Harding High junior Quavaris Crouch is the nation’s top recruit at running back in the class of 2019, but Rams coach Sam Greiner told the Observer Wednesday that Crouch might not play the position in college.
“He’s the best running back, no doubt, coming out (of the 2019 class),” Greiner said, “but he understands, long term, what the deal is with running backs. (Pittsburgh Steelers) star Le’Veon Bell is the best running back in the (NFL) and he may get franchise-tagged again and he can’t get a long-term contract. And Quavaris still has that baby face. There’s a chance he grows another inch and gains another 25 pounds, especially once he gets to a college on a (training table). So he could be 6-3, 265 and be the next Lawrence Taylor, and I’m not just saying that. He’s that special.”
A 6-foot-2, 230 pound junior, Crouch rushed for 3,283 yards and 33 touchdowns last season when he was named N.C. Gatorade player of the year and Charlotte Observer player of the year in Mecklenburg County. He led Harding to its first state championship since the 1950s.
On defense, which he played part-time, Crouch had 48 tackles and 14 sacks. Crouch was named to the MaxPreps junior All-American first team. He has also been selected for the 2019 U.S. Army All-American game in San Antonio.
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Crouch is scheduled to take an unofficial visit to Clemson this weekend and he’ll visit North Carolina on his birthday, Jan. 27.
“He could go to a multitude of places (on his birthday weekend),” Greiner said, “and Georgia wants him to come, but he made a commitment to his (home state) school. (UNC co-offensive coordinator) Gunter Brewer is one of the best recruiters I’ve met in my life. The guys that are on him the best are Gunter and (South Carolina running backs coach) Bobby Bentley.”
Greiner said he spoke with Clemson Tuesday and that coaches from LSU as well as Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer were scheduled to come to campus Thursday. But with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools closed Thursday due to the snow, those visits will need to be rescheduled.
Greiner said Crouch is going to set up and take his officials visits this summer, taking advantage of a NCAA rule change announced last spring. The rule allows prospects to take all-expenses paid official visits from April to June of their junior year. Previously, schools couldn’t bring players in until September of a recruit’s senior year.
“He says he wants God to lead him in the right direction,” Greiner said of Crouch’s college journey. “He wants to take his official visits. It’s always smart to commit before the season, but he hasn’t mentioned that.”
Asked which schools were the front runners, Greiner said “South Carolina, Michigan. He’s very intrigued with Stanford but it’s far away. He loves UNC and Gunter Brewer but he doesn’t know how the system fits for him. And there’s Clemson and a few others, but the thing he really wants to know is if he wants to play defense in college. That will affect his recruitment. Most schools are recruiting him as a running back but Clemson also likes him as a linebacker.
“My gut tells me he has no clue yet, and that everyone has a chance. But my gut tells me he’s going to be a Heisman. He will be the first guy you see that predominately plays defense and they’ll have a package for him to run the ball in the red zone. Like I said, he’s that special.”
Football Notes: Area stars commit to schools, receive offers
Myers Park junior wide receiver Elijah Bowick has committed to Virginia Tech.
Bowick, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior, caught 58 passes for 1,006 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Myers Park won 12 games last season and reached the N.C. 4AA quarterfinals. The Mustangs and Bowick broke the school-record for wins set in 1965.
Bowick had offers from schools like Louisville, N.C. State and Tennessee. He’s a top 20 recruit in North Carolina in the class of 2019.
▪ Charlotte Catholic running back Milan Howard has committed to the The Citadel.
A 5-foot-11, 182-pound senior, Howard ran for 2,008 yards and 26 touchdowns this season, leading Catholic to its fifth state championship. Catholic finished the season unbeaten and beat Havelock 28-14 in the N.C. 3A final. Howard ran 29 times for 160 yards and was named the game’s most valuable player.
▪ Mallard Creek 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive tackle Parker Moorer has received an offer from Louisville....Sun Valley QB Sam Howell has picked up an offer from Georgia. Howell has recent offers from Clemson and Ohio State.
▪ Hough cornerback Mario Love, 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, was the only N.C. player named to the MaxPreps freshman All-America team. Providence Day defensive lineman Jacolbe Cowan made the first-team MaxPreps sophomore All-American team. Cowan is considered a top 10 national recruit. Teammate Porter Rooks, a wide receiver, was a second team All-America selection. Rooks is another top 10 national recruit in his class.
▪ Mallard Creek defensive tackle Charles Johnson, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior, has committed to Arizona Western College in Yuma, AZ. Johnson was a key performer on the Mavericks’ N.C. 4AA Western Regional championship team.
Basketball: Providence Day coach nearing school record
▪ Providence Day boys basketball coach Brian Field, in his 12th season, is closing in on his school’s all-time wins mark. Field, who played at Providence Day, has 220 career wins, just two off the school’s all-time record of 222 held by David Carrier. Carrier coached 11 seasons and was Field’s seventh grade coach.
