21-North Rowan info box (football tab)

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Coach: Ben Hampton (4th year)

2017: 8-4 overall, 5-2 YVC (3rd place). Lost 30-22 at Polk County in first round of 1A playoffs.

Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense

Key players

Offense (spread/multiple I)

Willis Mitchell, senior QB (6-0, 212) — Will have to show resiliency while inexperienced OL learns chemistry. Passed for 1,871 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, completing 54 percent of his attempts. Had a three-TD, 300-yard game against Albemarle. Tough kid and a cool customer.

Malcolm Wilson, junior RB (5-11, 185) — Replaces Jaleel Webster as North’s featured ball carrier. Rumbled for 523 yards and averaged 7.8 per carry as an impossible-to-ignore soph. Also scored nine touchdowns. Hampton believes he’ll be playing on Saturdays in two years.

Quintous Smith, senior WR (6-3, 190) — Tricky to spell, tougher to defend. All-county and all-conference last fall with deserving numbers: 477 receiving yards and eight TDs, despite missing one game with a concussion. Division I college recruiters are paying attention.

Benjamin Caldwell, senior LT (6-4, 265) — North’s line king and the lone returning starter on a depleted OL. Switches from RT to the blind side this season because “he’s the best we’ve got,” according to Hampton. Will also line up as a defensive tackle for the first time. Nicknamed “Rhode Island” for as-yet-unknown reasons.

Defense (4-2-5)

Tyzai Lyles, senior LB (6-2, 195) — Third-year starter and last year’s leading tackler. Used keen sense of awareness to recover three fumbles. Knows the system and what’s expected. Aggressive ballhawk who navigates sideline-to-sideline with the brawn and bravado of a modern-day Butkus.

Xavier Davis, sophomore SS (5-7, 170) — Gold’s Gym physique and a nose for the ball. A state trooper in the secondary, he made two of North’s five interceptions in ’17. All-county and all-YVC as a freshman. Truly, a can’t-miss college prospect if current trend continues.

Jaharion Graham, sophomore FS (5-9, 165) — Returning starter who earned all-county and all-conference honors. Great set of wheels. Part of a disruptive, agitating secondary that works more than it yaps.

Malachi Turner, junior NG (5-10, 300) — A load-and-a-half on the DL. Capable of occupying two blocks simultaneously, allowing linebackers to penetrate unscathed. Gives opposing linemen a reason to worry.