Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mooresville star commits to Charlotte 49ers basketball

Shawn Lester, a 6-foot-3 shooting guard from Mooresville High, has committed to Charlotte. Lester chose the 49ers over Clemson and South Carolina.

Lester, a senior, averaged 18.5 points, 5 assists and 5 steals for the Blue Devils (19-11), who lost to Western 4A regional qualifier Olympic in the first round of the playoffs.

"I thought that was right for me," Lester said. "It'll help me get my degree and help me be a better player and I hope to help them win."

Lester said the Charlotte staff told him he'd play shooting guard.

"I'm comfortable with the (shooting guard position)," he said. "I'm glad I can get this (college choice)  done early and focus on my academics and focus on getting ready for my senior season."

Monday, August 29, 2011

North Meck adds new baseball, volleyball coaches

North Mecklenburg has added three coaches.

North Meck grad Tarrah Johnson is the new volleyball coach. Her first team is off to a 3-0 start. She will teach in North’s English department.

E. Parker Morse, North’s new cheerleading coach, comes from rival West Charlotte. She will also teach english.

Andy Carter is the school’s new baseball coach. He is a Davidson College graduate who was a three-year team MVP. After graduating in 2005, he was drafted by the New York Yankees organization and played three years professionally. He’ll join North’s teaching staff in the marketing department Sept. 13.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Observations from Friday's Mallard Creek-Sun Valley game

Note: the game can be seen at ibnsports.com/hs

  • Mallard Creek offensive lineman DJ Humphries looks every bit 6-6 280 pounds in person. Walking out for the coin toss with his teammates, he towered over everyone. During the game, the All American committed to Florida often flattened two and sometimes three defenders on plays

  • Mallard Creek has a very tall and athletic receiving corp, maybe the best I've seen since 2002-2004 Independence. All of them can turn a five yard out into a 90 yard marathon

  • Mallard Creek smartly kicked away from Sun Valley star Jody Fuller who still caught a 19 yard touchdown and scored on a 19 yard reverse. He looks like a high school linebacker with 4.4 speed. Steve Spurrier is getting (another) good one at South Carolina

  • There's a female fan at Sun Valley with the loudest voice I've ever heard. Like a human megaphone. And she never gets hoarse. I will hear "Lets go Valley!!" in my sleep for two weeks

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Prep sports attendance dwarfs college and pros

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Aug. 17, 2011) - More fans attend high school basketball and football events than the same sports at the college and professional levels combined, according to a survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

During the 2009-10 school year, approximately 336 million fans attended high school regular-season and playoff games in football and girls and boys basketball -- more than 2 1/2 times the 133 million spectators who attended events in those sports at the college and professional levels.

In addition, attendance at events in the top 16 high school sports from a participation standpoint was approximately 510 million during the 2009-10 school year, including 468 million during regular-season events and 42 million for state association playoff contests.

The NFHS surveyed high school athletic directors at small (up to 1,000 enrollment), medium (1,000 to 2,200) and large (more than 2,220) high schools and multiplied the average regular-season attendance (based on the schools that responded) in each sport by the number of schools in each enrollment category that sponsor the sport. A similar method was used to determine overall attendance at postseason events conducted by NFHS member state associations.

In addition to basketball and football, others sports included in the survey were baseball, cross country, field hockey, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball, water polo and wrestling. Where applicable, attendance for both boys and girls contests was included.

When combining attendance at regular-season girls and boys contests, basketball led the way with about 170 million fans, followed closely by football with 166 million. Soccer ranked third at 24 million, followed by baseball (20 million), volleyball (17 million), softball (15.8 million), wrestling (10 million), track and field (6.6 million), ice hockey (6 million), swimming and diving (4.8 million), lacrosse (4.5 million), cross country (3 million), water polo (1.8 million), tennis (1.8 million), golf (1.3 million) and field hockey (800,000).

While there are about 40 sports listed in the NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, the remaining sports not included in the attendance survey have minimal participation numbers nationally and would collectively add fewer than a million spectators annually. This is the first attempt (through the means of a survey) by the NFHS, the national leadership organization for high school athletic and performing arts activities, to determine national attendance figures at the high school level.

