|Field of football dreams, changes|
|Realignment strengthens Charlotte region|
|Published Wednesday, August 7, 2013 11:15 am|
From top to bottom, Mecklenburg County is the seat of power in N.C. high school football.
As preseason drills progress, toward opening day on Aug. 23, there are changes with new teams, new conferences and higher expectations. Mecklenburg teams dominated the playoffs last year, with Butler High winning its third 4AA championship in three years while Charlotte Catholic advanced to the 3A title game.
Vance, Independence and West Mecklenburg made surprising runs to the postseason and Mallard Creek is determined to make the leap to elite status in 2013.
Here are some of the story lines to keep in mind as the season approaches.
Moving up to 4A
Every public school in Mecklenburg is playing 4A ball this year, and Charlotte Catholic, a powerhouse in every classification it’s tried, joins the fray. The Cougars, who will debut in the new South Meck 8 4A, advanced to the 3A final last season and have a bona fide star in running back Elijah Hood, who is committed to Notre Dame.
The South Meck 8 includes 3A graduates Berry Academy and Harding with 4A holdovers Ardrey Kell, Olympic, Providence, South Mecklenburg and West Mecklenburg.
Who’s the best player?
That would be Hood, a power back who has superior speed. Defenders can choose getting run over or run past, but very few have been able to take Hood down solo. That’s not likely to change with a step up to 4A competition.
Who has the best team?
It’s hard to go against Butler, which has won three of the last four 4AA state championships, but Mallard Creek has the mix of experience and talent to advance to the school’s first title game.
Quarterback Emiere Scaife is one of the region’s top quarterbacks while cornerback Amari Henderson and lineman Ikeem Austin pace the defense.
Independence will likely be a factor in the postseason. The Patriots have a new coach in Joe Evans and a deep squad led by Isaiah Robison, who ran for 1,550 yards and 29 touchdowns last year and Workpeh Kofa, one of the state’s best receivers.
Butler graduated a stack of talent from last season’s state title game, but if the defense plays up to form and the offense gels behind quarterback Anthony Ratliff and tailback Benny LeMay, the Bulldogs will be dangerous.
Which league is the best? The Southwestern 4A has state power Butler and resurgent Independence, and Catholic is expected to show strength in the South Meck 8. The regular season finale between Butler and Independence may be the game of 2013.
Mallard Creek has been the class of the renamed MeCKa, but Hough has the potential to give the Mavericks a run for their money. The Huskies won 10 games last year and have a ton of talent returning to campus, including the program’s first senior class.
Five of the league’s teams made the playoffs last year, including rebuilding Vance and Kannapolis A.L. Brown in the 3A ranks.
One school that didn’t get to the postseason is West Charlotte. Can the Lions rebound? Hopewell, North Mecklenburg, Concord Robinson round out the field.
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