High School Sports

Prep Football Preview: Mecklenburg County schools

New coach, same goal: Vance High football hunting state title

Despite losing star coach Aaron Brand to South Carolina, Vance High returns 13 starters all bent on returning to the NCHSAA 4AA state finals. Vance lost 9-7 to Wake Forest last December in its first appearance. In 2019, it desperately wants another.
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Despite losing star coach Aaron Brand to South Carolina, Vance High returns 13 starters all bent on returning to the NCHSAA 4AA state finals. Vance lost 9-7 to Wake Forest last December in its first appearance. In 2019, it desperately wants another.

Preseason All-Mecklenburg County

Offense

QB – Drake Maye, Myers Park, 6-5, 210, Jr.

RB – Lamagea McDowell, Charlotte Catholic, 6-2, 220, Sr.

RB – Evan Pryor, Hough, 5-10, 190, Jr.

WR – Muhsin Muhammad III, Myers Park, 6-0, 185, Sr.

WR – Cedric Gray, Ardrey Kell, 6-2, 190, Sr.

WR – Porter Rooks, Myers Park, 6-1, 190, Sr.

OL – Anthony Carter, Butler, 6-5, 305, Sr.

OL – Malik McGowan, Charlotte Catholic, 6-4, 340, Sr.

OL – Arabee Muslim, Mallard Creek, 6-3, 295, Sr.

OL – Chance Carroll, Hough, 6-4, 290, Sr.

OL – Barutti Mazangu, Harding, 6-1, 330, Sr.

Specialists

ATH –Da’Qon Stewart, North Mecklenburg, 6-2, 197, Sr.

SPEC – Quasean Holmes, Mallard Creek, 5-11, 200, Sr.

K/P – Eddie Czaplicki, Providence, 6-1, 185, Jr.

Defense

DL – Stephen Sings, Vance, 6-5, 230, Sr.

DL – Quentin Williams, Mallard Creek, 6-5, 240, Sr.

DL – J.T. Whitmore, Mallard Creek, 6-3, 230, Sr.

DL – Marquise Fleming, Olympic, 6-1, 225, Sr.

DL – Tyson Clawson, Independence, 6-1, 215, Jr.

LB – Power Echols, Vance, 6-3, 210, Jr.

LB – Stefon Thompson, Vance, 6-3, 230, Sr.

LB – Trenton Simpson, Mallard Creek, 6-3, 225, Sr.

LB – Storm Monroe, Hough, 5-10, 215, Sr.

DB – Cameron Roseman-Sinclair, Myers Park, 6-0, 205, Sr.

DB – Marqui Lowery, Vance, 6-1, 180, Sr.

DB – Maleik Faust, Harding, 6-0, 205, Sr.

DB – Jaidyn Davis, Mallard Creek, 6-3, 195, Sr.

Mecklenburg County Public School’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year: Drake Maye, Myers Park, Jr. QB.

Mecklenburg County Public School’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year: Power Echols, Vance, Jr., LB.

School Previews

ARDREY KELL

Head Coach: Greg Jachym (1st year as Ardrey Kell head coach; former Kell assistant).

2018 Record: 5-7 (5-1 in the SoMeck7 Conference).

2019 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference/4AA.

Returning Starters: 15 (7 offense; 8 defense).

Returning Letterman: 27

Key Returning Starters: Cedric Gray, Sr., WR/LB (6-2, 190); Jared Joseph, Sr., QB (6-2, 205); Nick Actis, Sr., OL (6-5, 270); Malik Mustapha, Sr., DB (5-10, 180); Michael Hetzel, Sr., WR/DB (5-11, 200); Steven Bauer, Jr., LB (5-10, 180); Kaci Seegars, Sr., LB (6-2, 220); Henry Bowen, So., RB (5-10, 170).

Key Newcomers: Jamir Mouten, So., RB/DB (5-8, 150); Zach Howard, Jr., RB (5-9, 170).

Outlook: After a 0-5 start against a brutal schedule, the Knights won five of their last seven games to win the SoMeck7 conference title in 2018. This year, with 15 starters back led by senior WR/LB Cedric Gray (55 catches, 11 touchdowns, 60 tackles, UNC signee), senior QB Jared Joseph (853 yards, 10 touchdown passes), the Knights will have plenty of firepower to carry their momentum in 2019. A more experienced defense led by LBs Steven Bauer (114 tackles) and Gray should help the Knights challenge for another league title and be an dangerous playoff matchup.

BERRY

Head Coach: Andrew Howard (10th year as Berry head coach overall; 2nd year in 2nd stint in the job).

2018 Record: 0-11 (0-6 in the SoMeck7 conference).

2019 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference/4A.