“This first-of-its-kind survey of attendance figures at the high school level is certainly a great sign that high school sports continue to be a big part of communities throughout our nation,” said Bob Gardner, NFHS executive director. “A ticket to a high school sporting event remains one of the best values for the entertainment dollar.”

-- National Federation of High Schools media release

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mallard Creek No. 1 in Observer Sweet 16 for the first time

The first regular-season Sweet 16 poll of the 2011 season brings with it a big shake up.

Mallard Creek, which beat Butler 28-20 Friday, is No. 1 for the first time in school history. The Mavericks win ended Butler’s 31-game win streak and today ends Butler’s 671-day hold on the No. 1 ranking.

Preseason No. 3 West Rowan lost to Mooresville Friday, ending the nation’s longest win streak at 46 games. West Rowan fell from No. 3 to No. 9, and Mooresville -- unranked in the preseason -- moved to No. 13.

Also new this week are No. 14 Berry and No. 15 Porter Ridge, two teams that started the season in style Friday. Porter Ridge beat Monroe 55-26 and Berry beat preseason No. 6 Vance 44-6, sending the Cougars tumbling to No. 16.

One team making a big jump was Burns, which beat 2010 N.C. 3AA state championship finalist Crest 33-12 at home Friday, beating its Cleveland County rival for the first time since 1998. Burns jumped from No. 12 to 8; Crest fell from No. 4 to 10.

Rk.     Team (Class)     Rec.    Prev.
1     Mallard Creek (4A)     1-0    2
2     Butler (4A)     0-1    1
3     Charlotte Catholic (3A)     1-0    5
4     Rock Hill Northwestern (4A)     0-0    7
5     A.L. Brown (3A)    1-0    8
6    South Point (3A)    1-0    9
7    Rock Hill South Pointe (3A)     0-0    10
8    Burns (3A)    1-0    12
9    West Rowan (3A)    0-1    3
10    Crest (3A)    0-1    4
11    Independence (4A)    1-0    14
12    Lincolnton (2A)    1-0    15
13    Mooresville (4A)    1-0    NR
14    Berry (3A)    1-0    NR
15    Porter Ridge (4A)    1-0    NR
16    Vance (4A)    0-1    6
Dropped out: No. 16 Albemarle (1A, 0-1); No. 13 Sun Valley (4A, 0-1); No. 11 Hibriten (3A, 0-1)
On the Bubble: Charlotte Country Day (IND, 0-0); Hopewell (4A, 1-0)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mallard Creek, Butler are 1-2 in the Sweet 16

The Mallard Creek Mavericks and Butler Bulldogs, teams that went 29-1 last season, are the top two teams in this year's Sweet 16 preseason poll.

Both teams are nationally ranked and will play each other Friday at Mallard Creek.

But which team is No. 1?

Be sure to check tomorrow's print editions and online to find out.

Here's the rest of the preseason Sweet 16.

1. ???
2. ???
No. 3: West Rowan (3A)
No. 4: Crest (3A)
No. 5: Char. Catholic (3A)
No. 6: Vance
No. 7: Northwestern (4A)
No. 8: A.L. Brown (3A)
No. 9: South Point (3A)
No. 10: South Pointe (3A)
No. 11: Hibriten (3A)
No. 12: Burns (3A)
No. 13: Sun Valley (4A)
No. 14: Independence (4A)
No. 15: Lincolnton (2A)
No.16: Albemarle (1A)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Crest and West Rowan ranked No. 4 and 3 in the preseason Sweet 16

Crest and West Rowan, teams that reached the N.C. 3AA and 3A state finals last season, are ranked No. 4 and No. 3 in the preseason Sweet 16. Look for stories on both teams in Saturday's editions of the newspaper in print.

Saturday at 3, the top two teams in the poll will debut.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Preseason Sweet 16 No. 5 Charlotte Catholic

Look for No. 4 announced at 3 p.m. Friday on Charlotte Observer.com

By Corey Inscoe

Mark Harrell went to the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio as a relatively unknown offensive tackle prospect in January.

