Prep Insider Blog

Union County high school football team-by-team previews

Marvin Ridge’s Aubrey Carter heads into his third season this fall with the Mavericks
Marvin Ridge’s Aubrey Carter heads into his third season this fall with the Mavericks jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Here are Union County high school football previews, as compiled by Observer correspondent Jay Edwards

PREVIEW LINKS

Preseason All-State Team Released

Observer-area County previews

2017 high school football schedules

CENTRAL ACADEMY

Head Coach: Jeff Edwards (1st year as Central Academy football coach).

2016 Record (Conference): 1-10 (0-5 in the Rocky River conference).

2017 Conference: Rocky River conference/2A.

Returning Starters: 5

Returning Lettermen: 12

Key Returning Starters: Sam Jackson, Sr., RB (5-8, 155); Conner Jones, Jr., OT (6-7, 300); Jake Morin, Sr., DT (5-10, 155).

Key Newcomers: Sam Dean, So., MLB (5-11).

Outlook: The Cougars return only five starters from a team that won only one game last season and has very little experience back in the skill positions, which is not a recipe for success for a team that averaged less than 10 points per game a year ago. But former Sun Valley defensive coordinator, first year head coach, Jeff Edwards, will try to help his team take steps in the right direction that eventually show up in the win column.

--JAY EDWARDS

CUTHBERTSON

Head Coach: David Johnson (5th year as Cuthbertson football coach/29-23 at Cuthbertson; 38-37 overall)

2016 Record (Conference): 6-6 (3-2 in the Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC)/3AA

2017 Conference: Southern Carolinas’ conference/3A

Returning Starters: 13 (5 offense; 8 defense)

Returning Lettermen: 38

Key Returning Starters: Christian Heinzelman, Sr., RB (5-11, 225); Carter Kendall, Sr., DE (6-3, 220); Bryce Blackwood, Sr., OL/DL (6-0, 260); Josh Sepe, Jr., OLB (6-3, 190); Joe Rizzo, Sr., MLB, (6-2, 225).

Key Newcomers: Davis Walker, Jr., QB (6-4, 185); Christian McIntosh, So., WR/DB (5-9, 165).

Outlook: After winning 11 games, including a trip to the 3AA semifinals in 2014, the Cavaliers are 13-12 in the last two seasons combined. This year, the already brutal, SCC gets even tough with Charlotte Catholic and Monroe joining the league. Cutbertson will lean on its defense, led by seniors, DE, Carter Kendall (97 tackles, 10 sacks), LB’s Joe Rizzo (104 tackles) and Josh Sepe (143 tackles), while they hope a younger offense, led by junior QB, Davis Walker, gains the confidence to put them in the thick of the SCC race and in playoff position.

--JAY EDWARDS

FOREST HILLS

Head Coach: Cory Smith (2nd year as Forest Hills football coach).

2016 Record (Conference): 1-10 (1-4 in the Rocky River conference).

2017 Conference: Rocky River conference/2A.

Returning Starters: 17

Returning Lettermen: 29

Key Returning Starters: Tyson Davis, Sr., DE (6-2, 225); Keeshawn Tyson, Jr., WR (6-3, 185); Kendrick McLaurin, Jr., RB (6-0, 180); Tyler Bunn, Sr., C (6-0, 190); Jaquan Williams, Sr., RB/WR (5-9, 165).

Key Newcomers: Marion Holmes, Jr., QB (5-8, 150); Jayden Avalos, So., WR (6-2, 195); Jadus Davis, So., RB/DB (5-9, 165).

Outlook: Forest Hills coach, Cory Smith, had a tough season in his first year in charge, going 1-10 overall, with an extremely young team. This season, with 17 starters returning the Yellow Jackets look to climb back up the Rocky River conference standings and will look to their running game with RB’s Kendon McLaurin, Jaquan Williams and a tough defense, led by DE Tyson Davis to get back into league contention and the postseason.