Returning Starters: 16

Returning Letterman: 21

Key Returning Starters: Jaden Wallace, Sr., QB (5-10, 205); Renaldo McKinney, Sr., WR (5-10, 175); Nathan Strothers, Sr., WR (5-9, 170); Lucas Eklou, Sr., RB (5-10, 155); Adreyan Kirkpatrick, Jr., WR (6-0, 170); Michael Dulin, Jr., DB (6-1, 185); Brendan McMoore, So., LB (5-11, 215); Jaylen McGill, Sr., DE (6-0, 190); Desmond Mack, Jr., RB/LB (5-10, 200); Hakim Roberts, Jr., DL (6-0, 225); Joshua Gray, Jr., OL/DL (5-11, 230); Joshua Rosario, Sr., OL/DL (5-11, 240); Tyree Copeland, Jr., OL (6-0, 200); Quincy Evans, Sr., OL (6-4, 275).

Other Key Returnees: Tajaye Dargins, Sr., DL (5-9, 210).

Key Newcomers: Jaden Lockhart, Jr., WR (6-0, 170); Jordan Carmichael, Jr., DB (6-0, 175); Johnathan Johnson, Jr., DE (6-2, 180); Shareef McLeod, So., TE/DL (6-3, 215); Tyler Linder, Jr., C (5-10, 230); Vincent Goods, Jr., DE (6-1, 210); Kennedy Jones, Sr., OL (6-3, 260); Kashaun Robinson, Jr., OL/DL (6-1, 275).

Outlook: Berry has gone 2-31 in the last three years, including a 0-11 campaign last season. But with Howard returning 16 starters, there are reasons to believe the Cardinals can get back in the win column with senior QB Jaden Wallace and WR Renaldo McKinney leading the way.

BUTLER

Head Coach: Brian Hales (9th year as Butler head football coach; 16th year at Butler overall; 86-20 at Butler).

2018 Record: 9-3 (7-0 in the Southwestern 4A (SW4A))>

2019 Conference: SW4A Conference/4AA.

Returning Starters: 11

Returning Letterman: 17

Key Returning Starters: Anthony Carter, Sr., OT/DT (6-5, 305); Tre Richburg, Sr., OL/DL (6-2, 285); Jamal Worthy, Sr., RB (6-1, 215); Jacalyn Morrison, Sr., DB (5-10, 170); John Park, Sr., LB/DL (6-1, 240); Darius Law, Sr., LB (5-10, 190); Donovan Law, Sr., DB (5-9, 175); Leo Arredondo, Jr., OL/DL (6-1, 270); Bryce Dixon, So., OL/DL (6-3, 290).

Key Newcomers: Bo Huff, Jr., TE/DE (6-2, 215); Tyrien Moore, So., ATH (5-10, 170); Blake Moore, Jr., LB (5-10, 195); Parish Metzger, Jr., QB (5-11, 185).

Outlook: Butler has averaged 11 wins per season in Hales’ eight-year tenure. This season, the Bulldogs will look to what should be a dominant offensive line with three all-SW4A performers in Anthony Carter, Leo Arredondo and Tre Richburg to pave the way for RB Jamal Worthy (915 yards rushing, 15 touchdowns last year). Butler also returns an experienced defense. The Bulldogs have been the class of the SW4A for nearly a decade, and hope to prove they can be a 4A state contender again.

CAROLINA BEARCATS (FORMERLY CAROLINA PRIDE)

Head Coach: Jim Mallos (2nd year).

2018 Record: 4-6

2019 Conference: Independent.

Returning Starters: 7

Returning Letterman: 17

Key Returning Starters: Wanyae Freeman, Sr., QB (6-0, 185); Tyreese Wilkes, Sr., WR (6-3, 220); Zae Miller Hunt, Sr., RB (6-0, 175); Brandon Fleming, Sr., LB/RB (6-1, 180); Maxwell Bland, Sr., DT/OT (6-4, 320).

Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: The Bearcats (formerly Carolina Pride) had a respectable 4-6 record last year, and are 11-10 over the past two years. This year, they return seven starters led by senior QB Wanyae Freeman (1,600 total yards, 20 touchdowns last year). If the Bearcats can keep their numbers up and improve quickly on defense, they have a chance to finish near .500 again in 2019.

CHARLOTTE CATHOLIC

Head Coach: Mike Brodowicz (6th year; 73-5).

2018 Record: 15-1 (7-0 in the Southern Carolinas’ Conference (SCC).

2019 Conference: SCC/3A.

Returning Starters: 11 (7 offense; 4 defense).

Returning Letterman: 21

Key Returning Starters: Lamagea McDowell, Sr., RB (6-2, 230); Paul Neel, Jr., RB (5-10, 177); Malik McGowan, Sr., OT (6-4, 340); Davis Hodgens, Sr., C (5-8, 230); Garrett McKernan, Sr., WR/TE (6-3, 200); Liam Barbee, Jr., MLB (6-1, 215); Jacob Schachte, Sr., LB (5-10, 190); Ty Foley, Sr., LB (5-11, 190); Billy Brewer, Sr., LB (5-10, 201).

Key Newcomers: Connor Doughtery, Jr., DE (6-3, 215); Jack Smith, Sr., QB (6-2, 180); Adam Franek, Jr., QB (5-11, 165).

