High School Sports

Prep Football Preview: Cleveland County

Preseason all-county team

Offense

QB – Isaiah Bess, Shelby, 6-4, 205, Sr.

RB – Kujuan Pryor, Burns, 5-7, 155, Sr.

RB – Donye Fuller, Shelby, 5-10, 170, Sr.

WR – Kobe Paysour, Kings Mountain, 6-1, 180, Jr.

WR – Jahari Mitchell, Shelby, 5-10, 175, Sr.

WR – Diavonni Daley, Shelby, 5-10, 175, Sr.

OL – Blake Davis, Kings Mountain, 6-4, 270, Jr.

OL – D.J. Bagwell, Kings Mountain, 6-3, 310, Sr.

OL – Braxton Kale, Crest, 6-1, 225, Sr.

OL – Spencer Tripplett, Shelby, 6-3, 255, Sr.

OL – Thomas Hougas, Shelby, 6-3, 265, Sr.

Specialists

ATH – Ricaylen Mack, Kings Mountain, 5-8, 200, Sr.

K/P – Caden Sheely, Shelby, 5-11, 140, Sr.

Defense

DL – Chris Richardson, Crest, 6-2, 275, Sr.

DL – Ethan Mitchell, Shelby, 5-8, 215, Sr.

DL – Deuntae Jackson, Crest, 5-10, 315, Sr.

DL – Javari Rice-Wilson, Kings Mountain, 6-1, 245, Jr.

LB – Jack Hollifield, Shelby, 6-4, 235, Jr.

LB – Nick Stites, Shelby, 6-3, 205, Sr.

LB – Day Day Wilson, Kings Mountain, 6-1, 220, Jr.

DB – Dashaun Christopher, Shelby, 6-0, 175, Sr.

DB – Austin Setzer, Burns, 6-0, 191, Sr.

DB – James Ussery, Kings Mountain, 5-9, 175, Sr.

DB – Nick Cory, Shelby, 5-10, 175, Sr.

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Isaiah Bess, Shelby, QB, Sr.

Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Jack Hollifield, Shelby, LB, Jr.

Preseason Coach of the Year: Mike Wilbanks, Shelby.

School Previews

BURNS

Head Coach: David Devine (4th year as Burns football coach).

2018 Record: 4-8 (2-5 in the Big South conference).

2019 Conference: Big South conference/3A.

Returning Starters: 14 (7 offense; 7 defense).

Returning Letterman: 18

Key Returning Starters: Kujuan Pryor, Sr., RB/DB (5-7, 155); Austin Setzer, Sr., FS (6-0, 191); Xavier Jennings, Sr., OL (6-4, 282); Landon Hoyle, Sr., OL (6-3, 255); Brackston Bivins, Sr., OL/LB (6-0, 215); K.J. Leslie, Sr., WR/DB/OL (6-2, 165); CamRon Sweezy, Jr., QB (6-2, 160); Dorien Starnes, Jr., TE/DE (6-3, 235).

Key Newcomers: Alphonso Goodson, Jr., RB/SS (5-7, 165).

Outlook: Burns has struggled in the last two seasons, going 6-17. But 14 starters return, including senior RB Kujuan Pryor (2,001 yards rushing, 27 touchdowns last year), junior QB CamRon Sweezy and all-Big South safety Austin Setzer (142 tackles, five sacks). Burns also has strong lines returning on both sides of the ball led by seniors Braxton Bivins, and Landon Hoyle. That combination should give Burns a real chance to rise up the SW2A conference standings and be a dangerous postseason matchup.

CREST

Head Coach: Nick Eddins (3rd year as Crest football coach; 17-9 at Crest; 88-24 overall).

2018 Record: 9-4 (5-2 in the Big South conference)

2019 Conference: Big South 3A conference/3A.

Returning Starters: 5 (3 offense; 2 defense).

Returning Letterman: 11

Key Returning Starters/Players: Chris Richardson, Sr., DL (6-2, 275); Deuntae Jackson, Sr., DL (5-10, 315); Braxton Kale, Sr., OL (6-1, 225); Jalin Graham, Sr., RB (6-1, 185); Mike Greene, Sr., WR (5-10, 165); Caleb Reavis, Sr., LB (6-0, 220); Keyez Jefferies, Sr., WR/DB.

Key Returning Players/Newcomers: Delone Willis, Sr., DB (6-1, 170); Dylan Kale, Jr., Ol (6-6, 325); Caleb Borders, Jr., WR/DB (5-9, 160); Eli Hall, So., DE (6-5, 245); Colin Surratt, Jr., OL (6-0, 275); T.J. Ruff, Jr., QB/DB (5-10, 175); D.J. Fuller, So., QB/DB (5-10, 165).