--JAY EDWARDS

MARVIN RIDGE

Head Coach: Aubrey Carter (3rd year as Marvin Ridge head football coach/16-10 overall)

2016 Record (Conference): 8-6 (3-2 in the Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC))

2017 Conference: Southern Carolinas’ Conference

Returning Starters: 11 (4 offense; 7 defense)

Returning Lettermen: 26

Key Returning Starters: Caleb Deveaux, Sr., RB/LB (6-0, 210); Cole Hopkins, Sr., DE (6-3, 215); Will Smith, Jr., LB (5-10, 195); Bryce McLain, Sr., QB (6-3, 200); Ian White, Sr., OL/DL (6-2, 225); Devin Powell, Sr., TE/DE (6-3, 220).

Key Newcomers: Brae Lein, Jr., DT (6-2, 290); Caleb Woodley, Jr., RB (5-10, 190); Zach Yaggi, Jr., OL (6-2, 230); Carson Cross, Jr., WR/DB (5-10, 165).

Outlook: The Mavericks have been SCC contenders each of the past two seasons with Coach Aubrey Carter at the helm. This season, Marvin Ridge has a new challenge with Charlotte Catholic and Monroe in already competitive league. The Mavericks have the talent, led by senior RB, Caleb Deveaux (1,233 yards rushing, 19 touchdowns) and DE, Cole Hopkins (85 tackles, 13 sacks), to be right in the mix for a conference title and a dangerous team in the postseason.

--JAY EDWARDS

METROLINA CHRISTIAN

Head Coach: Thomas Langley (8th year as Metrolina Christian football coach/43-25 overall).

2016 Record (Conference): 6-4

2017 Conference: NCISAA West Conference (new)/NCISAA Division II

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

Returning Lettermen: 25

Key Returning Starters: Myles Saxton, Jr., QB (6-1, 170); Alec Rowan, Sr., TE (6-3, 200); Tyrek Funderburk, Sr., WR/DB (6-0, 160); Colby Girard, So., FS (5-10, 165); C.J. Parker, Jr., DT (6-2, 245); Lance Penegar, So., DE (6-3, 195); Noah Davis, Sr., OT (6-0, 205).

Key Newcomers: Ishod Finger, Sr., RB (5-8, 170) (Sun Valley transfer); Indiana Moen, So., DE/TE (6-1, 200) (Northside Christian transfer); Cameron Robinson, Jr., OL/DT (6-1, 230) (Sun Valley transfer); Carson Carpenter, So., LB (5-10, 165); Anderson Thompson, So., DL/OL (5-9, 210);

Outlook: Metrolina Christian has never had a losing season in the program’s seven years of existence. This year, they have the weapons with junior QB, Myles Saxton (1,470 yards passing, 15 touchdowns), Sun Valley transfer RB, Ishod Finger (1200 all-purpose yards), TE Alec Rowan and WR Tyrek Funderburk to contend in the new, NCISAA West conference and into the NCISAA Division II playoffs.

--JAY EDWARDS

MONROE

Head Coach: Johnny Sowell (13th year as Monroe football coach/115-49 at Monroe).

2016 Record (Conference): 12-3 (5-0 in the Rocky River conference).

2017 Conference: Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC).

Returning Starters: 8

Returning Lettermen: 12

Key Returning Starters: Traevon Kenion, Jr., WR/DE (6-4, 205); McKinley Nelson, Sr., RB/LB (5-11, 182); Trey Shepherd, Jr., QB/DB (6-3, 175); JahTwan Stafford, Jr., PR/RB/DB (5-5, 160); Lorez Byrum, Sr., DE/RB (6-2, 170); Devohn Cruz, Sr., OL/DOL (6-2, 212); Johnathan Phillips, Sr., DB (5-10, 160); Justin Crowder, Sr., DL (6-2, 200).

