High School Sports

One of NC’s top high school football rivalries taking shape in Iredell County

Lake Norman High football coach Rob McNeely (center) has led the Wildcats to a 9-0 record this season. They’ll face Iredell County rival Mooresville on Friday with a conference title at stake.
Lake Norman High football coach Rob McNeely (center) has led the Wildcats to a 9-0 record this season. They’ll face Iredell County rival Mooresville on Friday with a conference title at stake.

Sooner or later, Mooresville-Lake Norman will take its place among the best high school football rivalries in North Carolina.

I’d say it’s already on the level of Concord-AL Brown, Independence-Butler and Crest-Shelby in terms of intensity and anticipation, at least in Iredell County. Soon, more high school football fans throughout North Carolina will take notice.

Friday night, the teams will renew their rivalry at Mooresville.

“The reason that it may not be looked upon as one of the top-tier rivalries is because of the newness of it,” said Chris Hughes of CarolinaPreps.com, a football-focused website and blog. “Lake Norman has only been playing football since 2002 and hasn’t been a year-in, year-out contender until the last four or five years. But is it becoming a big-time rivalry? I think it is.

“The last three or four years, it’s decided the conference championship. Both teams have had good playoff runs, and Lake Norman has slowly proven they belong on the top-tier level in the Charlotte area. Mooresville has been an established power, granted much of it at the 2A and 3A level.”

Mooresville (7-2, 5-0 North Piedmont 3A/4A) is ranked No. 14 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll. The Blue Devils have won seven straight under first-year coach Marty Paxton and allow an average of 11 points per game. Lake Norman (9-0, 5-0) is No. 8 and averages 45 points.

Mooresville leads the all-time series 10-4, but the teams have split the past four games. The average margin of victory is barely four points the past four seasons.

▪ In the 11 seasons before Chip English was hired as coach at West Caldwell, the Warriors were 20-103. In his first season in 2014, West Caldwell was 4-7. In 2015, the Warriors were 7-6, producing their first winning season since 2002. This season, they’re averaging 33 points, an all-time school best, and are 8-1, 5-0 in the Southern District 7. West Caldwell can position itself for a league title with an upset of unbeaten Lincolnton (9-0, 5-0) on the road Friday.

▪ Charlotte Country Day junior Keaton Prevette is ranked among the nation’s top 15 long snappers in the class of 2018 by prokicker.com, a website that tracks kickers, punters and long snappers. Prevette suffered a season-ending shoulder injury this month but has taken unofficial college visits to Georgia, Clemson, Virginia and James Madison. His father, Allen, a local dentist, was once a long snapper at East Carolina.

▪ Homar Ramirez, the new executive director of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association, said there is a proposal to change the way teams are classified within his organization. There currently are three classes. The proposal could add a fourth, 4A, as early as the 2018-19 school year. That could also lead to changes in conference alignments. Here’s hoping the football playoff system will be evaluated, too. The Division I playoffs currently include Charlotte’s biggest private schools – Latin, Christian, Country Day and Providence Day – plus Davidson Day. Four of the five teams make the two-week playoff. That’s not much of a “state” championship.

Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr

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