▪ McDonald’s All-American and UNC recruit Coby White now has 3,127 career points. He’s within reach of the state record for scoring held by Eastern Alamance’s JamesOn Curry. Curry scored 3,307 points from 200-04. White has eight regular-season games remaining and probably a maximum of three playoff games.
▪ Fort Mill Comenius’ Erin Cepeda ranks No. 4 among N.C. seniors in scoring (23.8), which is highest in the Observer’s area. She’s No. 6 in steals (6.2) which also is first in the Observer area.
Volleyball: Cox Mill star repeats as Gatorade NC Player of the year
Cox Mill volleyball star Taylor Rowland has been named 2017-18 N.C. Gatorade volleyball player of the year. She also won the award last season.
In the 2017 season, the 6-3 senior led led the Chargers to a 27-8 record and the Class 3A state quarterfinals. She had 520 kills, 392 serve receptions, 227 digs and 55 service aces. She ends one of the best volleyball careers in state history with 1,837 kills, 632 digs, 205 service aces and 86 total blocks.
In 2016, Rowland led Cox Mill to a 34-0 record, a national ranking and the school’s first N.C. 3A state championship.
In addition, Rowland helped organize the Be Bold for Gold Volleyball Day in October to raise money to benefit cancer research. She also works with children’s programs at her church in addition to coaching youth volleyball. Rowland, who will play at Auburn next fall, has a 3.45 GPA.
“Taylor Rowland is the real deal,” said David Brooks, the head coach at Mallard Creek High. “Having played against her for high school ball and club ball, she is the all-around player. Being around high school volleyball for 10 years now, I have not seen many Taylor Rowlands, as she truly is a special kid.”
▪ Veronica Elfe has resigned as volleyball coach at Christ the King High School, citing a “lack of dedication to the growth of the athletic department.”
Elfe was varsity and junior varsity coach at the school. She hopes to coach again and is actively searching for a new position.
Wrestling: longtime Butler coach Billy Puckett to retire
One of the state’s most storied wrestling coaches will retire at the end of the season.
Billy Puckett has won 520 matches in his 40-year career as the head wrestling coach at West Mecklenburg (1978-1989), Independence (1989-2004) and Butler (2004-2018).
Puckett, a 2012 National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee, has also won 25 conference titles, two regional championships, two regional runner-ups, two state runner-ups in that span.
The 10-time Mecklenburg coach of the year, Puckett has had 42 state placers (top six at states), eight individual state champions and two All-Americans (both his nephews, Tom and Pete Puckett) in his tenure.
After four decades-plus of competition, Puckett will coach his final regular season match when Butler hosts Garinger and Queens Grant this Friday night (Jan. 19).
"For me, it’s always been about the kids," said Puckett, who wrestled at Independence High and Auburn University. "My number one focus is helping them achieve things in wrestling and in life that that wouldn’t have otherwise accomplished. I love the kids who win state championships and go wrestle in college, but I love the kid who came to high school and couldn’t walk and chew bubble gum, and by the time he leaves he wins a conference championship or places. That’s what coaching is all about."
While Puckett still has the postseason to coach in, including conference, regionals and states, he admits Friday night will be emotional.
"I’m trying to thing about this (final regular season match) as just another match," said Puckett, noting the hundreds of wrestlers he has coached are like family, as he still close with many of his wrestlers today. ‘But I know it’s going to be emotional, and right now I have a lot of mixed emotions about it. But in the end I know it’s going to special to me, something I will never forget."
Winter Sports Boys Athletes of the Week
▪ Jairus Hamilton, Cannon School Basketball: The 6-foot-8 senior forward had a week he will never forget on and off the basketball court.
Hamilton scored 23 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in a 64-42 victory over Covenant Day, Jan. 9.
Two days later, Hamilton officially committed to play college basketball at Boston College in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
The next morning (Jan. 12), he was named a McDonalds’ All-American game nominee.
Later the same night, Hamilton score 13 points and grabbing six rebounds against Charlotte Country Day in a quarter to put Cannon up 11 points, before leaving the game with an injury, according to Cannon School basketball coach, Che Roth.
Charlotte Country Day ended up winning the game 61-59.
Fletcher Abee, Freedom Basketball: The 6-foot-2, junior guard exploded for 40 points, tying a school-record with nine three-pointers, in Freedom’s 81-52 win over Alexander Central, Jan. 9.
Abee scored his 1,000th-career point in the same game.
Abee then scored 27 points three nights later in the Patriots 66-51 win over Watauga, Freedom’s (14-1, 5-1 in the Northwestern 3A/4A) 9th straight victory.
Abee is being recruited by Appalachian State, Campbell, The Citadel, High Point, Lipscomb, Western Carolina and Wofford, according to Freedom assistant athletic director Robert Scott.
Abee is also accomplished student with a 4.25 grade-point average (GPA), while taking AP and honors’ courses.
Joey Jegier, Providence Track: The Providence senior threw a career-best 53-0.5 to win the shot put at Providence Polar Bear meet No. 3, Jan. 10th.
Three days later, Jegier also won the shot put at the Champion Fast Track Invitational at the JDL Track in Winston-Salem (52-3.25).
