3 Bold Predictions
▪ Charlotte Catholic will repeat as state champion: It’s time to tell the truth, North Carolina. Catholic is right up there with Wake Forest and Mallard Creek as an in-state power program. The Cougars have been to three state finals in the past four years and won two. By Christmas, it’ll be three rings in five years.
▪ Charlotte Catholic at Charlotte Christian will be one of the state’s best matchups all year: The teams, both reigning state champions, kick off the season Friday facing each other. It doesn’t get much better than that.
▪ Providence Day will get a rematch with Charlotte Christian in the Division I state finals: Both teams are stocked with college recruits and returning starters. They appear headed for two games - a conference championship meeting at Charlotte Christian Oct. 26 and the state final two weeks later.
JT Killen, Charlotte Christian, LB, 6-3, 230, Sr.: Has five Division I offers and interest from Stanford and South Carolina. One of eight starters back from a one-loss state champion. Killen had 134 tackles last season.
Malik McGowan, Charlotte Catholic, OL, 6-4, 325, Jr.: You could pick about a dozen Cougars to go here, but McGowan, a major college prospect, is one of the region’s best and leads a team that makes its living by running the ball. The Cougars will run behind this guy. A lot.
Triston Miller, Charlotte Country Day, OL, 6-6, 270, Sr: N.C. State recruit is the top-ranked lineman in North Carolina, according to Rivals.com
Porter Rooks, Jacolbe Cowan, Providence Day: Rooks is a 6-1, 185-pound receiver/defensive back who is the No. 1 recruit in the state for 2020 by Rivals and a top 40 national recruit. Cowan, a 6-6, 270-pound junior defensive lineman, is No. 4 in the state and No. 125 nationally.
Charlotte Catholic at Charlotte Christian, Aug. 17: See above.
Charlotte Country Day Day at Charlotte Catholic, Aug. 31: The battle for the John Cook Cup is one of the state’s best rivalries.
Charlotte Latin at Providence Day, Sept. 28: These two figure to give Charlotte Christian its biggest challenge in the Big South conference race. Neither can afford a loss here with the big Christian dates to come later.
Mecklenburg County private school capsules
Coach: Mike Brodowicz (5th year, 58-4).
2017 record: 16-0 (7-0 to win the Southern Carolinas’ conference).
2018 Conference: SCC/3A.
Returning starters: 15 (7 offense, 8 defense).
Returning letterman: 21
Key returning starters: Ari Rodriguez, Sr., NT (6-0, 285); Brian Jacobs, Sr., SS (5-9, 160); Kevin Coss, Sr., DE (6-2, 240); Billy Hambrook, Sr., OL (6-3, 270); Malik McGowan, Jr., OL (6-4, 325); Luke Gagnon, Sr., OL (6-4, 250); Michael Neel, Sr., RB (5-10, 175); Lameagea McDowell, Jr., RB (6-1, 220); Garrett McKernan, Jr., TE/WR (6-3, 200); Billy Brewer, Jr., LB (5-10, 200); Ty Foley, Jr., LB (6-0, 190).
Key newcomers: Nick King, Sr., DE (6-2, 260) (Providence transfer); Paul Neel, So., RB (5-11, 165).
Outlook: The Cougars are loaded, with 15 starters returning from the unbeaten 3A state champions. As usual, Catholic will run the ball, led by Michael Neel (800 yards rushing, 500 yards receiving in 2017), Lameagea McDowell (1,000-plus yards, 18 touchdowns rushing) and an experienced offensive line featuring two Division I prospects in Billy Hambrook and Malik McGowan. The Cougars’ defense returns eight starters, including linemen Ari Rodriguez and Kevin Coss.
Coach: Jason Estep (12th year, 98-31 overall).
2017 record: 10-1 (3-0 in the CISAA conference).
2018 conference: CISAA conference; NCISAA 4A).
Returning starters: 12
Returning letterman: 35
Key returning starters: Garrett Shrader, Sr., QB (6-5, 200); Ricky Kofoed, Sr., TE (6-4, 220); Josh Eboboko, Sr., Athlete (6-0, 185); J.T. Killen, Sr., LB (6-3, 230); Jeremiah Gray, Sr., DB (6-2, 210); Obi Egbuna, Sr., DB (6-0, 180); Ben Williams, Sr., RB/DB (5-11, 185); Sam Henderson, Sr., OL (6-6, 275).
Key newcomers: N/A
Outlook: The Knights are 20-3 in the past two years with a state runner-up finish in 2016 and a state championship in 2017. Charlotte Christian returns 12 starters from a 10-1 team (2017), led by Mississippi State commit Garrett Shrader (2,302 yards passing, 24 touchdowns last year). But the Knights’ defense will be their strength in 2018 with eight starters back – led by seniors J.T. Killen (134 tackles last year), Obi Egbuna (seven interceptions, two fumble recoveries last year) and Jeremiah Gray (Wake Forest commit) – on a unit that allowed just 15 points per game last year.
