Coming off an 8-6 season in 2016, when he led his team to the third round of the N.C. 3AA playoffs, Marvin Ridge High football coach Aubrey Carter said he thought this year’s team could be strong.
He would have 11 starters and 26 lettermen returning, plus a senior quarterback he had a good feeling about.
It appears Carter was right about everything.
Marvin Ridge is off to a school-record 8-0 start and is within two wins of tying the school’s single-season record for wins. The Mavericks, who will host reigning N.C. 3AA state champion and Union County arch-rival Weddington Friday, are ranked No. 10 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll. They are No. 3 in the N.C. 3A state media poll.
And that quarterback? Well, 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior Bryce McLain has been everything Carter could have hoped for.
McLain, 17, has completed 89-of-145 passes for 1,109 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also leads the team in rushing with 702 yards and four touchdowns. He averages 10 yards per attempt.
“He’s a very good player,” Carter said. “He’s a great kid who works extremely hard, is extremely intelligent and he’s an excellent leader that the coaches love and respect. He’s the total package as a leader and a quarterback.”
McLain played junior varsity as a freshman and watched the varsity go 3-8. Marvin Ridge, which is just over the Mecklenburg County line past Ballantyne, struggled back then.
After finishing 41-20 in five years under Scott Chadwick - now the coach at Myers Park - the Mavericks finished 2-9 in 2013 and 3-8 in 2014, McLain’s freshman year.
Marvin Ridge hired Carter in May 2015. He was the school’s third coach in three years.
A former college offensive lineman at Mars Hill, Carter had coached at Lake Norman High for more than 10 seasons as an assistant. He came to Marvin Ridge with a simple philosophy.
“It’s about hard work and selflessness,” Carter said. “We are self-less and we really care about each other. These guys, all the teams here, just love each other and play for each other and they don’t care who gets the credit. They put their heads down and just work.”
In his first season, Carter led Marvin Ridge to an 8-4 record and a Southern Carolinas conference championship. The 8-6 Mavericks last season and were one win from an N.C. 3AA regional championship appearance.
Now, Marvin Ridge is a legitimate state championship contender with McClain under center.
“To be able to do it with people I’ve played with since sixth grade, it’s a lot of fun,” McClain said. “We’re one, big family and that makes it really gratifying to be the quarterback for (Marvin Ridge). I’m not surprised (at our success), but I like the challenge that all these teams present.”
McLain -- who has college interest from several Ivy League schools and Davidson -- said he’s waited patiently for his chance. He threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns as a junior, but this season he’s clearly the leader of one of the area’s top teams.
“I didn’t start my sophomore or my junior year,” he said. “It was tough (to wait), but I tried to learn from it and make sure when I got my chance I’d be ready to perform.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr