Prep Football: Previews
The 2013 prep football starts with some serious noise.
When West Rowan-Mooresville ranks only fourth on the most-talked-about list, you know it’s a special Friday night. No matter which game you’re going to, you’ll no doubt be eagerly following tweets and scoring updates from the others.
A.L. Brown coach Mike Newsome, rarely accused of understating anything, declared Sunday that there would no bigger game played anywhere in America than the one that’ll be staged in the Wonders’ house at Memorial Stadium.
That means we probably ought to start the previews with Spiders-Wonders. No matter how excited you are about Joe Pinyan wearing orange at Ludwig Stadium or the North-East contest that matches up two on-the-rise programs in Granite Quarry, no one has called either of those games the biggest in the world. At least, not yet.
Concord (13-3) at A.L. Brown (10-4)
Quick, name four Wonders.
Unless you attend A.L. Brown or coach there, you probably can’t.
Graduation rolled over the Wonders like a tidal wave, leaving QB Andrew Ramirez, who started the second half of last season, and imposing center Kaleb Spry — you’ve gotta love that he spells Kaleb with a K — as the team’s most recognizable names. There’s also receiver Johnny D, He has a last name I’ve seen spelled at least five different ways, so I won’t even attempt it.
In other words, Brown doesn’t have a Travis Riley-Damien Washington-Kalif Phillips go-to type this season, at least not one that we know about yet.
Concord, on the other hand, still has running back Rocky Reid and a pair of defenders in Jerry Burk and Logan Sedergren that “Friday Night Football” ranks among the state’s top 100 seniors. That’s two more than A.L. Brown has on the top-100 list.
History: Glen Padgett’s Spiders won 21-14 in 2012 on three B.J. Beecher TD passes and leads the regular-season series 41-38-4 (note that we’ve credited the Spiders with the previously uncounted 1924 victory that you can read about today). The Wonders have taken two of three playoff meetings, so Concord leads overall 42-40-4. That’s tight, so maybe this really is the greatest rivalry in the world.
Notable: This will be the first time this game has been played in August and the first time since 1931 it’s been the season opener ... Brown is 4A for the first time since 1988. ... Concord, believe it or not, hasn’t won back-to-back “Bell Games” since 1985-1986.
West Rowan (10-3) at Mooresville (4-7)
Mooresville is playing in the revised North Piedmont Conference, a mixed 3A/4A league that includes all six Iredell schools, and the 4A Blue Devils are expected to battle 3A Statesville for the title.
Mooresville was too young and too turnover-prone in 2012, but on paper, it’s absolutely loaded for 2013 and could return to the sort of overwhelming success it enjoyed in 2011 under coach Hal Capps. Mooresville’s offensive backfield is back and a host of defenders are back. Mooresville defenders include linebacker Raphael Montgomery and huge tackle Jerell Reeves. Montgomery and Reeves are “Friday Night Football” top-100 picks.
On the road against a potentially terrific defense is not an ideal scenario for West to be breaking in new QB Harrison Baucom, but the Falcons still have dynamic tailback Daisean Reddick (1,033 rushing yards, 15 TDs) to power the offense and a mostly experienced offensive line led by Chris Hassard.
West’s defense, led by Charlotte-bound free safety Najee Tucker, should be very stout, so there’s every reason to expect a punishing, low-scoring game. Three scores probably will win it.
History: West won 21-14 in Mount Ulla in 2012. Mooresville leads the overall series 22-21, including a split of two playoff games, but West coach Scott Young is 10-4 against the Blue Devils.
Notable: Mooresville’s only recent victory in the series was a memorable one. A 21-14 win in the 2011 opener at Mooresville broke West’s 46-game winning streak, which was the nation’s longest at the time. The neighbors — they’re 14 miles apart — have played often since the Blue Devils won the first meeting in 1960.
North Rowan (8-4) at East Rowan (8-5)
This is a highly anticipated opener, and with good reason.
When North and East both tasted victory eight times under first-year coaches in 2012, it marked only the third time that the Mustangs and Cavaliers have won as many as eight games in the same season. The only other times that happened were in 1996 (both schools were 8-4) and 1997 (East was 10-3; North was 8-5).
Both schools also were exceptional in 1970 when East (9-2-1) beat North (7-2-2) in a WNCHSAA postseason game.
Both teams anticipate being frequent winners again, even with North moving back to 2A after four seasons in 1A and taking on an upgraded non-conference schedule.
The injury report will be a factor. East’s top offensive weapon, running back Calvin Edwards (1,501 rushing yards, 21 TDs), is expected to miss this game and possibly more. Madison Hedrick, East’s other 1,000-yard back, graduated, so that puts a lot of the offensive load on the shoulders of junior QB Samuel Wyrick.
East also graduated several excellent defenders, although it returns standouts in Donte Means, Dock Corpening and Austin Hill.