CHARLOTTE COUNTRY DAY
Coach: Drew Witman (4th year at Charlotte Country Day head coach, 14-20).
2017 record: 7-6 (0-3 in the CISAA).
2018 conference: CISAA/NCISAA 4A.
Returning starters: 15
Returning letterman: 20
Key returning starters: Triston Miller, Sr., OL/DL (6-6, 270); Rylan McLaurin, Sr., WR/DB (5-7, 165); Stephen Payne, Jr., WR/DB (5-8, 165); Twan Flip, Jr., WR/DB (5-6, 145); Tim Newman, Jr., RB (5-9, 180); Jack Stajos, Jr., OL/DL (6-4, 235).
Key returnees: John Calhoun, Sr., QB (6-3, 185); David Lange, Sr., OL/DL (6-2, 245); Julian Swann, Jr., OL/DL (6-0, 250); Andrew Wilks, Jr., TE/DL (6-0, 180); Johnathon Hicks, OL/DL (6-3, 265).
Outlook: After three straight losing seasons, Country Day went 7-6 in 2017 and reached the NCISAA, Division II state championship game before losing 33-0 to arch rival Charlotte Latin. This year, 15 starters return, including all-state receiver Ryan McLaurin (nine total touchdowns last year), tailback Tim Newman (887 yards rushing last year) and defensive back/receiver Twan Flip, Jr.
Coach: Justin Hardin (1st year as Charlotte Latin).
2017 record: 9-4 (2-1 in the CISAA; NCISAA 4A).
2018 conference: CISAA/NCISAA Division II.
Returning starters: 14 (5 offense; 9 defense).
Returning letterman: 20.
Key returning starters: Ryan Brouse, Sr., MLB/HB (6-1, 220); Kevens Grammont, Sr., DE/OT (6-2, 225); Kemp Norris, Sr. DT/OG (6-2, 270); Joe Parish, Sr., DE/OT (6-2, 195); Alexander Donald, Sr., SS/WR (6-0, 180); Andrew Sumichrast, Jr., WR/DB (6-2, 180); Randy (R.J.) Johnson, Jr., WR/DB (5-11, 160).
Key newcomers: Elijah Horton, So., FS/WR (5-10, 170); Kambridge Tuttle, So., WR (5-11, 155); Carter Stockwell, Jr., RB/WR (5-10, 195); Charles Watson, Jr., QB (5-10, 170).
Outlook: Larry McNulty retired after 33 years. He won the state final in his final game. Hardin has been defensive coordinator, grooming for the job. He returns 14 starters, including all-state linebacker Ryan Brouse and eight others on defense. The Hawks must replace a lot on offense but should stay in games with defense until the offense catches up.
Head Coach: Chris James (1st year as a varsity program; 3rd year as head coach, 10-6 with middle school/J.V. team).
2017 Record: **4-3 as a J.V. Team.
2018 Conference: Independent/CISAA 4A.
Returning Starters: 1st year as a varsity program.
Returning Letterman: 1st year as a varsity program.
Key Returning Starters (from J.V. team): Edwin Barnes, Jr., WR/DB (6-1, 185); Nicko Henderson, Jr., WR/DB (6-2, 200); Ben Watson, Jr., TE/LB (5-10, 180); Jackson Bertelsen, Sr., WR/DB (6-5, 185); Robert Stone, Jr., QB (6-0, 160); Nich Prevette, Sr., LB/RB (6-0, 160); David Billiard, Jr., OL/DL (6-2, 235).
Key Newcomers: N/A.
Outlook: Former Charlotte Christian assistant, Chris James (10-year, Charlotte Christian assistant), takes the Lions to the varsity level for the first time in school history. The Lions will likely have to endure the usual growing pains of first-year program, but return most of the J.V. team that went 4-3 last year. Covenant Day opens at High Point Christian, Aug. 17, with their home opener against Cannon School, Sept. 7. There are no expectations in year one as a varsity team, but Coach James look to get his team going in the right direction and any wins would be a major building block for the future.
Coach: Mike Pondo (5th year, 13-30).
2017 record: 5-6 (3-1 in the NCISAA Western conference).
2018 conference: NCISAA Western conference/NCISAA 3A.
Returning starters: 8 (5 offense; 3 defense).
Returning letterman: 21
Key returning starters: Barja Walter, Sr., CB/KR (5-11, 170); Austin Riviere, Sr., DE (6-2, 210); Chase O’Dell, Sr., WR/CB (5-10, 150); Kirkland Williams, Jr., RB/WR (5-11, 165); John Goforth, Sr., OL/LB (6-0, 180).
