|July turns to questions on high school football season|
|New coach in mix of 2018 title contenders|
|Published Thursday, July 5, 2018 10:33 am|
The start of high school football practice is three weeks away.
Who has the best squad in Mecklenburg County? Will there be a surprise team in 2018, or will the usual suspects walk off with championship hardware?
Mecklenburg had the best public schools in the state last year, at least when it came to the final four among 4A programs. Mallard Creek advanced to the 4AA finals while Harding claimed the top spot in a Cinderella run under former head coach Sam Greiner.
But things are different this year with Greiner at Hickory Ridge, leaving behind important pieces of the 4A championship squad.
With that in mind, here are some storylines to watch.
Head coach: Robert Cross.
2017 record: 14-1, 4A state champion.
Gone: QB Braheam Murphy, OT Jovaughn Gwyn, head coach Sam Greiner.
Return: RB Quavaris Crouch, SS/RB Maleik Faust, DE/LB Tylon Dunlap, QB Demarcus Washington.
Can Harding keep a good thing going?
The Rams, who fashioned a magical 14-1 season that culminated with the N.C. 4A title, have a new coach in Cross, a former Johnson C. Smith assistant who’s leading a program for the first time.
The good news is Cross doesn’t have an empty cupboard with the nation’s top senior recruit in running back Quavaris Crouch and an accomplished posse of position players. If the Rams stick to the elements of last season’s success and replace West Point-bound quarterback Braheam Murphy on the leadership front, Harding can be a contender in 2018.
Head coach: Aaron Brand.
2017 record: 11-4, lost in West Region final.
Gone: LB Gerald Nathan. CB Xavier Johnson.
Return: QB Nigel Summerville, TE/WR Tyce Hunter, C/G James Gaither.
The Cougars overcame a shaky start in 2017 to advance to the West final, where they lost 20-14 to Harding. Brand is one of the top coaches in Mecklenburg County and certainly one of the best offensive minds, so points shouldn’t be an issue. As usual, Vance’s annual scrap against Mallard Creek should be one of the best games of the season, but the goal is to advance to the state championship. Is this the season after so many near misses?
Head coach: Mike Palmieri.
2017 record: 14-1, lost in N.C. 4AA title game.
Gone: RB Nasjzae Bryant, DE Angel Rivera.
Return: QB Jadyn Washington, DE Caleb Bryant, G Aubrey Shaw.
The Mavericks returned to the 4AA championship round for the first time in two seasons but lost 21-0 to Wake Forest to spoil an unbeaten campaign.
Mallard Creek will be in the hunt again for the I-Meck league title, though, with a balanced mix of offensive and defensive weapons that should be the best in a loaded league. Can they get to the final again? That’s the question that’s begging for an answer.
Head coach: Eric Morman.
2017 record: 10-4, lost 41-33 to Mallard Creek in second round of the N.C. 4AA playoffs.
Gone: RB Emanuel Wilson, DT/OL Jamonte Gray.
Return: ATH/QB/WR Da'qon Stewart, WR/RB Juston Olson, QB/WR/CB Aaron Scott.
Harding’s success was the story in Mecklenburg football last year, but North Meck’s wasn’t far behind.
In Morman’s first season as coach, the Vikings were competitive in I-Meck, one of the state’s toughest conferences, and more than held their own. Now that his program is entrenched, where’s the Vikings’ limit?
Head coach: Jarvis Davis.
2017 record: 8-4, lost in first round of 4A playoffs.
Gone: QB: Hasani Sneed, WR Dyami Brown, WR Tyler Barnes.
Return: WR Khafre Brown, QB Preston Brown.
The Hawks need retooling on offense with receivers Dyami Brown and Tyler Barnes graduated. The good news is they have quarterback Preston Brown and Khafre Brown back for another season.
If they get on the same page and the defense is stout against the run, perhaps they can challenge Harding, which has the nation’s No. 1 running back. That’s a tall order, though.
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