Outlook: Charlotte Catholic has been one of the most dominant teams in the state, on any level, going 73-5 in the last five years with three state titles (2015, 2017, 2018). With 11 starters back from a state title team the Cougars have a look of another championship run. Again, Catholic will depend on its vaunted running game with senior RB Lamagea McDowell (1,267 yards, 17 touchdowns last year), junior RB Paul Neel (727 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns) and a strong offensive line led by the mammoth, 6-foot-4, 340-pound tackle Malik McDowell (UNC commit). Catholic will have to reload their defensive line, but have plenty of talent in linebackers Liam Barbee (123 tackles), Billy Brewer, Ty Foley and Jacob Schachte.

CHRIST THE KING

Head Coach: Daniel Rhodes (1st year as school head coach; former school assistant; 2-19 overall).

2018 Record: 1-9 (Independent).

2019 Conference: South Piedmont 1A Conference (SPC 1A).

Returning Starters: 10

Returning Letterman: 14

Key Returning Starters: Tommy McNamee, Sr., QB/DB (5-10, 170); Jose Hernandez, Sr., RB/LB/DB (5-10, 185); Josh Angell, Jr., WR/DB/QB (5-10, 150); Noah Angell, Jr., OL/DL (6-0, 230); Matthew Zaggar, Jr., DL/LB (5-11, 205); Nathan Piroli, So., LB/DL/TE (6-1, 205); Brady Ryan, So., DB/LB/OL (5-10, 160).

Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: The Crusaders have struggled with just three wins combined in their first three years as a program while averaging only 4 points a game in 2018. This year, Rhodes, will look to senior QB Tommy McNamee, to lead the offense.

COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF DAVIDSON

Head Coach: T.J. Albert (8th year).

2018 Record: 7-6 (4-3 in the South Piedmont 1A Conference (SPC 1A)).

2019 Conference: SPC 1A/1AA.

Returning Starters: 8

Returning Letterman: 25

Key Returning Starters: Baker Westmoreland, Sr., LB/OL (6-1, 225); Claude Bragg, Sr., DE 6-4, 215); Jeremy Seymore, Sr., OL (6-2, 275); Devan Baughn, Sr., OL (5-10, 215); Ry McCreary, Jr., WR/DB (5-10, 165); Devan Carbonaro, Sr., DB (5-9, 155).

Key Newcomers: Sean McMahon, Jr., LB; Christian Jarrell, Sr., WR (All-state golfer); Davis Pharr, Jr., QB.

Outlook: Community School of Davidson (CSD) has gone 13-13 over the last two seasons. This year, with only eight starters back, the Spartans will rely on their more experienced defense led by senior LB Baker Westmoreland (123 tackles) and DB Ry McCreary (67 tackles). Meanwhile, the CSD offense will need some younger players like junior QB Davis Pharr to play well.

EAST MECKLENBURG

Head Coach: Robert Forshee (2nd year).

2018 Record: 1-9 (0-7 in the Southwestern 4A (SW4A).

2019 Conference: SW4A/4AA.

Returning Starters: 19

Returning Letterman: 30

Key Returning Starters: Jamir Long, Sr., FS (6-3, 180); Sir Allen Stokes, Sr., LB/DE (6-2, 210); Trey Truitt, Sr., QB/HB/TE/DE/P (6-2, 215); Lawrence Campbell, Sr., LB (5-9, 170); Danny Wlue, Sr., RB/DB (5-8, 180); Marques Fleming, Sr., WR/DB (6-1, 170); Abram Lang, Sr., DE/OL (6-1, 200).

Key Newcomers: Xzayvion Dorn, So., ILB (6-1, 180); Lee Campbell, So., WR/DB (6-0, 180); Mark Stinson, Sr., OL/DL (5-9, 240).

Outlook: East Meck went without a SW4A conference victory last season. But with 19 starters back, Forshee believes the Eagles can be much improved. Senior QB Trey Truitt (1,122 yards passing last year) will lead a unit that averaged 14 points per game last season. The Eagles’ defense is much more experienced with senior LBs Sir Allen Stokes, Lawrence Campbell, and DB Jamir Long.

GARINGER

Head Coach: Jeff Caldwell (3rd year; 4-18).

2018 Record: 3-8 (2-5 in the Southwestern 4A Conference (SW4A)).

2019 Conference: Southwestern 4A Conference/4A.

Returning Starters: 8 (4 offense; 4 defense).

Returning Letterman: 10

Key Returning Starters: Chris Bailey, Sr., TE/LB (6-2, 220); Lashawn Audrey, Sr., DB (5-10, 170); Shawn Hatchett, Sr., RB/LB (5-10, 190); Shareik Rutledge, Sr., DE (6-4, 250); Zay Staten, Jr., WR/DB (5-10, 175); Quenton Smith, Jr., OG/LB (6-0, 210).

Key Newcomers: Rashad McCullum, So., DE/OT (6-4, 260) (Vance transfer).