The Charlotte Catholic senior received his first scholarship offer from Duke last October, midway through his junior season.

“I was pretty excited about it,” he said. “I didn’t really expect to get many more.”

After a stellar performance at the combine, Harrell did get more. A lot more.

“Once he got invited to San Antonio, it just went big time,” said Charlotte Catholic athletic director and assistant football coach Kevin Christmas, who helped Harrell with the recruiting process. “His stars went up and all the sudden people were calling and coming in.”

At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Harrell has the size college scouts are looking for and after playing fullback for two years in middle school at Holy Trinity, he had the footwork that made him one of the top 25 prospects in the state. He also plays basketball at Catholic to work on his footwork and stay in shape and throws shot put for the track team in the spring to build strength.

“They love his feet,” said Christmas. “They see him being able to move and he can be versatile.”

Offers poured in from many other ACC and SEC schools, then from Michigan and Stanford. Notre Dame invited him up for its junior day in February.

“I didn’t really expect much out of it,” said Harrell, 18. “I just thought it would be a cool trip.”

Harrell left South Bend without an offer, but the coaches were interested. Two days later, they offered him a scholarship.

By May, Harrell had narrowed his list down to six schools: Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Auburn and Notre Dame.

“I was going to take my six visits this summer, but I decided I knew where I was going so why wait on it?” said Harrell, 18.

On May 19, Harrell verbally committed to the Irish. Now the senior can focus on leading the Cougars, No. 5 in the preseason Sweet 16 football poll, back to the playoffs this year.

Charlotte Catholic won 14-straight games last year before losing to Crest 31-10 in the 3AA state semifinals. It was a tough loss for a team that looked poised to win its first state championship since back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.

“I’ve watched that game film multiple times,” said Harrell. “My dad keeps making me watch it. It’s just motivation to do better (this) year. We were literally one game away.”

Last year, Harrell was a part of a senior-laden offensive line that head coach Jim Oddo called one of the best he’d ever seen in his 38 years of coaching Catholic.

Now, Harrell, technically a tight end, but who only had one catch for eight yards last year, is the lone returning starter.

“We have a lot of young guys but I think they have the ability, it’s just about meshing as a team,” said Harrell.

The backfield will look different for Catholic as well. Gone are Steven Bevilacqua and Nick Johnson, who combined for more than 2,700 yards and 42 touchdowns last year. David Herlocker is the only returning starter in the Wing-T formation with junior Alex Sabates taking the other wing back position and sophomore Elijah Hood, whom Oddo called “a pretty damn tough kid,” filling the fullback role.

Jack Brodowicz will take over quarterbacking duties from his brother, C.J., who graduated last year.

The defense returns five starters, including All-ME-GA 7 senior linebacker Matt Cincotta and Brodowicz and Herlocker playing both sides of the ball in the secondary. Senior Michael Moll returns to the defensive line with senior Josh Conde, who saw substantial playing time last year. Harrell will probably also see some playing time on the defensive line.

Despite returning just seven starters from last year, Oddo is confident about his team.

“We’re always optimistic,” he said. “If you don’t think you can win then you don’t have a chance.”

With his college decision out of the way, Harrell has just one thing on his mind.

“It feels great to get it done and to just focus on my last high school season and hopefully win a state championship and have a great senior year,” he said. “It was nice to get that behind me and focus on Catholic football.”