North is loaded with familiar names and faces. QB Alexis Archie and RB Jereke Chambers (1,129 rushing yards, 17 TDs) key the offense. Xavier Robinson, Cecil McCauley and Kasuan Coney (six picks) head the list of defensive veterans.
History: North won 32-14 last season. East actually gained more yards, but it coughed up five fumbles. North owns a huge 37-16-1 lead in the overall series.
Notable: North dominated the Mustangs for three decades, winning 26 of 30 meetings from 1975-2006. North has won the last two, although East won four straight from 2007-10.
Carson (4-8) at Salisbury (11-3)
Joe Pinyan, who coached Salisbury to 100 wins in 10 seasons, returns to Ludwig Stadium at the helm of the visitors, while Ryan Crowder, Pinyan’s defensive coordinator the past eight seasons, makes his head-coaching debut.
There’s no limit to the story lines here, and to top it off, coaching legends Chris Myers and 94-year-old Joe Ferebee will be honored at halftime.
Salisbury generally has had its way with Carson, rolling up crazy rushing numbers and lighting up the scoreboard, especially in the games at Ludwig. But this is a different Salisbury team, one that’s expected to be spearheaded by Clint Comadoll and an experienced defense. All the offensive playmakers are gone, including record-setters Justin Ruffin and Brian Bauk. Junior QB Riley Myers makes his debut as the varsity starter.
Carson has a number of high-profile returners, with QB Austin McNeill (1,574 passing yards) and RB Brandon Sloop (1,380 rushing yards) leading the offense, and Myquon Stout, a talented Appalachian State commitment, leading the defense. However, all the Cougars, on both sides of the ball, are still learning Pinyan’s new offense and defense. There is bound to be a learning curve.
History: Salisbury rushed for 431 yards and romped 68-28 over Carson in the fifth game of the 2012 season. Salisbury has won five of six meetings, with Carson’s only win coming by a 42-27 margin in 2010. The lowest-scoring game in the series was Salisbury’s 27-18 victory in 2008.
Notable: This is Carson’s 83rd game and its first one without Mark Woody as head coach. ... Sloop rushed for 185 yards in last season’s loss to the Hornets.
South Rowan (2-8) at South Iredell (14-2)
South Rowan never has lost to South Iredell, but if the Raiders maintain that streak tonight, it’ll be a man-bites-dog story.
South Iredell is moving up to the 3A ranks after beating Salisbury in an unbelievable fourth-round game in 2012 and going on to win the 2AA state championship.
South Iredell will compete in the 3A/4A North Piedmont with the likes of Mooresville and Statesville.
South Rowan has won only five games the past three seasons — three of those against North Iredell — and wins figure to be difficult to come by in the revamped South Piedmont Conference.
South Rowan is pinning a lot of its hopes this season on QB Aaron Kennerly (786 passing yards, 9 TDs). He got a lot of experience in 2012. Receiver/DB Tyler Fuller should be a factor both ways.
The key for South Rowan improving is shoring up a defense that was torched last season for a school-record 45 points per game. South allowed 60-plus points three times and allowed 56 in the 2012 season finale.
South Iredell isn’t expected to be as explosive as last season, as graduation losses were heavy on offense.
The bad news is most of South’s Iredell’s defense is back, including standout DB Michael Fisher, who has 14 interceptions the past two seasons.
History: South Rowan leads the all-time series 5-0-1. South Rowan demolished South Iredell 56-0 and 45-13 in 2001-02 when South Iredell was feeling the effects of the opening of Lake Norman. SR and SI were in the same conference (NPC) in 1973-76. South Iredell managed a scoreless tie with the Raiders in 1974.
Greensboro Page (7-5) at Davie County (9-4)
Devore Holman makes his head-coaching debut for the War Eagles after 14 seasons as defensive coordinator, and everyone expects an emotionanl effort from Davie.
Davie’s 3-4 defense should be good as well as fired-up. Seven starters return.
Offensively, Davie features soph Cade Carney (1,908 rushing yards, 17 TDs), who already has ACC offers and towering lineman Tripp McNeill, a Duke commitment.
Carney was CPC Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, an amazing feat for a freshman.
The key for Davie having a great season will be the success of QB Parker Correll. If Davie can pass effectively to complement Carney, defenses will have their hands full with the War Eagles.
Davie gets a stiff test right out of the gate.
Some consider Page’s talented 6-foot-7 DE Lorenzo Featherston, the state’s No. 1 college prospect.
Page, a high-octane spread team which won the 4AA title in 2011, has a lot to prove. It went undefeated in conference play last season, then was knocked off in the first round of the state playoffs.
History: Carney rolled for 234 yards on 29 carries in his debut last season, and Davie dominated the second half for a 31-14 victory over the Pirates. ...
Davie leads the series 5-3, including an incredible 50-49 overtime win in 2008. Davie rallied from a 27-0 deficit in that one.