Outlook: After suffering through 55 straight losses from 2011-17, Caldwell has changed the culture at Garinger both on and off the field. Garinger, 3-8 in 2018, returns eight starters and will need seniors like Chris Bailey, Lashawn Audrey, Shawn Hatchett and Shareik Rutledge to play big roles on both offense and defense if they are going to continue to improve.

HARDING

Head Coach: Van Smith (2nd year; 2-2 at Harding).

2018 Record: 2-9 (2-4 in the SoMeck7 Conference).

2019 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference/4A.

Returning Starters: 10 (5 offense; 5 defense).

Returning Letterman: 25

Key Returning Starters: Maleik Faust, Sr., SS/LB/RB (6-0, 205); Tylon Dunlap, Jr., LB (5-11, 230); Dekerius Thompson, Sr., RB/WR/DB/KR/PR (5-10, 185); Barrutti Mazangu, Sr., OL/DL (6-1, 330); William Castro, Sr., OL (6-1, 305); Kyree Faust, So., S (6-1, 190).

Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: After going 14-1 and winning the 4A state championship in 2017, the Rams started out 0-7 in 2018. However, Smith took over as interim head coach for the last four games and helped Harding gain some momentum. Now, Smith is back with 10 starters. The Rams will look to senior RB/WR/KR/PR Dekerius Thompson and classmate, Maleik Faust (major Division I recruit, run a 4.4, 40-yard dash) to makes plays behind a big offensive line by seniors Barrutti Mazangu (6-1, 330) and William Castro (6-1, 305). The Harding defense should be solid with Tylon Dunlap, Thompson, Faust and Kyree Faust (Maleik’s younger brother) leading the way.

HOPEWELL

Head Coach: Jamelle Byrd (2nd year).

2018 Record: 0-11 (0-7 in the I-Meck 4A conference).

2019 Conference: I-Meck 4A conference/4A.

Returning Starters: 16 (7 offense; 9 defense).

Returning Letterman: 21

Key Returning Starters: Julian Gray, Jr., WR (5-11, 185); Chris Williams, Jr., LB (6-2, 215); Fred Bates, Jr., DB (5-11, 180); Vy’Shonn Lawrence, Sr., DE (6-1, 320); Owen Kenney, Sr., WR (6-2, 175); Major Weathers, So., CB (5-8, 155); Matt Flanders, So., TE (6-3, 220).

Key Newcomers: A.J. Simpkins, Jr., QB (6-3, 200); Jacob Polight, Jr., WR (6-3, 185); D.J. Maultsby, Jr., ATH (6-0, 180); Jadin Baker, Jr., LB/DE (6-4, 205); Da’Jon Hubert, So., CB (5-10, 160).

Outlook: Hopewell has lost 32 straight games, going 2-42 in the last four seasons. While a young Titans’ team took their lumps last year, they also gained valuable experience. This year, Byrd will look to junior QB A.J. Simpkins and WRs Julian Gray and Owen Kenney to make big plays on offense. Meanwhile LB Chris Williams (86 tackles) and DB Fred Bates (70 tackles, two interceptions) are back to lead the defense.

HOUGH

Head Coach: Matthew Jenkins (3rd year; 22-7 at Hough; 54-32 overall).

2018 Record: 11-3 (5-2 in the I-Meck 4A Conference).

2019 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference/4AA.

Returning Starters: 10

Returning Letterman: 27

Key Returning Starters: Evan Pryor, Jr., RB (5-10, 190); Chance Carroll, Sr., OT (6-3, 292); Storm Monroe, Sr., LB (5-10, 215); Kwesi Kyei-Fordjour, Sr., RB (5-10, 205); Curtis Neal, So., NG (6-3, 300); Timmy Artis, Jr., OG (6-3, 305); Mario Love (Jr.), Jr., CB (5-10, 178); Jack Grier, Jr., DE (6-2, 230); Tyrin Taylor, Jr., CB (6-1, 175); Landon Elliott, Sr., LB (6-2, 205).

Other Key Returnees/Key Newcomers: Darius Ocean, Sr., QB (5-11, 190); Antonio Barber, Sr., WR (6-0, 185); Isaac Walker, Jr., OLB (6-2, 220); Devin Chandler, Sr., WR (6-1, 180); Tyler Hoff, Jr., WR (5-10, 180); John Anderson, Jr., DB (6-0, 180).

Outlook: Hough made a major statement when they knocked off No. 1-seed Mallard Creek in the second round of the 4AA state playoffs last year before losing to Vance the following week. The Huskies have a lot to replace but will look to junior RB Evan Pryor (912 yards rushing, 10 touchdowns last year), senior RB Kwesi Kyei-Fordjour (693 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns) and senior WR Antonio Barber to lead the offense. All-state senior middle linebacker Storm Monroe (94 tackles) returns to spearhead a defensive unit that gave up 16 points per contest last year.

INDEPENDENCE

Head Coach: Mike Natoli (3rd year; 8-15).

2018 Record: 5-6 (2-5 in the Southwestern 4A (SW4A)).

2019 Conference: SW4A/4AA.

Returning Starters: 16 (9 offense; 7 defense).