Key Newcomers: Hassan Lane, Jr., OL/DL (6-1, 240); Ryan Ivey, Jr., WR/DB (6-1, 160); J.R. Reid, Jr., RB/DB (5-9, 150).

Outlook: Coach Johnny Sowell and his Monroe team have averaged 12 wins per season in the last eight years. But, the Redhawks take a new challenge in the brutal, 3A Southern C’rolinas' conference with teams like Charlotte Catholic and Weddington in their league. However, Sowell and company are eager to prove they can remain and league and state contender and have plenty of talent to do so, led by senior RB, McKinley Nelson (1,244 yards rushing, 18 touchdowns) junior QB, Trey Shepherd (10-1 as starter last year) and a strong defensive front featuring senior DL’s Justin Crowder (25 tackles for loss, six sacks) and Devohn Cruz (also best OL).

--JAY EDWARDS

PARKWOOD

Head Coach: Tim Speakman (1st year as Parkwood football coach).

2016 Record (Conference): 6-6 (2-3 in the Rocky River conference).

2017 Conference: Southern Carolinas’ conference/3A.

Returning Starters: 11

Returning Lettermen: 21

Key Returning Starters: Eli Ackerman, Sr., QB (5-11, 170); J.J. Benton, Sr., RB (5-10, 170); Seth Shimer, Sr., LB (6-1, 215); Nikai Stitt, Sr., DB/RB/WR (5-7, 150); Nick Saldiveri, Sr., OL (6-6, 275).

Key Newcomers: Daniel Morrison, So., DE (6-2, 205); Luke McWorter, So., WR (5-9, 160); Tanner Evans, Jr., LB/QB (5-8, 160).

Outlook: Parkwood has had a nice run over the last four years, winning 26 games in that span. This year, they take on a major challenge in the Southern Carolinas’ 3A conference (SCC) with traditional state powers like Charlotte Catholic, Monroe, Weddington and more. The Rebels have some key players back in seniors, QB Eli Ackerman (1,495 yards passing), RB J.J. Benton (862 yards rushing, 12 touchdowns), and OL Nick Saldiveri, but have a tall task just being a factor in the SCC.

--JAY EDWARDS

PIEDMONT

Head Coach: Luke Hyatt (3rd year as Piedmont football coach/9-14 at Piedmont; 36-59 overall)

2016 Record (Conference): 3-8 (0-5 in the Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC)

2017 Conference: Southern Carolinas’ conference

Returning Starters: 12 (5 offense; 7 defense).

Returning Lettermen: 22

Key Returning Starters: Matt Price, Sr., RB (5-11, 160); Jacob Mosley, Sr., LB (5-9, 190).

Key Newcomers: N/A.

Outlook: Piedmont was winless in SCC play last year and with Charlotte Catholic and Monroe joining an already brutal league, things are going to get any easier this year. But the Panthers won’t change their ground and pound attack -- with a steady diet of senior RB, Matt Price (1,257 yards rushing) and a tough defense, led by senior LB, Jacob Mosley – which they hope translates to more victories.

--JAY EDWARDS

PORTER RIDGE

Head Coach: Michael Hertz (2nd year as Porter Ridge football coach).

2016 Record (Conference): 7-5 (4-2 in the Southwestern 4A conference).

2017 Conference: Southwestern 4A conference.

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

Returning Lettermen: 25

Key Returning Starters: Grayson McCall, Jr., QB (6-3, 190); Austin Richardson, Sr., WR/DB (6-1, 175); Will Kilgo, Sr., RB/DB (5-8, 165); Matt Cambria, Sr., DB (6-1, 185); Deonthe McDaniel, Sr., DL (6-0, 240).

Key Newcomers: Jaylen Coleman, Jr., RB (6-1, 180); Jared Wheatley, Jr., K/LB (5-11, 180).