Jegier has won the shot put in five of the six meets he has competed in this indoor season.
Jegier, an all-state goalkeeper for the Providence soccer team (4A state semifinalist), also gets it done in the classroom, where he has a 5.83 grade-point average, got a perfect score on the SAT and is No. 1 in his class (2018).
Rick Spencer, Weddington Track: Coach was named N.C. coach of the year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The fourth annual awards honor coaches for their finishes at their respective state championships, the number of different events in which athletes were qualified, individual championships and how their teams’ performances stack up to previous years, among other criteria.
One boys coach and one girls coach from each state – and the District of Columbia – is selected. Spencer led Weddington to the 2017 N.C. 3A state title.
Winter Sports Girls Athletes of the Week
Megan Frost, Myers Park Field Hockey: The Myers Park junior became one of 24 high school field hockey players across the country to make the Junior U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey team.
Frost was one of 67 players invited to the tryouts in Lancaster, PA, Dec. 26-29. Frost was also invited last year, but didn’t make the cut.
This time despite having 102-degree temperature, Frost, a Stanford University commit, made the junior national roster.
She will train with the national team at University of California, Berkeley later this month, at Duke University in February and at Wake Forest in March.
Frost hopes to make the 18-player roster that will go on an international tour in April, most likely in Ireland.
Frost, an all-state midfielder for Myers Park, has led the Mustangs to back-to-back, NCFHA state championships.
She already owns the school record for goals (76) and assists (54) with one season to play. Frost had a school-record 35 goals and 21 assists this past season.
Sinclair Larson, South Mecklenburg Swimming: The South Mecklenburg senior and team captain led the Sabres’ girls to the SoMeck7 conference championship Jan. 12, winning both the 100 backstroke (57.77) and 200 individual medley (2:05.88) titles in meet record times.
Larson also helped South Meck’s 200 medley relay (with Katie Rauch, Reagan Johnson, Claudia Barnett) and 400 freestyle relay (with Barnett, Rauch and Brynn Martinson) to victories.
Larson, a University of Tennessee signee, was also named SoMeck7 conference swimmer of the year.
Larson and the Sabres are now preparing for the 4A West Regional meet at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center, Feb. 2.
Sarah Latour, Cuthbertson Track: The Cavaliers’ senior had another stellar week on the track, starting by winning the 1000-meter run at the Cuthbertson Polar Bear, Jan. 10.
Latour, an N.C. State signee, had an even bigger weekend at the Champion Fast Track Invitational at the JDL Track, Jan. 13, where she won the 3200-meter run, beating the field by nine seconds and finished 2nd-place in the 1600-meter in a personal-best, 5:05.27, the second fastest time run in the state this indoor season. Latour also anchored the 4 X 800-meter relay to a runner-up finish at same meet.
Jada McMillan, Jay M. Robinson Basketball: The 5-foot-7, Jay M. Robinson junior guard has been on fire lately, averaging 28 points per contest over the last five games.
McMillan’s play has helped the Bulldogs to five straight victories as the Bulldogs improved from 2-8 to 7-8 (3-0 in the South Piedmont conference) in a tie with Central Cabarrus atop the league standings.
McMillan’s best game this past week was in 60-48 victory over Northwest Cabarrus, where she poured in 27 points (11-for-17 shooting), grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists. McMillian had a season-high, 35 points, in a win over Cox Mill, Jan. 5.
Want to nominate an athlete?: Athletes of the week highlights high school athletes with outstanding performances. Information published today includes statistics through Jan. 14. The goal is to recognize all athletes in all sports, both the most accomplished and the underrated or underappreciated players. If you want to suggest someone to be included in the Athletes of the week column, send email to Jay Edwards at email@example.com. Please include the athletes’ name, school, class and applicable game performance statistics. Coaches must be willing to verify information.
Wednesday’s late basketball capsules
NO. 11 MORGANTON FREEDOM 85, MARION MCDOWELL 80
Freedom: 16 21 20 28 = 85
McDowell: 20 14 17 29 = 80
Freedom: Jakari Dula 37, Michael Logan 15, Fletcher Abee 14, Aidan Pearson 12, Kanipe 7
McDowell: Skyler McKinney 27, Kevin Silver 18, Travis Corpening 13,Lindsey 5, Olivio 5, McRary 4, Davis 4, Randolph 2
Records: Freedom 15-1 (6-1) Next at St. Stephens on Friday, January 19
SOUTHLAKE CHRISTIAN 54, ROCK HILL WESTMINSTER CATAWBA 26
SouthLake Christian 12 07 11 24 = 54
Westminster Catawba 04 05 08 09 = 26
SouthLake (10-9 overall, 3-1 conference) -- Haughton 2, Hendrix 4, Celestine 4, Monroe 9, Wazan 10, Clarke 5, McLaughlin 8, Reed 2, Jackson 2, Foutch 8
Westminster Catawba -- Long 4, Williams 8, Melzer 4, Vestrand 2, Alejandro 4, Tang 4