Charlotte Catholic
Last year:
14-1, lost in the semifinals of the N.C. 3AA playoffs.
What’s new: Almost all of the offense. The Cougars return just one starter on the offensive line, Mark Harrell, and one starting running back, David Herlocker, from last year’s team.
Three to watch
TE/OL Mark Harrell (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) Sr.: The Notre Dame commit will be a force on the offensive line – and likely on the defensive line – clearing the way for Catholic’s impressive running game.
RB David Herlocker (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) Sr.: After being the third back for the Cougars last year and averaging little more than 40 yards per game, Herlocker will have to step up this year and become Catholic’s featured back.
QB/DB Jack Brodowicz (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) Sr.: The all-conference safety will also play quarterback this year for Catholic. With Herlocker and seniors Brendan Carroll and Nick Georges, Brodowicz will be part of an experienced Cougar secondary.
Bet you didn’t know: In addition to being an all-conference linebacker, Matt Cincotta (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) is one of the top long snapper prospects in the country, ranked No. 8 nationally by Chris Rubio Long Snapping.
Preview analysis: Most of the players at Charlotte Catholic have been playing in the same system since middle school at Holy Trinity, so replacing graduated players usually isn’t a problem for the Cougars. The offense may take longer to click this year, but when it does expect Catholic to be a state title contender again.
Schedule: Aug: 19, South Mecklenburg; Aug. 26, Providence; Sept. 2, @ Charlotte Country Day; Sept. 9, @ Charlotte Latin; Sept. 16, @ Garinger; Sept. 23, West Mecklenburg; Oct. 7, Harding; Oct. 14, @ Berry; Oct. 21, @ East Gaston; Oct. 28, Olympic.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sweet 16 No. 6: Vance

Note: The preseason Sweet 16 continues today with No. 6 Vance. The No. 5 team will be announced Thursday on CharlotteObserver.com/preps at 3 p.m. and in Friday's edition of the paper in print.

By Sergio Tovar

Living in the shadow of nearby power house Mallard Creek for the past few years, Vance proved that it could hang with the Mavericks last season.

Despite losing 44-20 in the teams’ regular season meeting, the Cougars upset their heavily-favored rivals 10-7 in a defensive showdown in the 4AA state quarterfinals last November.

Vance coach Phil Culicerto said the win, which was the Cougars’ first against Mallard Creek on the field since October 2007 and Culicerto’s first as head coach, was a big boost for his team and its fans.

“They’ve gotten the best of us the last few years, so it was a great feeling - a great win - for the program,” Culicerto said. “I guess it was our turn that night.”

Culicerto hopes his Cougars, ranked No. 6 in the preseason Sweet 16, can build off last year’s 11-4 season and give the Mavericks a run for the I-Meck 4A conference title.

A good building block will be having junior Larenz Bryant back. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound running back was an all-conference selection last season, rushing for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns.

“As a high school tailback he might be one of the finest,” said Culicerto. “Lorenz is a big man - he’s powerful.”

Quarterback Jalen Latter, who had to give up his the starting job midway through last season, also returns to run the Vance spread offense.

Culicerto said the junior’s experience - having played on the varsity team for the last two years - should help the Cougars.

“He’s gotten more mature and bigger and stronger and faster,” he said. “Jalen’s totally taken control of this football team.”

Culicerto said he hopes to have a well-balanced offense, explaining that opponents’ focus on shutting down the team’s running game hurt them at times.

Vance’s defense, which Culicerto said will revolve around its speed, will be led by its linebackers.

Senior Brian Smallwood, who recorded 65 tackles for the Cougars last year, and Bryant, who added 56 more, will show the way for the group.

“With those two anchoring the inside, our middle’s going to be good,” Culicerto said.
The coach added that he hopes to give players like Bryant, who rarely got a chance to sit out a snap last season, some breathing room with more depth this year.

Culicerto and the Cougars have hopes of winning the I-Meck after being runners-up last season. But their dreams don’t stop there.

“We want to be the team that meets on that Sunday to play for a state title,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about. Any coach who doesn’t say that is lying.”

Of course, Mallard Creek will again be standing in their way.

Culicerto doesn’t want his team to get caught up on last year’s playoff win, knowing that some of his young players weren’t on the field.

But Culicerto isn’t shying away. To prepare his team for the Sept. 30 matchup against the Mavericks, he’s scheduled quality non-conference opponents - something he said paid off for his team last fall.

“We knew how to compete early in the year,” he said. “We were better prepared going through our season when we got into our conference.”

Facing 4AA defending champ Butler, as well as Berry, Garinger and Independence, early, Culicerto hopes will force his team to stay hungry.

