We are not a team that can just show up and win a game," he said. "We know we are going to get everybody's best shot. We need to give the other's teams our best shot."
West Charlotte (4-1)
After being one of the top programs in Charlotte during the 1980s and 90s, the Lions had some rough times. But West Charlotte is back to their old ways, getting off to one of their best starts this decade.
West Charlotte, which is coming off an overtime loss against Hopewell, has done it with an old-school approach, running the "veer," an option-based offense.
The centerpiece for that attack is senior tailback Jalen "Scoot" Simmons. Simmons, who committed to Duke, has been as good as advertised with the ability to turn every touch into a big play.
Senior quarterback Ahmad Brown has also looked strong.. While the Lions don't look to throw much, Brown, a third-year starter, can also make plays with his arm. When Brown looks to the air, he will be trying to find senior Ardy Holmes or junior T.J. Nixon most of the time.
While the Lions' offense has been operating on all cylinders, averaging nearly 33 points per contest, the defense has also been strong, yielding only about 17 points per game.
Senior DE/LB Britton Grier has led the way up front with a team that is flying to the ball early and often.
On paper, West Charlotte's running game looks like it will control the game. If Simmons and company get the option going early, North could be in for a long night.
North Mecklenburg (3-2)
North Meck has been hit hard by losses to graduation and the newly opened Hough High, but the Vikings still believe they can compete for an I-Meck title.
That task begins with senior quarterback Mike Irvin, who is in his first year as a starter. Irvin, who has had some turnover issues, needs to manage the game and continue to get better with experience.
Irvin has playmakers to get the ball to in running backs Terrence Clyburn, Garrison Dark and Jalen McCullough as well as standout wide receiver Rashaan Brown.
But Bradley says the offense needs to improve. If they can limit turnovers and lengthen possessions, shortening the game, the Vikings should be in better shape.
North Meck took steps on the right direction Friday, defeating Lake Norman 22-10.
The Vikings defense has the ability of taking over games. Senior linebackers Latham York and Andrew Yost, who had three picks against the Mustangs, have the ability of being difference-makers.
North Meck doesn't have an explosive offense, so they need establish a slow, grinding game. Irvin will need to find Clyburn and Brown on a regular basis and the running game needs to be consistant.
The North Meck defense will need to be dominant to contain Brown, Simmons and company in order to keep the Vikings in the game.