University City

Will next year be the year for the Mavericks or the Cougars?

When Greensboro Page upset Mallard Creek in the state playoff semifinals, it marked the official end to the 2011 football season for Mecklenburg County.

The Mavericks had a great year, were nationally ranked since opening the season by defeating rival Butler and were thought to be the front-runners to win the school's first state title.

Mallard Creek was deep and talented and will surely be a contender for the state title next year. The team to beat will come from the I-Meck 4A conference; that may be Vance, which will be loaded with talent on both sides of the ball.

When the all-conference selections were named last week, the Mavericks, not surprisingly, were well represented. They had 11 selections, including star running back Jela Duncan, who was named offensive player of the year in the conference.

Six other offensive players were named to the team: quarterback Andrew Goodman, wide receivers Marquez North, Jamel Harbison and Corey Miller and offensive linemen DJ Humphries and Keenan Williams.

On defense, lineman Randall Mash, linebacker Nivel Peeler and defensive backs Brian Walker and Takhare Donalson were also selected.

The key Mavericks who will return next year are Walker and North, while many of the rest will graduate and play big-time college football.

As the Mavericks graduate key players, Vance will be heavily stocked with talent and eager to prove they belong in the conference elite.

This year they couldn't get going offensively and couldn't stop opponents on defense. The Cougars had some coaching distractions right before the season started and played one of the toughest early-season schedules in the area, contributing to the bad start.

They opened the year 1-6 with losses to Berry, Independence, Butler, Mooresville, Hough and Mallard Creek. But then they reeled off four straight wins before coming up short in the opening round of the state playoffs.

The Cougars are going to be explosive next year and can use the momentum of this year's late-season charge to challenge for the conference title.

Eight players from this year's team made all-conference, including Larenz Bryant, who was named defensive player of the year as a linebacker but is probably the best returning running back in the conference.

Vance had high expectations coming into this season, but couldn't live up to them. Maybe next year is the year the Cougars make their stand and become the team people thought they were.