|Vance opens season No. 1 in Magnificent Seven football poll|
|Mallard Creek, Butler round top 3|
|Published Thursday, August 17, 2017 7:53 pm|
Vance is the preseason No. 1 team in the Magnificent Seven rankings.
The Cougars, who advanced to the N.C. 4AA semifinal in 2016, are adjusting to life without quarterback Kingsley Ifedi, who is a freshman at East Carolina, but coach Aaron Brand has some of the best talent in the county. Vance’s potent running attack is built around senior tailbacks Kalen Clark and M.J. Williams. The defense, powered by linebacker Gerald Nathan and defensive end Damir Faison, won’t take a backseat to the offense.
Mallard Creek, who stumbled in 2016 after three straight 4AA championships, will be in the mix for the top spot again. The Mavericks, like rival Vance, are young with only five returning starters, but talented. The offense will need some time to gel, especially among the skill positions, but the defense can hold things together with linebackers Kalen Allen and Cam Lowery providing leadership.
Newcomers to the preseason rankings are West Mecklenburg and Harding, SoMeck 4A rivals who open the season sixth and seventh. The Hawks will get an immediate test against Vance on Aug. 19 at Memorial Stadium.
The preseason Magnificent Seven, with 2016 final record:
1. Vance (13-2): “All gas, no brakes” Cougars lead the pack. If the defense is as good as coach Aaron Brand predicts, they can be a state title contender.
2. Mallard Creek (9-3): Mavericks are accustomed to being in front, especially against the rivals from Vance. Coach Mike Palmieri’s team is deep, but young.
3. Butler (12-2): If this were any other county, the Bulldogs would be a clear-cut No. 1.
4. Myers Park (11-2): The Mustangs return 11 starters and are loaded on both sides of the ball. East Mecklenburg transfer Khamal Howard joins a program that already has prolific skill position standouts in quarterback Brayden Hawkins and receivers Elijah Bowick and Muhsin Muhammad.
5. Hough (7-5): The Huskies have a new coach in Matt Jenkins but an explosive running attack in Rashad Williams and Jarrett Nagy. Fourteen starters return, which give Hough one of the most experienced teams in the I-Meck 4A.
6. West Mecklenburg (9-4): The Hawks will be a contender in the SoMeck 4A based on the versatile brothers Dyami and Khafre Brown, who can play every offensive skill position and defensive back. Points will be plentiful, but depth could be a concern.
7. Harding (5-7): The Rams have the nation’s No. 1 junior running back in Quavaris Crouch, but don’t think this is a one-man gang. Coach Sam Greiner’s run-oriented offense is a throwback that should have Harding in contention in the SoMeck.
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