3 Bold Predictions
▪ Lenoir Hibriten to return to the state finals: Yes, we said it. But when you return 38 lettermen and 17 starters from an unbeaten state champion the year before, well, what else would you expect us to say?
▪ South Caldwell will top its 2017 win total: South won just once in 2017 but returns 12 starters, 20 lettermen and a standout in quarterback Jason Martin.
▪ McKinley Witherspoon will again rush for 2,000 yards: The Hibriten standout is poised for another big season — and he has a lot of help.
Will Gause, West Caldwell, LB, 6-0, 200, Sr.: Gause had 116 tackles and 4.5 sacks last year.
Skylin Thomas, Lenoir Hibriten, DB, 5-10, 190, Sr.: One of the leaders of a ferocious defense had five interceptions last season.
McKinley Witherspoon, Lenoir Hibriten, RB, 5-11, 190, Sr.: Ran for more than 2,000 yards and 37 touchdowns last season.
Lenoir Hibriten at Concord Robinson, Aug. 17: So how’s this for a season opener? The 2AA state champions go to Concord to face a 2017 3A semifinalist.
West Caldwell at Lenoir Hibriten, Aug. 24: This one should bring out a big crowd as West Caldwell looks for a big upset.
South Caldwell at West Caldwell, Sept. 28: County rivals get together for their annual battle.
Caldwell County Team Capsules
Coach: Clay Lewis (9th year as Hibriten head coach; 81-28 at Hibriten).
2017 record: 16-0 (6-0 to win Northwest Foothills’ 2A conference title).
2018 conference: Northwest Foothills’ 2A.
Returning starters: 17 (10 offense; 7 defense).
Returning letterman: 38
Key returning starters: McKinley Witherspoon, Sr., RB (5-11, 190); Skylin Thomas, Sr., SS (5-10, 190); Tyler Watson, Sr., TE/DT (5-9, 240); Hayden Wake, Sr., LB (5-9, 180); Austin Sturgis, Sr., OT (6-3, 240); Kevon Wilson, Sr., LB (6-0, 206); Josh Baker, Sr., C (6-2, 270); Jaylen Scott, Sr., QB (6-0, 170); Marqwone Jones, Sr., FB (6-1, 217).
Key newcomers: Trey Piercy, Jr., LB (5-11, 195); Neil Kincaid, Jr., DE (5-11, 245); Daren Perry, So., QB (5-10, 153); Taylib Howell, So., FB/LB (5-9, 182); Marcus Jones, So., FS (5-9, 140).
Outlook: The defending 2AA state champions return 17 starters and 38 lettermen from a team that averaged 41 points. Among the returners is all-state senior running back McKinley Witherspoon (2,057 yards rushing, 37 touchdowns last year), defensive tackle Tyler Watson (seven sacks), defensive back Skylin Thomas (five interceptions) and linebacker Hayden Wake (seven sacks).
Coach: Mark Kirkpatrick (2nd year as South Caldwell head coach).
2017 record: 1-11 (1-6 in the Northwestern 3A/4A).
2018 conference: Northwestern 3A/4A (4A).
Returning starters: 12
Returning letterman: 20
Key returning starters: Jason Martin, Jr., QB (6-1, 212); Dustin Herman, Sr., RB/LB (5-10, 181); Samuel Craig, Sr., RB/DB (5-10, 186); Spencer Piercy, Jr., WR/DB (5-11, 162); Austin Raynor, Jr., WR/DB (6-2, 182).
Key newcomers: N/A.
Outlook: The Spartans’ record the past two seasons is 3-20, including 1-11 in 2017. This year with 12 starters back, led by junior quarterback Jason Martin and running backs Dustin Herman and Spencer Piercy, South Caldwell hopes to rebound.
Coach: DeVore Holman (2nd year as West Caldwell head coach).
2017 record: 6-6 (3-4 in the Northwestern 3A/4A).
2018 conference: Northwestern 3A/4A.
Returning starters: 4
Returning letterman: 18
Key returning starters: Isaiah Helms, Sr., OL/DL (6-4, 320); Will Gause, Sr., MLB (6-0, 200).
Key newcomers: N/A.
Outlook: West Caldwell lost 18 seniors to graduation, including the dynamic duo of Kaleb and Taye Dula, who accounted for nearly 3,500 yards of total offense and 36 touchdowns. This year, with only four starters returning, the Warriors must reload on the fly in a competitive, Northwestern 3A/4A conference. Coach Holman will look to senior leaders in 6-foot-4, 320-pound tackle Isaiah Helms (three Division I offers) and middle linebacker Will Gause (116 tackles, 4.5 sacks last year).