When Colin Abercrombie was thrust into the starting quarterback job for Lake Norman this season, his only thought was not to disappoint his team.
"The thing that I was most afraid of was having a season like last season," he said of the team's 2-9 season last year. "I'm happy with how things are going now."
The senior has done a solid job of managing the offense for a Wildcats team that has already won more games than last year.
"At the beginning of the season, I felt like a lot was on my shoulders," said Abercrombie. "But being a backup junior year, I was ready for it."
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After last year's quarterback, senior Will Scott, decided to focus on lacrosse, Abercrombie competed with junior Connor Poteat for Scott's former spot.
Wildcats coach Rob McNeely said Abercrombie has handled the responsibilities that come with being a quarterback well.
"He's smart," he said. "He remembers ... our plays and formations, but he also knows his strengths and weaknesses. ... He doesn't make too many wrong decisions."
Abercrombie has shown that by only throwing one interception heading into the game at Hough Oct. 21. That's a vast improvement over the few times he hit the field last year, when he completed seven of his 18 attempts for 62 yards and two interceptions.
"He was a little unsure about himself," McNeely said of last season. "I think that the coaching staff showing confidence in him this year gives him confidence."
McNeely said his quarterback has done a good job of simply taking what defenses give him.
"The game's slowing down for him a little bit," said the second-year Wildcats head coach. "He's doing a better job of reading defenses and seeing open receivers."
Before facing the Huskies, Abercrombie had thrown for 687 yards and eight touchdowns. Arguably his best performance of the season came in a 24-20 win over West Charlotte earlier this month. He played through a knee injury that had forced him to sit out the previous week and led his Wildcats with 141 passing yards and four touchdowns against an athletic Lions defense.
Abercrombie said his improved performance has a lot to do with maturity, not allowing the game to get into his head. But he said it's also had a lot to do with the play of the offensive line.
"That front five, that all-senior line, has done great," said Abercrombie.
Seniors Anthony Magiiozzi and James Post, who make up the left side of the line, have stood out in the quarterback's mind.
The running game also has opened up the field for Abercrombie and the Wildcats. Junior Kyle Gradert, who led the team with 475 yards on the ground before the game against Hough, and classmate Dylan Miller, who had 447 rushing yards this season before suffering a season-ending ankle injury against West Charlotte, started the season as a solid one-two punch for the Wildcats.
Having a steady running threat, Abercrombie said, has allowed him to focus on managing the game.
"I don't have to go for that big play," he said.
But that doesn't mean the senior doesn't take a shot if it's there for him.
"I'm planning on winning each game," he said. "I'll do anything that it takes."
The Wildcats' offense struggled to come for during the first couple of weeks this season, but Abercrombie and McNeely said the team has gotten progressively better.
Lake Norman (3-6 overall, 2-3 in I-Meck play before the game at Hough) had lost three games by a touchdown or less: against Statesville, West Iredell and Vance.
But McNeely admits that success for him and his team won't be judged by stats or results.
"This year, our mantra has been to get better every day," said McNeely. "That's the only expectation that we have."
With a different group of players, the Wildcats also don't want to compare their performance with their 2010 version.
"We didn't really want to use last year's team as our example for this year," said Abercrombie. "We wanted to start off fresh."
Against cross-town rival Mooresville Friday, the Lake Norman football team will have its final chance of the regular season to show it has improved. McNeely said players on both sides will be excited for the game.
"It's going to be a different type of game," he said. "They've grown up knowing those kids."
Although his Wildcats were on the short end last year, losing 42-14 to the Blue Devils, nothing is settled this year.
"It's two different teams now that are playing," said McNeely. "Anything can happen."