High School Sports

The way-too-early Charlotte Observer Sweet 16 high school football poll

Charlotte Catholic wins 3A Championship 17-14

The Charlotte Catholic Cougars defeat the Jacksonville Cardinals to win the 3A Championship at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC on Saturday, December 15, 2018. The Cougars won 17-14.
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The Charlotte Catholic Cougars defeat the Jacksonville Cardinals to win the 3A Championship at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC on Saturday, December 15, 2018. The Cougars won 17-14.

When you reach the state semifinals and return your star quarterback, your star wide receiver and a major college recruit on defense, expectations are going to be high.

But Myers Park has much more than just that.

In the offseason, top 100 national recruit Porter Rooks transferred from Providence Day, joining Muhsin Muhammad III to form the state’s top receiving duo. Throwing the ball to them is one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, junior Drake Maye.

This group has massive potential, and several months before the high school season starts, this (potentially) scoreboard-cracking team feels right at No. 1 in the annual “Way Too Early” Sweet 16 prep football poll.

No. 1 Myers Park (4A, 13-2 last season) – Myers Park is 36-6 in the past three seasons. This year’s offense will be powered by three major college recruits — Maye (3,201 yards passing, 36 touchdowns last year) and senior receivers Muhammad (58 catches, 1,003 yards, eight TDs) and Rooks (58 catches, 11 TDs). Senior safety Cameron Roseman-Sinclair (North Carolina commit) headlines a Mustangs defense that allowed just 10 points per contest a year ago.

No. 2 Mallard Creek (4A, 10-1) – When a one-loss season is a major disappointment, you know just how good your program has become. The Mavericks, who have averaged 13 wins per season over the last decade, have plenty of motivation going into 2019 after Hough ended their season in the second round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs. All-state senior LB Trent Simpson, DE Quentin Williams and DB Jaidyn Davis will lead a unit that allowed just nine points per game last season. Butler transfer Quasean Holmes, an all-Southwestern 4A running back/receiver, will spice up the offense.

No. 3 Charlotte Catholic (3A, 15-1) – Catholic is 73-5 in the past five years with three state titles. With 11 starters back from a 15-1 state champ, the Cougars have the weapons to three-peat. Senior RB Lamagea McDowell (1,267 yards, 17 TDs), junior RB Paul Neel (727 yards, 11 TDs) will run behind a strong offensive line led by 6-foot-4, 340-pound tackle Malik McGowan (UNC commit). On defense, linebackers Liam Barbee (123 tackles), Billy Brewer, Ty Foley and Jacob Schachte will anchor the team.

No. 4 Richmond Senior (4A, 11-2) – The Raiders were dominant last season before a humbling 37-14 third-round playoff loss to Myers Park at home. With that memory as motivation, the Raiders return 13 starters and 32 lettermen. Junior QB Caleb Hood (1,956 yards passing, 21 TDs last year), senior RB Jaheim Covington (1,174 yards rushing) lead an offense that averaged 37 points. Richmond will reload on offense and defense but has the experience and talent to be a serious 4AA state contender.

No. 5 Weddington (3A, 15-1) – Weddington coach Andy Capone won a state title in his first season. He returns 13 starters, led by All-American RB Will Shipley (1,417 yards rushing, 19 TDs), a strong defense featuring linebackers Alec Mock and Trey Alsbrooks and major special teams players in kicker/punter, Ian Williams (19 field goals, 41 yards per punt). Weddington has all the pieces to battle Charlotte Catholic for a Southern Carolina Conference title and repeat as 3AA state champs.

No. 6 Butler (4A, 9-3) – Butler has averaged 11 wins in coach Brian Hales’ eight-year tenure. This season, the Bulldogs return three all-conference linemen in Anthony Carter (6-foot-5, 305 pounds), Leo Arredondo (6-1, 270), and Tre Richburg (6-2, 285). RB Jamal Worthy (915 yards rushing, 15 TDs last year) runs behind them. Butler also returns an experienced defensive unit. State title contender? You bet.

No. 7 Vance (4A, 14-2) – The 4AA state finalist lost head coach Aaron Brand to South Carolina’s Irmo High School, but returns five major college recruits on defense, led by all-state defensive player of the year Power Echols (15-plus, major Division I offers, 160 tackles, nine sacks last year), senior LB Stefon Thompson (118 tackles, 10 sacks), senior DB Stephen Sings (12.5 sacks), and senior DBs Jaylen Gullate (51 tackles, three interceptions) and Marqui Lowery (46 tackles, two interceptions). Junior RB Joseph Morris (1,341 yards) is back on offense.

