Charlotte Latin's Larry McNulty has coached at the southeast Charlotte private school for 31 years. He's won 10 state championships and coached dozens of all-state players, including receiver Brentin Bersin, who has played the past four seasons for the Carolina Panthers.
At practice this week, McNulty called senior multi-position star Melvin Rouse the best all-around player he's coached.
"He and Brenton Bersin both have the same skill set," said McNulty, whose team is ranked in the Observer's preseason Sweet 16. "They can run. They can catch. They can play on both sides of the ball."
Told of McNulty’s comments, Rouse flashed a big smile.
"Wow," he said. "That's a big compliment. I know Brenton pretty well and it's a huge honor."
Rouse, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound senior, has started for the Hawks since ninth grade. He was an all-state defensive back after his freshman season and has made all-state each year since.
As a junior, Rouse had 1,779 all-purpose yards, averaging nearly 18 yards each time he touched the ball. On defense, he had 41 tackles and five interceptions, returning three for touchdowns. He might have had more, but teams rarely threw in his direction.
"I'm still really surprised when I see him catch punts and kickoffs," McNulty said. "He's very, very dangerous in space."
Rouse said Duke offered him a scholarship when he was a ninth-grader, and he's since committed to play for the Blue Devils. He said he's also committed to having a memorable senior season.
Last season, Charlotte Latin upset three-time private schools champion Charlotte Christian in the state semifinals. But the Hawks were upset the next week by Davidson Day in the state championship game.
Rouse said he thinks about that game almost daily.
"I want to win one this year, not only for myself," he said, "but for the past seniors who have come through Latin. We felt like we kind of let them down (last year). It was a pretty bitter loss.
“(Davidson Day was) playing very emotionally. And I knew they would come out like that. I knew we could've done a lot more, and we didn't leave it all out on the field. But this year, that won't happen again. I can promise you that."
SWEET 16 COUNTDOWN: CHARLOTTE LATIN HAWKS
Head coach: Larry McNulty (31st season)
2015 record: 8-4 (1-3 in CISAA)
Key returning starters: Melvin Rouse, Sr., WR/DB/KR (5-9, 175); Bates Jones, Sr., QB (6-7, 200); Demarkes Stradford, Jr., RB (6-0, 175); Chris Elliott, Sr., WR (6-0, 190); Robert Fuller, Sr., OL/DL (6-0, 230); Eddie Crutchfield, Sr., DE (6-1, 240); Conrad Song, Sr., WR/DB (5-9, 165).
Key newcomers: Kevens Grammont, So., DE (6-3, 230); Todd Hartert, Jr., WR/DB (6-2, 170).
Returning starters: 13 (7 offense; 6 defense)
Returning lettermen: 28
Outlook: The NCISAA Division I state runner-up returns 13 starters, led by seniors wide receiver/defensive back Melvin Rouse and quarterback Bates Jones (2,800 yards passing last season). Hawks appear to be serious contenders for CISAA conference and state championships.