Returning Letterman: 25

Key Returning Starters: Melsy Bonilla, Sr., OL (6-1, 245); Shai Wheeler, Sr., WR/DB (5-9, 160); Tyson Clawson, Jr., DE (6-1, 215); Omar Zazueta, Sr., LB (5-11, 170); Trevor Bryan, Sr., WR (5-10, 165); Malik Kelly, Sr., OL (6-5, 265); Max Moise, Sr., OL (6-1, 260); Elijah Puranda, Jr., DB (5-8, 165).

Key Newcomers: Davion Nelson, Jr., RB (5-10, 220); Arnold Taylor, Jr., QB (6-1, 220); Omarion Bodrick, Jr., WR (6-5, 190).

Outlook: Independence has struggled in the last three years going 10-24. But the Patriots have 16 starters back. Independence will have an experienced offensive line with seniors Melsy Bonilla, Malik Kelly and Max Moise. Meanwhile, senior WRs Trevor Bryan (33 catches) and Shai Wheeler (40 catches, eight touchdowns) will need to spread the field. The Patriots’ defense has plenty of experience with junior DE Tyson Clawson (13.5 sacks) and senior LB Omar Zazueta (82 tackles).

LAKE NORMAN CHARTER

Head Coach: Bob McKay (1st year in 2nd stint as head coach; 22-24 (2010-2013).

2018 Record: 2-9 (0-7 in the South Fork 2A Conference).

2019 Conference: South Fork 2A Conference/2A.

Returning Starters: 12

Returning Letterman: 18

Key Returning Starters: Jaden Goodman, Sr., WR/RB/DB (5-8, 145); Josh Pollard, Sr., WR/S (6-0, 165); Chris Vance, Sr., WR/FB/LB (6-1, 190); Caleb Davis, Sr., OL/DL (6-1, 215); Jeff Womack, Jr., QB (6-3, 180); Jeremy Newton, Jr., WR/DB; Austin White, Sr., OL/LB.

Key Newcomers: Chris Peal, Fr., RB.

Outlook: Lake Norman has had six straight losing seasons, including a 5-17 record in the last two years, where the Knights are 0-14 in conference play. The Knights do return 12 starters with junior QB Jeff Womack and senior WR Jaden Goodman leading the offense, while senior LB Chris Vance will headline the defense.

MALLARD CREEK

Head Coach: Michael Palmieri (12th year; 138-25k).

2018 Record: 10-1 (7-0 in the I-Meck 4A Conference).

2019 Conference: I-Meck 4A/4AA.

Returning Starters: 14 (8 offense; 6 defense).

Returning Letterman: 30

Key Returning Starters: Trent Simpson, Sr., LB (6-3, 225); Quentin Williams, Sr., DL (6-5, 235); J.T. Whitmore, Sr., DL (6-2, 222); Elijah Metcalf, Jr., WR (5-9, 175); Josh Ilaoa, Sr., OL/DL (6-4, 290); Arabee Muslim, Sr., OL (6-3, 255); Damonte Furman, Jr., WR/DB (5-7, 165); Coleman Jeffcoat, Jr., WR (6-3, 215); Elijah Culp, Sr., DB (5-10, 185); Jayden Davis, Sr., DB (6-3, 195); J’trell Washington, Sr., DB (5-10, 185).

Key Newcomers: Quasean Holmes, Sr., RB (5-11, 200) (Butler transfer); Kydrell Lewis, Sr., OL (6-6, 325).

Outlook: When a one-loss season is a major disappointment, you know just how good your program has become. Mallard Creek has averaged 13 wins per season over the last decade. The Mavericks will again be led by their defense with all-state senior LB Trent Simpson (Auburn commit), DE Quentin Williams (Miami commit), DB Jaidyn Davis and DB Jtrell Washington. The Mavericks’ offense will need some new to emerge, but will benefit from Butler transfer and senior RB/WR, Quasean Holmes (all-SW4A last year with 608 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns).

MYERS PARK

Head Coach: Scott Chadwick (6th year; 47-19 at Myers Park; 160-82 overall).

2018 Record: 13-2 (6-1 in the Southwestern 4A conference (SW4A)).

2019 Conference: SW4A/4AA.

Returning Starters: 11 (5 offense; 6 defense).

Returning Letterman: 30.

Key Returning Starters: Muhsin Muhammad, III, Sr., WR (6-0, 185); Logan Mauldin, Sr., TE (6-3, 225); Cameron Roseman-Sinclair, Sr., S (6-0, 205); Blake Wicks, Sr., S (6-1, 190); Jordan Brown, Sr., CB (6-0, 195); Roe Chitwood, Sr., LB (6-3, 230); Drake Maye, Jr., QB (6-5, 205); Jordan Bly, Jr., WR (5-11, 170); Myles Jones, Jr., DE (6-2, 240); Andrew Bookman, Jr., DT (5-11, 270); Matthew Dennis, Jr., K/P (5-10, 165).