“I like it that way - I want my kids to have to compete and play hard every snap,” he said. “I want them not to expect to win any games.”

Phil Culicerto.
Last year: 11-4, 6-1 I-Meck (4AA state semifinals).
What’s new: Cougars will aim to have a more balanced attack after being a run-first team last season, having an experienced quarterback and athletic receivers on the roster.
Three to watch:
? RB Larenz Bryant (6-1, 203), Jr.: Rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.
? QB Jalen Latter (5-9, 163), Jr.: After losing starting role, he’s back at the helm of the Cougar offense.
? LB Brian Smallwood (6-2, 230), Sr.: Team’s top defensive player recorded 65 tackles last fall.
Bet you didn’t know: Culicerto, who played quarterback at Virginia Tech, has been head coach of the football and baseball teams at NCAA Division III Hampden-Sydney.
Preview analysis: Vance returns a lot of talent, shaping up to be Mallard Creek’s main threat in the I-Meck 4A after defeating the Mavericks in the 4AA state quarterfinals last season.
Schedule: Aug. 19, at Berry; 26, Garinger; Sept. 2, at Independence; 9, at Butler; 16, Hough; 23, at Mooresville; 30, Mallard Creek; Oct. 7, at Lake Norman; 14, North Mecklenburg; 21 Hopewell; 28, at West Charlotte.
Sergio Tovar

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preseason Sweet 16 No. 7: Rock Hill Northwestern

Continuing a series of Sweet 16 previews. No. 6 will appear here online at 3 p.m. and in Thursday's Observer.

By Denny Seitz

ROCK HILL -- The winning football tradition at Rock Hill’s Northwestern High has been firmly in place for several decades now, so seeing the Trojans penciled in as the No. 7 team in the Observer preseason Sweet 16 might imply everything is business as usual for the team in 2011.

The fact is, expectations, and many of the players and coaches are the same for this year’s club, but the face of the program and some of the key cogs in its current run of four straight region championships and three straight appearances in the state finals are absent this time around.

“He’s a legend,” new head coach Kyle Richardson said, of Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Wallace, who retired after the Trojans’ 15-0 state championship run last year. “You don’t really replace that. You just try to keep it going.”

Wallace isn’t the only big change. Three defensive linemen from last year’s team graduated to scholarship spots in the ACC or SEC, and the school also graduated Gatorade National Player of the Year Justin Worley, who will be quarterback at the University of Tennessee this season.

Richardson seems undaunted.

“Our mindset hasn’t changed,” said the former Belmont South Point and Appalachian State player, who was the architect of the Trojans’ Air Raid offense that has averaged more than 40 points per game over the past four seasons. “The players here know that when they put on that Trojans purple, its not about winning games, it’s about winning championships.”

Six starters return on both offense and defense for the Trojans, including all-conference receiver B.J. Boyd, who had 100 receptions for 1,228 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, and junior running back Lathomas Long, who also earned all-conference honors after amassing 850 rushing yards and 600 yards in receptions.

The defense will be led by returning all-conference performers, defensive backs Josh Shelton and Devante Gibson, and linebackers Tyderrick Robinson and Reuben Walker.
Football philosophies won’t be drastically different between the Wallace regime and the Richardson era. But the new Trojans coach laughs about the changes in style.

“He’s old school and I’m new school,” Richardson said. “He’s pen and paper. I’m computer. He’s on the office phone. I’m texting on my cell. He’s quiet. I’m music blaring on the field before and after practice.”

In the end, however, the mindset is the same.

“Practice is at a different tempo,” said Boyd. “Everything is fast, get it over with, do it fast and do it good. But everything else is pretty much the same.”

Boyd caught 100 passes last year, but that wasn’t even tops on the Trojans team. He should be targeted even more this year after the graduation of Robert Joseph, who had 122 receptions in 2011 and hauled in an unheard of 153 balls in 2010.

Throwing the ball to the speedy Trojans receivers will be senior Matt Turney (6-0, 175) or sophomore Mason Rudolph (6-5, 185). Mason starred at wide receiver last year at Westminster Catawba Christian School.

