Here are Rutherford County high school football previews, as compiled by Observer correspondent Jay Edwards
Head Coach: Daniel Bailey (8th year as Chase football coach).
2016 Record (Conference): 4-7 (2-6 in South Mountain Athletic conference).
2017 Conference: Southwestern 2A (SW2A) conference.
Returning Starters: 12
Returning Lettermen: 24
Key Returning Starters: Xavier Williams, Sr., RB (6-0, 185); Mike Singletary, Sr., HB/DE (5-10, 225); Tylek Surratt, Jr., OL/DL (5-8, 315); Kaleb Logan, Jr., RB/LB (5-9, 160); Grant Lanser, Sr., OL/LB (5-11, 215).
Key Newcomers: Garrett Hampton, So., RB/CB (5-5, 130); Tragen Moore, So., C (5-9, 220).
Outlook: The Trojans have been trending in the right direction the last three seasons, going from one win in 2014 to two wins in 2015 to four victories in 2016. Chase will look to their running game, led by senior RB Xavier Williams, and a stout defense line, led by Mike Singletary and Tylek Surratt, to try to post their 3rd winning season in the last decade and get back into the playoff hunt.
Head Coach: Clint Bland (9th year as East Rutherford football coach).
2016 Record (Conference): 4-7 (2-5 in the South Mountain Athletic conference).
2017 Conference: Southwestern 2A (SW2A).
Returning Starters: 12 (8 offense; 4 defense).
Returning Lettermen: 12
Key Returning Starters: Demetrius Mauney, Jr., RB (6-1, 190); Cade Hamilton, Sr., LB (6-1, 225); Brandon Unagnst, Sr., OL (6-7, 300); Austin Roderick, Jr., K/P (6-1, 175); Josh Wilson, Sr., DL/LB (6-3, 200); Cameron Simmons, Jr., QB (5-11, 170); Calvin Jones, So., QB/RB/DB (5-10, 160); Jordan Harris, Jr., WR/DB (6-1, 170).
Key Newcomers: N/A.
Outlook: The Cavaliers lost seven of their final nine games last year, which gives them motivation going forward. But East Rutherford moves into a brutal, SW2A conference, including state powers Shelby and South Point. Finishing in the upper half of the league standings and getting back into postseason would be a big accomplishment, and junior RB, Demetrius Mauney (989 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns) and senior LB, Cade Hamilton (161 tackles), will have to lead the way.
Head Coach: Brad Hutchins (1st year R.S. Central head football coach).
2016 Record (Conference): 6-7 (3-5 in the South Mountain Athletic conference).
2017 Conference: Southwestern 2A (SW2A).
Returning Starters: 4 (2 offense; 2 defense).
Returning Lettermen: 15
Key Returning Starters: Damarcus Johnson, Sr., LB (5-9, 175); Brandon Smith, Sr., WR/DB (5-8, 155); Jayden Waddell, Jr., QB (6-2, 180); Jarvis Lynch, Sr., OL (6-3, 350).
Key Newcomers: Devin Littlejohn, Sr., RB (6-1, 190); John Torvinen, Jr., LB (6-2, 185); C.J. Hannon, So., RB (5-7, 215).
Outlook: The Hilltoppers face an uphill battle in the brutal, SW2A conference with state powers like Shelby and South Point looming. But, former R.S. Central middle school coach and Hilltopper graduate, first-year head coach Brad Hutchins, is used to winning games and has some key pieces in junior QB, Jayden Waddell and senior LB Damarcus Johnson (137 tackles), to help a young team be a factor in the league and battle for a postseason spot.
THOMAS JEFFERSON ACADEMY
Head Coach: Jerry Cash (6th year as Thomas Jefferson Academy football
coach/44-20 at Thomas Jefferson; 314-197-2 overall).
2016 Record (Conference): 10-3 (5-1 in the Southern Piedmont 1A
conference (SPC 1A)).
2017 Conference: Piedmont Athletic Conference (PAC) 7/new conference/1A.
Returning Starters: 15 (7 offense; 8 defense).
Returning Lettermen: 14
Key Returning Starters: Bill Lay, Sr., RB/LB (5-9, 190); Nomi Mullens,
Jr., QB (6-0, 185); Jonathan Hargro, Sr., OL/DL (6-3, 255); Josh
Mellon, Sr., OL/DL (6-1, 205); Max Robbins, Sr., WR/C (6-0, 180);
Caleb Camp, Sr., OL/DL (5-11, 200).
Key Newcomers: Josh Hopper, Sr., WR/DB (5-10, 185); Lane Beaver, Jr.,
OL/DL (6-0, 260).
Outlook: Thomas Jefferson Academy posted its 3rd straight 10-win
season a year ago, earning co-SPC 1A conference champions with
Bessemer City. This year, with their largest senior class in school
history back (20 seniors), the Gryphons believe they can have their
best season ever.
Thomas Jefferson coach, Jerry Cash (3rd all-time in wins (314) among
active N.C. coaches) has some the pieces -- led by seniors, RB Bill
Lay (1,340 yards rushing, 23 touchdowns) and OL/DL Jonathan Hargro and
junior QB Nomi McMullens (1,624 yards passing, 857 yards rushing, 15
rushing touchdowns) – to make a run at another conference title and a
deep, 1A state playoff run.