Other Key Returnees: Tim Newman, Sr., RB (5-9, 190); Joseph Bakhole, Sr., DE (6-3, 245); Jimmy Simpson, Jr., DT (6-3, 280); Tahj El, Jr., S (6-2, 270); Jacob Newman, So., RB (5-11, 185).

Key Newcomers: Porter Rooks, Sr., WR (6-1, 190) (Providence Day transfer); Twan Flip, Sr., WR/KR/PR (5-6, 150) (Charlotte Country Day transfer).

Outlook: Myers Park has established itself as one of the top teams in the state, going 36-6 the last three seasons, including a 13-2 mark last year that included a 4AA state semifinals berth. This year, three major Division I recruits in junior QB Drake Maye (Alabama commit) and senior WRs Muhsin Muhammad, III (Texas A&M commit, 58 catches for 1,003 yard and eight touchdowns) and Providence Day transfer Porter Rooks (N.C. State commit, all-state, 58 catches and 11 touchdowns) headline a powerhouse unit. Meanwhile, senior safety, Cameron Roseman-Sinclair (UNC commit) and senior LB Roe Chitwood (104 tackles), lead a defense that allowed only 10 points a game.

NORTH MECKLENBURG

Head Coach: Eric Morman (3rd year; 15-10).

2018 Record: 6-6 (2-5 in the I-Meck 4A conference).

2019 Conference: I-Meck 4A/4AA.

Returning Starters: 10 (2 offense; 8 defense).

Returning Letterman: 20

Key Returning Starters: Da’Qon Stewart, Sr., WR/DB (6-2, 197); Na’Jae Marshall, Jr., WR/DB (5-10, 189); Evan Brock, Sr., OT (5-10, 245); Aamauri Johnson, Sr., FS (6-2, 170); Angelo McLaurin, So., OT (6-4, 315); Makhi Bailey, Jr., DB (6-1, 200); Songa Yates, Jr., DB (5-9, 165); Trae Nickelson, So., RB/WR (5-8, 160);

Key Newcomers: Jabin Reid, Sr., DE/LB (6-1, 220); Jae’Wan McRae, Jr., DT (5-10, 250); Mikhail Baldwin, Jr., WR (5-9, 165); Jeremy Jank, Jr., LB (5-10, 205); Clark Brown, So., LB (5-10, 195); Davion Cunningham, So., WR (5-10, 170); Jordan Hanson, Jr., RB (5-10, 215); Deandre Moore, Jr., RB (5-8, 195).

Outlook: Morman burst onto the scene in 2017 leading the Vikings to a 9-4 record in his first year, but North Meck slipped back to 6-6 in 2018. This year, the Vikings return 10 starters, including eight on defense. Morman will look to playmakers like senior WR Da’Qon Stewart (South Carolina commit, 39 catches for 710 yards and six touchdowns) to lead the Vikings’ offense. Meanwhile, senior FS Aamauri Johnson (60 tackles, five interceptions) and junior DE Rey’Noi Summmersett (58 tackles, eight sacks) headline a veteran defense.

OLYMPIC

Head Coach: Brandon Thompson (1st year).

2018 Record: 3-8 (2-4 in the SoMeck7 conference).

2019 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference/4AA.

Returning Starters: 8

Returning Letterman: 14

Key Returning Starters: Cam McGill, Sr., OL/DL (6-6, 315); Tavien Ford, Sr., OL (6-3, 305); Torselli Simpkins, Sr., OL (6-4, 295); Marquis Fleming, Sr., DE (6-1, 205); Sean Bowles, Jr., QB (5-9, 185); Michael Techie, Sr., WR (6-0, 180); Aaron Gamble, Sr., SS (6-0, 180); Sahiem Binger, Sr., DT (6-3, 270).

Key Newcomers: Kai Russell, Jr., DE/FB (6-0, 225); Albert Fleming, So., WR/DB (6-0, 160); Brandon Hernandez, WR.

Outlook: Olympic has had five straight losing seasons, including back-to-back 3-8 campaigns in 2017 and 2018. Thompson, a former Olympic assistant, inherits eight returning starters, including junior QB Sean Bowles (1,900 total yards, 13 touchdowns last year) and a big, veteran offensive line featuring seniors Cam McGill (6-6, 315), Tavien Ford (6-3, 305) and Torsell Simpkins (6-4, 295). Meanwhile, senior DE Marquis Fleming (54 tackles, 28 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks) can be a one-man wrecking crew on defense.

PROVIDENCE

Head Coach: Wes Ward (1st year; last 3 years as Providence assistant).

2018 Record: 6-6 (5-1 in the SoMeck7 conference).

2019 Conference: SoMeck7/4AA.

Returning Starters: 13

Returning Letterman: 24

Key Returning Starters: Jake Snapp, Jr., FS (5-11, 180); Charles Charnock, Sr., OL (6-4, 240); Adam Boguski, Sr., OL (6-1, 255); Jalen Brooks, Jr., OL (6-4, 290); Harrison Hellner, Sr., OL (6-1, 240); Dewayne Gissenddanner, So., DB (5-11, 180); Jamar Price, So., RB (6-2, 180); Eddie Czaplicki, Jr., K/P (6-1, 185); Mason Adkins, Jr., DL (6-2, 225).

