Lake Norman & Mooresville

Junior receivers thrive in Patriot passing attack

Davidson Day receivers Aaron Seward, Evan Gates and Jordan Young have all benefited from the Patriot spread offense this season.

With the help of sophomore quarterback Will Grier, the junior trio led the first-year varsity program to a No. 1 seed in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III football playoffs.

"I love playing in this system," said Young. "More than one receiver has the chance to get the ball every game."

Seward has led the team with 832 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches, while Gates has totaled 661 yards, and Young added 505. Gates scored on three touchdowns catches in the regular season, while Young had nine more.

"We have so many threats, so even if you put pressure on one person, you're going to leave other guys open for chances to get catches," said Seward.

Speedy running back Jordan Brown has also contributed 524 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, while sophomore Mike Stevens added 340 receiving yards and five scores.

"We've got five really talented, athletic kids who can catch the ball," said coach Chad Grier, Will's father. "That puts a lot of pressure on defenses."

With Brown and the younger Grier also running the ball efficiently, it creates challenges for opposing defenses. Davidson Day used that to go 9-1 in the regular season, heading into Nov. 4's first-round playoff win against Fayetteville Christian. The Patriots will play Trinity Christian in the state championship Nov. 11.

Seward, who Chad Grier said stands out because of his ability to catch difficult passes and pick up extra yards after the catch, was the team's leading receiver for the first-year junior varsity team last season and picked up right where he left off this fall.

"He's been the playmaker the last two years we've been out here," said Grier. "When you need a big play, he's the one who makes it."

Grier has been impressed with the way Young, whom he's known since the junior was 8 years old, has developed.

"The kid has always had the potential to make plays," said Grier of the now 17-year-old. "This year, he has gone out and made them."

The Patriots got a big boost with the arrival of Gates, who enrolled at Davidson Day prior to this school year. Grier said Gates was able to make an impact right away on and off the field.

"He's also a tremendous leader," said Grier, explaining that the junior was voted one of the team's captains. "When you look for a role model, he's the guy."

Defensively, the trio has also been a big help. The physical Gates was fourth on the team in tackles, with 45 through the regular season playing linebacker, while Young, a defensive back, led the Patriots with five interceptions and Seward, a defensive end, was second in the team with three sacks.

Grier said Davidson Day's defense has played better this season, aside from the team's lone loss of the regular season, against perennial power Charlotte Latin.

But the Patriots' focus remained on outscoring opponents with its explosive offense.

"We like to get up on the opponent, and keep our foot on the pedal," said Young.

After going undefeated as a JV team last season, the Patriots say they weren't surprised by their success this season.

"I think we deserved what we've achieved," said Gates. "We put in a lot of work."

Grier admits that his goal before the season was just to stay competitive, having to face historically talented teams like Harrells Christian and Trinity Christian as well as a public schools and military academies. But his players were always focused on making a title run.

"Their mindset from Day 1 was to win state championships," said Grier.

He added that he's proud of the way his team endured through the adversity of not having a home football field and playing on the road the entire season.

"But maybe that's good," said Grier. "They've been battle-tested playing some good competition."

Regardless of what happens at the state championship Friday, Grier knows his team, which will lose only two players to graduation this year, has a bright future.

"The great thing is to have all of those guys back," said Grier. "To see each of them progress."