“We won’t ask them to be record breakers,” Richardson said. “We tell them to put the ball in people’s hands who can make plays. The rest takes care of itself.”

Richardson’s place in the spotlight replacing Wallace is similar to that of whichever quarterback has to replace Worley, who Richardson said is a “once-in-a-generation type player.” So growing together might be made easier.

“I can tell you that nobody is going to back down from the pressure,” Richardson said. “We’re not going to back down. We’re all focused to do whatever it takes to help the team succeed.”

Northwestern Overview
Last year:
15-0, 5-0 in S.C. Region 3 4A
What’s new: The biggest change is on the sidelines, where Kyle Richardson will be the one calling the shots after replacing Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Wallace. Another new face will be at quarterback, where three layers are competing to replace Justin Worley, who threw for 13,385 yards and 157 touchdowns the past three seasons.
Three to watch
WR B.J. Boyd (Sr. 6-0, 170): Smart receiver who should be Trojans’ No. 1 target this season
DB Josh Shelton (Sr., 5-9, 160): Top cover cornerback and expected to be leader of defense this year
RB Lathomas Long (Jr., 5-10, 170): Dual threat back who will get plenty of touches in Air Raid offense
Bet you didn’t know: Richardson was a star wide receiver at Belmont South Point, where his position coach was John Devine, the new head coach at Northwestern’s region rival, Clover.
Preview analysis: Anything less than a state championship would be falling short of the goal for the Trojans, who return tons of talent but also graduated tons of talent, including Gatorade National Player of the Year Worley, who is now quarterback at the University of Tennessee.
Schedule: Aug. 26, at South Pointe, Sept. 2, at York, 9, at Ridge View, 16, at Blythewood, 23, Nation Ford, 30, North Augusta, Oct. 7, Spartanburg, 13, Lancaster, 21, at Clover, 28, at Gaffney, Nov. 4, Rock Hill.
Denny Seitz

Monday, August 8, 2011

The 2011 Preseason Sweet 16 Football Poll: No. 8 A.L. Brown

Each day, the Observer is revealing a new team in its Sweet 16. Today is No. 8 Kannapolis Brown. Get No. 7 tomorrow at 3 p.m. at this site and read a preview story on Brown and see photos in tomorrow's print editions (8/9).

Last year:
What’s new: Longtime coach Ron Massey has retired and Brown brought in Mike Newsome from Butler, where he turned the Bulldogs into a two-time state champion and took over the mantle of the state’s top program from Independence. Can Newsome repeat that success in Kannapolis?
Three to watch
RB Damien Washington (6-1, 190), Sr.: Great athlete will play RB, QB, WR. Offers from UNC, William & Mary and Richmond
DE Gerald Holt (6-3, 250), Sr.: Fast as a linebacker and solid player. Newsome calls him a “great leader.”
OL Hunter Morris (6-2, 250), Sr.: Smart center makes all calls and is strong long snapper and college recruit. Good student.
Bet you didn’t know: Brown runs a “Summer Warriors” program. To earn the distinction, players have to regularly attend voluntary workouts, run distances at specific times (example 18 100-yard sprints in a certain time). This year, 114 players made it. Some teams don’t have that many players.
Preview analysis: Newsome has 30 lettermen and 12 starters back from a team that reached the third round of the N.C. 3AA playoffs last year. He’s also got a supportive community hungry for a state title. Brown hasn’t won one in 14 years. Washington, an-under-the-radar star last year, should emerge this year. There’s a huge amount of excitment in Kannapolis, a place that loves its high school football as much as anyplace in the state. Brown has the talent, and the coach, to give the fans, what they want so much.
Schedule: Aug. 19, Shelby; Aug. 26, at S. Rowan; Sept. 2, Rocky River; Sept. 9, at Porter Ridge; Sept. 16, at JM Robinson; Sept. 23, Central Cabarrus; Sept. 30, Cox Mill; Oct. 7, at Mt Pleasant; Oct. 14, Hickory Ridge; Oct. 21, at NW Cabarrus; Oct. 28, Concord