Key Newcomers: Holland Stallings, Jr., QB (6-1, 185); Sam Decker, So., ILB (6-0, 215).

Outlook: Ward took over in late June but will benefit from the return of 13 starters and 24 lettermen overall. The Panthers will look to keep their momentum going after a 5-1 finish to the 2018 season. Providence will depend on a veteran offensive line, where four starters return, including two all-conference performers in senior Charles Charnock and junior Jalen Brooks. Sophomore running back Jamar Price rushed for 359 yards as a freshman. The Panthers’ defense features senior FS Jake Snapp (64 tackles, four interceptions) and junior DL Mason Adkins. Providence also has a major special teams’ weapon in kicker/punter, Eddie Czaplicki (who made eight field goals and averaged 40 yards per punt last year).

ROCKY RIVER

Head Coach: Orlando Gray (3rd year; 6-15).

2018 Record: 4-6 (2-4 in the Southwestern 4A (SW4A) Conference).

2019 Conference: SW4A/4A.

Returning Starters: 9

Returning Letterman: 21

Key Returning Starters: Brian Grier, Sr., MLB (6-0, 225); Kalil Alexander, Sr., LB (6-2, 220); Korey Hailey, Sr., QB (6-2, 215); Korion Sharpe, Jr., OT (6-4, 310); Kenneth Royster, Sr., OT/DT (6-4, 260); Kalib Jennings, Jr., RB/SS (5-9, 175); Tyler Jennings, Sr., DB (5-8, 165).

Other Key Returnees/Newcomers: Kirkland Williams, Sr., RB/SS (6-0, 185); Jevon McIver, Jr., WR/DB (6-1, 175); Tyrone McNair, Jr., DB/WR (6-2, 170).

Outlook: After going a combined 14-29 over the last four seasons, the Ravens return a solid core from a team that was improved at 4-6. All SW4A senior linebackers Brian Grier (98 tackles) and Kalil Alexander (82 tackles, 12 sacks) will lead the defense. Senior QB Korey Hailey and an experienced line featuring junior Korion Sharpe (6-4, 310) and Kenneth Royster (6-4, 260) headline an offense that needs to score more points (18 points per game last year). Gray believes this Ravens’ team can return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.

SOUTH MECKLENBURG

Head Coach: Joe Evans (1st year; 33-18 overall).

2018 Record: 3-8 (2-4 in the SoMeck7 Conference).

2019 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference/4AA.

Returning Starters: 8

Returning Letterman: 15

Key Returning Starters: Tigo Moss, Sr., WR (6-2, 200); Anthony Hailey, Sr., WR (6-0, 185); Matthew Reddick, So., LB (6-2, 200); Dave Brown, Sr., DT (6-0, 290); Quan Webber, Sr., WR (5-10, 165); Jaheim Roberts, Sr., DB (6-0, 170); Te’Khi Moss, So., DB (5-8, 165).

Key Newcomers: Bo Davidson, Sr., QB (6-3, 210); Eric Koltze, Jr., RB/DB (5-10, 170).

Outlook: Evans, a former Ardrey Kell and Independence head coach, takes over a program that has gone 5-18 in the last two seasons. South Meck returns eight starters and will look to new QB Bo Davidson to connect with senior WRs Tigo Moss and Anthony Hailey to spark the offense. Meanwhile, sophomore LB Matthew Reddick and senior DT Dave Brown, lead the defense.

VANCE

Head Coach: Glenwood Ferebee (1st year; 10th year overall).

2018 Record: 14-2 (6-1 in the I-Meck 4A Conference).

2019 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference/4AA.

Returning Starters: 12

Returning Letterman: 33

Key Returning Starters/Other Key Returnees: Stefon Thompson, Sr., LB (6-3, 230); Power Echols, Jr., LB (6-3, 210); Stephen Sings, Sr., DE (6-5, 230); Marqui Lowery, Sr., DB (6-1, 180); Jaylen Gullette, Sr. DB (5-11, 180); Solomon Sutton, Sr., LB (6-2, 215); Jordan Harris, Sr., S (6-3, 195); Donta Armstrong, Sr., TE (6-3, 215); Michai Riley, Sr., WR; Joseph Morris, Sr., RB (5-11, 180); Jahlik Cooper, Sr., RB (6-0, 185).

Key Newcomers: Austin Grier, Jr., QB (South Mecklenburg transfer); Johnathan Cannon, Jr., OT (6-5, 260); Dylan Tucker, Sr., DB (5-11, 160).