Outlook: After going 32-0 with two 3A state titles in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Crest has averaged nine wins per season in the last three years. In 2019, with only five starters and 11 lettermen returning, the Chargers will have to introduce new talent to compete in the tough Big South conference. Crest will need seniors playmakers like DL Chris Richardson (67 tackles, seven sacks last year), RB Jalin Graham (522 yards rushing) and WR Mike Greene (five touchdowns last year) to have big years.

KINGS MOUNTAIN

Head Coach: Greg Lloyd (13th year as Kings Mountain head coach; 90-63 at Kings Mountain; 106-72 overall)

2018 Record: 12-3 (7-1 in the Big South conference)

2019 Conference: Big South conference/3A.

Returning Starters: 15

Returning Letterman: 28

Key Returning Starters: Kobe Paysour, Jr., WR (6-1, 180); Day Day Wilson, Jr., LB (6-1, 220); Zach Crawford, Sr., DE (6-1, 240); Xavier Brown, Sr., OL (5-11, 250); D.J. Bagwell, Sr., OL (6-3, 310); James Ussery, Sr., DB/RB (5-9, 175); Ricaylan Mack, Sr., RB (5-8, 200).

Key Newcomers: Ethan Reid, Jr., QB (6-4, 210); Ty Ledbetter, Jr., DB (6-1, 220); Titus Phillips, Jr., WR/DB (6-0, 170).

Outlook: Kings Mountain returns 15 starters from a Mountaineer team that went 12-3 and made it to the 3A state semifinals. The offense will have a new quarterback, but will remain a potent unit (40 points per game last year) with all-state junior WR Kobe Paysour (79 catches for 1,750 yards and 27 touchdowns last year) and senior RB Ricaylan Mack (1,081 yards, 11 touchdowns) back. With strong lines on ball sides of the ball – with senior 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 win the Big South conference and be a legit 3A state contender, again, in 2019.

SHELBY

Head Coach: Mike Wilbanks (1st year as Shelby head football coach; 13 years as Shelby assistant)

2018 Record: 13-3 (5-0 in the Southwestern 2A conference (SW2A)).

2019 Conference: SW2A conference/2AA.

Returning Starters: 13 (7 offense; 6 defense).

Returning Letterman: 35

Key Returning Starters: Isaiah Bess, Sr., QB (6-4, 205); Donye Fuller, Sr., RB (5-10, 170); Diavonni Daley, Sr., WR (5-10, 175); Jahari Mitchell, Sr., WR (5-10, 175); Spencer Triplett, Sr., OL (6-3, 255); Thomas Hougas, Sr., OL (6-3, 265); Jaylon Kimble, Sr., OL (6-1, 215); Jack Hollifield, Jr., LB (6-4, 235); Nick Stites, Sr., LB (6-3, 205); Dashaun Christopher, Sr., DB (6-0, 175); Nick Cory, Sr., DB (5-10, 175); Ethan Mitchell, Sr., DL (5-8, 215); Caden Sheely, Sr., K (5-11, 140).

Other Key Returnees: Kamarde Huskey, Jr., WR (5-8, 160); Santanna Hopper, So., DT (6-2, 240); Jimmy Whisnant, Jr., DE (6-2, 200); Maliki Hamrick, So., DE (6-3, 200).

Outlook: Shelby has averaged 14-wins per season over the last six years with five state championships. First-year head coach Mike Wilbanks, takes over a defending 2AA state championship squad loaded with talent. Shelby has a senior-laden team with QB Isaiah Bess (4,012 yards passing, 40 touchdowns last year), RB Donye Fuller (1,079 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns), WR’s Diavonni Daley (54 catches, 12 touchdowns) and Jahari Mitchell (62 catches, nine touchdowns) all returning. The Shelby defense should also be stout with junior LB Jack Hollifield (137 tackles), senior LB Nick Stites (146 tackles) and senior DB Dashaun Christopher returning for a unit that allowed 16 points per game last season. Shelby has all the pieces to make a run at their sixth state championships in the last seven years.

Cleveland County Conference Predictions

Big South Conference

  1. Kings Mountain; 2. Hunter Huss; 3. Crest; 4. Ashbrook; 5. Stuart Cramer; 6. Forestview; 7. North Gaston.

Southwestern 2A (SW2A) Conference

1. Shelby; 2. South Point; 3. Burns; 4. East Rutherford; 5. R.S. Central; 6. Chase; 7. East Gaston.

--JAY EDWARDS

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