No. 7: Announced tomorrow at 3 p.m. at CharlotteObserver.com/preps

No. 8: Kannapolis Brown (3A)

No. 9: South Point (3A)

No. 10: Rock Hill South Pointe (3A)

No. 11: Hibriten (3A)

No. 12: Burns (3A)

No. 13: Sun Valley (4A)

No. 14: Independence (4A)

No. 15: Lincolnton (2A)

No. 16: Albemarle (1A)

Cherryville Legion season ends in home-plate brawl

Cherryville Post 100's American Legion baseball season came to a bizarre end -- a double forfeit after a benches-clearing brawl at home plate, the Gaston Gazette reported.

Cherryville, the North Carolina state champion playing the the American Legion Southeast Regional at Sumter, S.C., had just taken a 4-0 lead against Douglasville, Ga., in a game early Sunday morning.

Douglasville's catcher fired a baseball into the back of Cherryville's Blake Mosteller as Mosteller headed for the dugout after scoring the fourth run, the Gazette reported.

That started a brawl at home plate that involved most players from the two teams. After consultation the Gazette said included national tournament officials, a double-forfeit was declared, ending Cherryville's season at 32-8.

The winner of the Southeast Regional will advance to the national tournament in Shelby later this week.

For the complete story, click here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The 2011 Preseason Sweet 16 Football Poll: No. 9 South Point

Note: Continuing a series of Sweet 16 countdown profiles with No. 9 South Point. No. 8 will be announced at 3 p.m. Monday and in Tuesday's print editions.

By David Scott

Mickey Lineberger has been part of Belmont South Point High athletics for decades.
This season, Lineberger – a former Red Raiders player, long-time athletics director, baseball coach and football assistant – takes over as South Point’s head football coach.

“It’s really not a whole lot different for me,” said Lineberger. “There are high expectations for us, but that’s something we’re used to here.”

The Red Raiders are perennially one of North Carolina’s top 3A programs, winning state championships in 2003 and 2009. Last season – with Lineberger serving as offensive coordinator under head coach John Devine (who left for Clover, S.C.) – South Point went 9-4, won the Big South 3A and played an epic second-round playoff game against Asheville Erwin, losing 57-56 in overtime.

With 17 starters back, the Red Raiders have designs on going further than that this season.

With Lineberger still serving as offensive coordinator, Red Raiders will play their familiar “Red Bone” offense, modeled after Georgia Tech’s triple-option. Senior quarterback Patrick Horne has the experience to run things smoothly.

“He’s really improved and his best game last season was that playoff loss to Erwin,” said Lineberger. “We think he’s going to pick up where he left off.”

Senior fullback Troy Leeper led the team in rushing last season and sophomore Tyler Bray will be one of the team’s top newcomers.

The offensive line, while not very big, will again be effective. Center Jordan Kagen (218 pounds) and tackle Jeffrey Lawing (235) were both all conference last season.

“We’re not really big, but we don’t ask our kids to do things they can’t do,” said Lineberger. “When we won the state championship in 2009, we averaged 185 pounds across the line and we did just fine.”

Then there’s the offensive playmaker, senior Justus Watkins, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound split end.

“He has really looked good so far,” said Lineberger.

Defensively, South Point’s top players will be linebacker Jordan Forney (the team’s leading tackler in 2010), safety Ramon Costner (who had six interceptions) and corner Jalen Porter. Noseguard Payton Flowers (6-2, 250)

“We know we’ve got to improve our defense,” Lineberger said. “But we’ve got the coaches and players to do it.”

Many of the Red Raiders’ seniors were sophomores on South Point’s ’09 state championship team. Most of the coaching staff – with the notable exception of Devine – is still with the program.

Lineberger graduated from South Point in 1972 and – after attending college at Carson-Newman and then coaching at Forest City Chase High – has been at his alma mater since 1984.

