At the start of the 2015 high school football season, I thought Observer-area teams would have a real shot at winning state championships in multiple classes.
As the season reaches its midway point, I still feel that way. In fact, I think the chances now are even better.
Mallard Creek began the season as the N.C. 4AA favorite, and despite a somewhat surprising loss at Duncan Byrnes (S.C.) -- when the Mavericks allowed 21 points before most fans got comfortable in their seats and ultimately lost 31-29 on a late field goal -- the Mavericks are still the favorite.
Mallard Creek has come out fairly cleanly through one of the toughest schedules in recent memory and is getting healthy. In a span of about six weeks, the Mavericks played three national powers. Another tough game, against Sweet 16 No. 7 Hough, is ahead Friday.
▪ Charlotte Catholic reached the 4A state championship game in December 2014, and the Cougars started this season No. 5 in the Sweet 16. They’re now at No. 2, led by one of the best defenses we’ve seen at the school. Catholic has allowed 20 points in five weeks.
In South Carolina, No. 3 Rock Hill Northwestern looks like a 4A state title contender, and 3A South Pointe -- which beat No. 8 Vance and was a dropped 2-point PAT from beating Northwestern -- looks like a favorite to repeat as state champion.
▪ As always, there have been surprises. Coach Mike Newsome’s A.L. Brown team was unranked when the season started and an afterthought in the MECKA 8 championship discussions, where it seemed like a two-horse race between Vance and Mallard Creek.
Brown upset Vance Monday 31-14 and has risen to No. 4 in the Sweet 16.
South Meck, unranked when the season started, has climbed to No. 6. The Sabres haven’t been 6-0 in 26 years.
▪ There are three other Sweet 16 teams that were unranked when the season began: No. 13 Davidson Day (6-0) has surprised coach Chad Grier, particularly on defense; No. 14 Monroe, filled with talented skill players, will be a state title contender in the 2A class (again); and No. 15 Concord has won five in a row since it gave A.L. Brown its toughest game in Week 1. Brown’s performance since then shows just how strong the Spiders are.
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Observer Sweet 16 at midseason
1. Mallard Creek (4A)
Nationally ranked Mavericks lost 31-29 at Duncan Byrnes (S.C.); still N.C. 4AA favorites
2. Charlotte Catholic (4A)
Led by a defense that has allowed 20 points, Cougars hunting a repeat N.C. 4A finals berth
3. Rock Hill Northwestern (4A)
QB Gage Moloney leads an offense that averages 45 points per game
4. A.L. Brown (4A)
Wonders, who upset Vance Monday, are off to their best start in nine seasons
5. Rock Hill South Pointe (3A)
Defending S.C. 3A champion looks like a strong candidate to repeat
6. South Mecklenburg (4A)
Sabres off to their best start since the 1989 team started 8-0
7. Hough (4A)
Huskies face back-to-back road games at No. 4 A.L. Brown and No. 1 Mallard Creek
8. Vance (4A)
Cougars battling through injuries, down six starters, and have lost 2 of 3 past games
9. Butler (4A)
Bulldogs are missing several key starters and were upset by East Meck Friday
10. Weddington (3A)
Warriors allowed 45 points to Monroe, and 38 to everyone else
11. Mooresville (4A)
Blue Devils have won two in a row and later will finish season with 3 home games in 4 weeks
12. East Lincoln (2A)
Reigning state champion averaging 44.6 points per game behind QB Chazz Surratt
13. Davidson Day (Ind.)
Patriots, who haven’t played since Sept. 18, have back-to-back shutouts
14. Monroe (2A)
Redhawks are averaging 40 points and defense has allowed just 14 points past 2 weeks
15. Concord (3A)
Spiders have won five in a row since season-opening loss to rival A.L. Brown
16. Charlotte Christian (Ind.)
Three-time private school state champs are favorite for their fourth.