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No. 8 Charlotte Christian (Ind., 11-0) – The NCISAA 3A state champions return 11 starters, and after going 31-3 the past three seasons, the Knights are a little young. Playmakers like multipurpose star J.B. Awolowo, WR Logan Jones and RB Henry Rutledge return with an experienced offensive line. The defensive line is also strong with Hudson Jones, Grayson Cadd and Philip Slaughter back.

No. 9 Shelby (2A, 13-3) – Shelby has averaged 14 win per season over the past six years with five state championships. First-year coach and longtime assistant Mike Wilbanks has a loaded team, led by QB Isaiah Bess (4,012 yards passing, 40 TDs), RB Donye Fuller (1,012 yards rushing, 15 TDs), WRs Diavonni Daley (54 catches, 12 TDs) and Jahari Mitchell (62 catches, nine TDs) The Shelby defense — led by junior LB Jack Hollifield (137 tackles), senior LB Nick Stites (145 tackles) and senior DB Dashaun Christopher — also will be stout.

No. 10 Rock Hill South Pointe (4A, 10-2) - Former South Pointe and South Carolina Gamecocks standout DeVonte Holloman is the new coach. South Pointe is 56-5 the last five years with four S.C. AAAA state championships. This year, South Pointe has plenty of talent with senior QB Tahleek Steele (2,470 yards passing, 33 TDslast year) back to lead the offense, while senior in Rontarious Aldridge (50 tackles), Omega Blake (four interceptions) and Troy Frazier (61 tackles) headline an experienced defensive group.

No. 11 Northwest Cabarrus (3A, 13-1) - After winning 12 games in four years, Northwest Cabarrus lost just one last season. This year, 15 starters return, including the South Piedmont Player of the Year, RB Tyrese Blake (2,500 yards rushing, 36 TDs), and QB Nick Wilds-Lawing (1,715 yards passing). Northwest, which has a veteran offensive line, also has key players back on defense, including senior DE Karsen Perkins (13 sacks).

No. 12 Hough (4A, 11-3) – Hough has a lot to replace, but it returns junior RB Evan Pryor (912 yards rushing, 10 TDs last year) and senior WR Antonio Barber on offense. Senior middle linebacker Storm Monroe (94 tackles) returns to lead the defense. Hough has averaged 10 wins annually over the past six years. Expect that to continue in 2019.

No. 13 Kings Mountain (3A, 12-3) – Kings Mountain returns 15 starters from a 3A state semifinalist. The offense will have a new quarterback but returns all-state junior WR Kobe Paysour (79 catches, 1,750 yards and 27 TDs) and senior RB Ricaylan Mack (1,081 yards, 11 TDs). With strong lines on both sides of the ball – including seniors, D.J. Bagwell and Xavier Brown on offense, and Zach Crawford and Day Day Wilson (LB) on defense — the Mountaineers have all the pieces to be a legit contender.

No. 14 – Belmont South Point (3A, 9-4) – South Point has averaged 11 wins per season in the past eight years. This year, 12 starters return, led by a veteran offensive line with seniors Collin Owenby and Peyton Chaney and fullback Naseem Jones (1589 yards rushing, 24 TDs) running behind them. Senior WR Ray Rose (UNC commit, 27 catches, seven touchdowns last year) is also back. Defensively, LB Omar Hunt (71 tackles) and DB Devon King (69 tackles) return.

No. 15 – Gastonia Hunter Huss (3A, 13-1) – The Huskies were perfect for the first 13 games of the season, including a Big South conference title, before losing to Charlotte Catholic in the third round of the N.C. 3A playoffs. This year, senior QB Zo Wallace (2,425 yards passing), junior RB Malik Corry (1,167 yards rushing) and junior WR/DB/ATH Dontavious Nash return.

No. 16 – Statesville (3A, 9-4) – The Greyhounds have won at least nine games in four of the past five seasons. This year, Statesville returns 15 starters headlined by junior QB Nabayne Moore (1,971 yards passing, 19 TDs) and junior RB Chavion Smith (908 yards rushing, 17 TDs) with 6-4, 305-pound Appalachian State recruit Seth Williams paving the way.

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