Outlook: The reigning 4AA state runner-up’s biggest loss this offseason came when coach Aaron Brand decided to leave and take the head coaching job at Irmo (SC) this summer. But Ferebee inherits an experienced team. The Cougars will be led by a suffocating defense with five major Division I recruits returning. Reigning Observer defensive player of the year, junior LB Power Echols (15-plus, major Division I offers, 160 tackles, nine sacks last year), senior LB Stefon Thompson (Syracuse commit, 118 tackles, 10 sacks), senior DB Stephen Sings (12.5 sacks) and senior DBs Jaylen Gullate (51 tackles, three interceptions) and Marqui Lowery (Appalachian State commit, 46 tackles, two interceptions) are all game-changers. The Cougar offense must reload behind junior RB Joseph Morris (1,341 yards) and South Mecklenburg transfer Austin Grier at quarterback.

WEST CHARLOTTE

Head Coach: Joshua Harris (3rd year; 12-13).

2018 Record: 7-6 (3-4 in the I-Meck 4A Conference).

2019 Conference: I-Meck 4A Conference/4A.

Returning Starters: 7

Returning Letterman: 10

Key Returning Starters: Iwuan Jackson, Sr., RB (5-10, 185); Adonis Gibson, Sr., DB (5-9, 170); Tahgamere White, Sr., CB (6-1, 185); Jaquaris Smith-Beckham, Sr., CB (6-2, 180); Malcolm Breedlove, Sr., DB (5-9, 165); Demontay Ivey, Sr., WR (5-10, 165); Javien Miller, Sr., WR (5-10, 175).

Other Key Returnees: Silas Cruse, Sr., QB (6-5, 225); Benari Black, Sr., LB (6-2, 200); Kam Graves, Sr., DE/LB (6-0, 215).

Outlook: West Charlotte has been up and down in the last two years under Harris, going 12-13 overall. The Lions carry the momentum of their first winning season (7-6) since 2010. West Charlotte will need some younger players to step in while senior RB Iwuan Jackson (1,200 yards rushing last year) leads the offense and senior DB Adonis Gibson (58 tackles, three interceptions) headlines the Lions’ defense.

WEST MECKLENBURG

Head Coach: Nick Mata (1st year).

2018 Record: 9-3 (5-1 in the SoMeck7 conference).

2019 Conference: SoMeck7 Conference/4A.

Returning Starters: 9 (5 offense; 4 defense).

Returning Letterman: 25

Key Returning Starters: J’Mari Taylor, Sr., RB/S/QB (5-10, 190); Delmar Glaze, Sr., LT (6-5, 295); Daniel Eury, Sr., NG/RG (6-3, 340); Antoine Witherspoon, Sr., LB (5-10, 215); Brandon Jackson, Sr., DL/OL (6-0, 230); Louis Hawthorne, Sr., LB (6-1, 210); J.L. Burch, So., C (6-1, 245).

Key Newcomers: Damion Lee, Sr., DE/WR (6-6, 220); Karon Commandar, Jr., DB (5-11, 180); Mike Catlin, So., LB (5-10, 210); Aahquorea Maye, So., WR/DB (6-1, 175); Samier Murphy, So., WR/DB (5-8, 185).

Outlook: West Mecklenburg was an impressive 26-11 in the last three years under coach Jarvis Davis. This year, Mata, Davis’ former offensive coordinator, looks to maintain the trend. He has some key pieces, including senior RB/QB/WR J’Mari Taylor (827 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns last year), who can play multiple roles on the offense. The Hawks’ offensive line should also be strong with tackle Delmar Glaze (6-5, 295) and right guard Daniel Eury (6-3, 340) paving the way. The West Meck defense has experience in senior LBd Antoine Witherspoon (65 tackles) and Louis Hawthorne (55 tackles).

Mecklenburg County Conference Predictions

I-Meck 4A Conference

  1. Mallard Creek; 2. Vance; 3. Hough; 4. North Mecklenburg; 5. Lake Norman; 6. Mooresville; 7. West Charlotte; 8. Hopewell.

Southern Carolinas’ Conference (SCC)

  1. Charlotte Catholic; 2. Weddington; 3. Marvin Ridge; 4. Monroe; 5. Sun Valley; 6. Piedmont; 7. Cuthbertson; 8. Parkwood.

South Fork 2A Conference

  1. North Lincoln; 2. Maiden; 3. Bandys; 4. East Lincoln; 5. Newton Conover; 6. West Lincoln; 7. Lincolnton; 8. Lake Norman Charter.

SoMeck7 Conference

  1. Providence; 2. Ardrey Kell; 3. West Mecklenburg; 4. Harding; 5. South Mecklenburg; 6. Olympic; 7. Berry.

South Piedmont 1A Conference 7 (SPC 1A)

  1. Thomas Jefferson Academy; 2. Mountain Island Charter; 3. Bessemer City; 4. Community School of Davidson; 5. Cherryville; 6. Pine Lake Prep; 7. Union Academy; 8. Highland Tech; 9. Christ the King.

Southwestern 4A Conference (SW4A)

  1. Myers Park; 2. Butler; 3. Hickory Ridge; 4. Porter Ridge; 5. Independence; 6. Rocky River; 7. East Mecklenburg; 8. Garinger.
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