Key newcomers: Travis Snell, So., S/RB (5-9, 175); Jake Jue de Vine, So., OL/DL (6-0, 245); Jordan Rowell, So., DB (5-8, 150); Trey Matthews, So., LB (5-11, 200); Jordan Little, So., WR/S (6-3, 160).
Outlook: Hickory Grove went from 1-9 in 2016 to 5-6 in 2017. Returning this year is Barja Walker, who runs a 4.4-second 40 and averaged 39.5 yards per kick return. Joining him are Kirkland Williams (9.5 per carry last year) and Austin Riviere (three sacks, eight tackles for loss last year).
Coach: Greg Tally (11-19, third year).
2017 record: 3-8 (1-4 in the NCISAA Western conference).
2018 Conference: NCISAA Western conference/NCISAA 2A.
Returning starters: 9
Returning letterman: 18
Key returning starters: Elijah Johnson, Jr., QB/CB (5-10, 175); Blake Ferguson, Sr., MLB/TE (6-0, 225); Christian McMoore, Sr., OL (5-9, 250); Malachi Rennix, Sr., RB/WR/CB (5-9, 165); Kareem Stinson, Sr., DE/LB/TE (6-4, 259); Kardari Underwood, Sr., DB/WR (5-10, 170); Caleb McDowell, Sr., RB/ATH (5-10, 177); Chase McCullough, Sr., DE/LB (6-1, 230).
Key newcomers: N/A.
Outlook: Northside Christian went 6-5 in its second year as a varsity program in 2016, before slipping to 3-8 a year ago in its first year in the NCISAA Western conference. This year, the Knights have the experience with nine starters and 12 seniors returning to get back above .500.
Coach: Adam Hastings (53-40 overall, fourth year at PDS)
2017 record: 9-3 (3-1 CISAA conference)/NCISAA Division I state runner-up.
2018 conference: CISAA conference/NCISAA 4A.
Returning starters: 12 (7 offense; 5 defense).
Returning letterman: 25
Key returning starters: Nickel Fields, So., RB/DB (5-10, 185); Porter Rooks, Jr., WR/DB (6-1, 185); Jacolbe Cowan, Jr., DE/TE (6-6, 270); Osita Ekwonu, Jr., LB/RB (6-2, 220) (Notre Dame commit); Hudson Reynolds, Sr., OL/DL (6-2, 255); Cody Carter, Jr., QB (6-1, 185); Ikem Ekwonu, Sr., OL/DL (6-5, 290); Carter Dowling, Sr., WR/DB (6-1, 200); Tucker Dannon, Sr., OL/DL (6-2, 240).
Key newcomers: N/A.
Outlook: Providence Day made a big jump last year from 3-7 in 2016 to 9-3 in 2017, losing in the NCISAA, Division I state title game to Charlotte Christian. Twelve starters return, including All-Americans Porter Rooks (WR) and Jacolbe Cowan (DL) plus Notre Dame recruit Osita Ekownu and N.C. State recruit Ikem Ekwonu.
Coach: Michael Causey (4th year).
2017 record: 6-6 (1-4 in the NCISAA, PAC 6 conference).
2018 conference: NCISAA PAC 6 conference/NCISAA 3A.
Returning starters: 8
Returning letterman: 20
Key returning starters: Zach O’Bryan, Sr., DE/WR (6-2, 180); Luke Brinkley, Sr., LB/RB (6-0, 175); Beau Bullerdick, Jr., RB/QB/RB (5-10, 170); Luca Lutzel, Jr., DB/WR (6-0, 170); Donovan Lewis, Sr., WR/LB (6-2, 185).
Key newcomers: Cole Carmeli, Sr., WR/DB (6-1, 175) (Statesville Christian transfer).
Outlook: After a 3-6 regular season record, SouthLake Christian won three straight postseason games to claim the Division III state championship. To repeat, Causey will lean on seniors Zach O’Bryan, Luke Brinkley (125 tackles last year), Donovan Lewis and juniors Beau Bullerdick and Luca Lutzel.
Coach: Shaun Gaines (2nd year as Victory Christian head coach).
2017 record: 0-10 (0-4 in the NCISAA Western Conference).
2018 conference: NCISAA Western Conference/NCISAA 1A.
Returning starters: 5
Returning letterman: 5
Key returning starters: Caleb Coleman, So., WR (6-0, 165); Tyreke Thompson, So., QB/FS (6-2, 165); Matthew Spencer, Jr., DE/WR (6-2, 205); Matthew Cain, Jr., C (6-1, 210); Travion Smith, Sr., WR (5-10, 170).
Key newcomers: N/A.
Outlook: Victory Christian has two wins in the past three seasons. This year, only five starters return, including a pair of sophomores: quarterback Tyreke Thompson and wide receiver Caleb Coleman.