Outlook: After winning just three games combined in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Porter Ridge got back on track quickly, winning seven games last year, finishing 3rd in the SW4A conference behind Butler and Myers Park. This year, the Pirates look to continue their ascent up the league standings with junior QB, Grayson McCall (1,500-plus yards passing/rushing, 19 total touchdowns), seniors, WR, Austin Richardson and DB Matt Cambria leading the way. But if Porter Ridge is going to make another move in the SW4A and playoffs, they have to learn to win the big games, according to Coach Michael Hertz.

--JAY EDWARDS

SUN VALLEY

Head Coach: Tad Baucom (4th year as Sun Valley football coach/19-17 at Sun Valley).

2016 Record (Conference): 8-4 (3-2 in the Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC)).

2017 Conference: Southern Carolinas’ conference.

Returning Starters: 12

Returning Lettermen: 30

Key Returning Starters: Sam Howell, Jr., QB (6-2, 210); Luke Burnette, Sr., TE/DE (6-5, 245); Roy Artolozaga, Sr., LB (6-1, 220); Elijah Last, Sr., DE (6-2, 190); Cameron Maddox, Jr., DB (6-2, 175); Don McLendon, Jr., LB (6-1, 250).

Key Newcomers: Cesar Mznarro, Jr., OL/DL (6-4, 260); Isiah Hall, So., DB/WR (5-11, 170).

Outlook: The Spartans have proven they can score with anyone and have All-American junior QB, Sam Howell (7,200 yards passing/91 touchdowns in first two seasons) back to lead an offense that average 41 points per game. The question is can their young defense stop anyone, as Sun Valley allowed 48 points per contest in their last four games last year as they faded down the stretch (losing three of their last four games). With Howell leading the way, Sun Valley has a chance to win any game, giving them a chance to be a factor in the brutal SCC and into the playoffs.

--JAY EDWARDS

UNION ACADEMY

Head Coach: Justin Frashier (2nd year as Union Academy football coach).

2016 Record (Conference): 4-8 (3-5 in Yadkin Valley conference).

2017 Conference: Piedmont Athletic conference (PAC) 7/new conference.

Returning Starters: 9

Returning Lettermen: 14

Key Returning Starters: Jeremy Miller, Sr., LB (5-11, 170); Chris Adkins, Sr., OT/DT (6-1, 225); Austin Honeycutt, Sr., TE/DE (6-3, 220); Hayden Gosnell, Jr., QB (6-2, 185); Phifer Griffen, So., OT/DT (6-4, 230).

Key Newcomers: Derek Young, So., WR/DE (6-4, 190); Tyler Way, Jr., G (5-11, 185).

Outlook: The Cardinals will take on a new challenge in a competitive, PAC 7 conference. Union Academy has the experience and playmakers, led by senior LB, Jeremy Miller (179 tackles, 11 sacks) and junior QB Hayden Gosnell, to be right in the mix in the conference and for a playoff berth.

--JAY EDWARDS

WEDDINGTON

Head Coach: Tim Carson (7th year as Weddington football coach/65-19 overall).

2016 Record (Conference): 13-3 (5-0 in the Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC)).

2017 Conference: Southern Carolinas’ conference (SCC)/3A.

Returning Starters: 7 (4 offense; 3 defense).

Returning Lettermen: 14

Key Returning Starters: Nick Bernhard, Sr., C (6-3, 260); Chris Sorenson, Sr., OL/DL (6-0, 210); James Shipley, Jr., DB/WR (5-10, 160); Eamon Murphy, Jr., LB/TE/WR (6-1, 190); Max Brimigion, Jr., WR/DB (5-11, 165).

Key Newcomers: Whitner Litton, Jr., QB (6-0, 180).

Outlook: Weddington has averaged 12 wins per season over the past five seasons as they have consistently been atop the SCC standings. This year, the Warriors have seven starters back – led by juniors, LB Eamon Murphy and DB/WR James Shipley -- that should put them right in the thick of the SCC race and the playoff picture. But it’s going to get a lot harder to finish on top (SCC) with Charlotte Catholic and Monroe now in league.

--JAY EDWARDS

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