“There really and truly hasn’t been much reason to change things around much here,” said Lineberger of his new job. “We’ve still got the (coaching) staff to run things the way they should be run. I’m going to let them coach, let them do their thing. And the players know what’s expected of them.”

South Point’s first game? At home against Clover and former coach Devine on Aug. 19.

South Point Overview
Last year:
9-4, 6-0 Big South 3A (lost in second round of 3A playoffs to Asheville Erwin 57-56 in overtime).
What’s new: Coach Mickey Lineberger is in his first season in charge of the program. He’s a South Point lifer, though, having played for the Red Raiders and serving as the school’s baseball coach and athletics director for several years. He’d been an assistant football coach since 1983.
Three to watch:
OT Jeffrey Lawing, 6-3, 235, Sr.: Three-time all-conference player anchors strong offensive line.
WR/DB Justus Watkins, 6-1, 180, Sr.: Probably Red Raiders’ most talented offensive player, has game-breaking ability.
RB Devin Robbins, 5-11, 170, Jr.: Also a kick returner, has been timed close to 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Bet you didn’t know: Watkins won the long jump at the N.C. 3A track meet last spring.
Preview analysis: The sting of that playoff loss to Erwin is still fresh at South Point, which was hoping last season to repeat as N.C. 3A champ. The offensive is experienced and talented, led by QB Patrick Horne and Watkins. The defense gets back LB Jordan Forney -- who missed the end of last season after breaking his ankle. The Red Raiders should be among the Big South 3A’s best again -- and could make a deep run in the playoffs. -- David Scott
Schedule: Aug. 19, Clover (S.C.); 26, at Lincolnton. Sept. 2, East Gaston; 9, Lawndale Burns; 16, Kings Mountain; 23, at Gastonia Huss; 30, Gastonia Ashbrook. Oct. 7, at Gastonia Forestview; 14, Open; 21, at North Gaston; 28, Boiling Springs Crest.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Charlotte Observer Preseason Sweet 16: No. 10 Rock Hill South Pointe

Each day the Observer will count down a team in its Sweet 16. The new team will appear around 3 p.m. on CharlotteObserver.com

By Denny Seitz
Special Correspondent
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, sort of. Continuing a tradition of highly successful football teams at Rock Hill South Pointe is the goal for first-time head coach Strait Herron, who has spent the past 11 years as an assistant coach and/or defensive coordinator at three schools.

And while the Stallions’ football program is hardly broken, Herron and his staff have lots of shifting, altering and tweaking after the graduation of national Defensive Player of the Year Jadeveon Clowney and fellow Division I defensive star Gerald Dixon, the son of the former NFL player.

“We’re changing everything,” said Herron, who added former Weddington coach Blair Hardin to his staff, as offensive coordinator.

Hardin will lead the Stallions away from the Flex Bone, implementing a spread offense that will utilize the talents of the lightning-quick trio of seniors Tay Hicklin, Montay Crockett and Corey Neely.

Revamping the defense will be the task of new defensive coordinator Jason Winstead, who was at Rock Hill High last season. Winstead is installing a 3-5 defense after the Stallions operated out of a Shade 50 the past six seasons.

The schemes and coaches are new, but the expectations remain for the Stallions, ranked 10th in the Observer preseason Sweet 16.

“The offense and defense we’ve installed both suit our personnel better,” said Herron. “Both are made for speed. And we have speed.”

The Stallions have plenty of talent returning, including Hicklin, Crockett and Neely – each of whom runs sub 4.5 40-yard dashes and can be ultra-dangerous in the open field. Hicklin began last season as the Stallions’ quarterback and threw for 499 yards and ran for 515 more before giving way to rising junior Devon Pearson, who has the tools that make Herron think he’ll thrive in the spread offense.

“He’s just a great athlete,” Herron said of Pearson, who, in less than half a season last year, chalked up 654 passing yards and nine touchdown tosses.

The quarterback and his receiving trio will get help from the running back tandem of juniors DiaMond Miller and Brandon Barber. Miller transferred to South Pointe from Rock Hill High, where he was the leading rusher on the Bearcats’ junior varsity team in 2010. Barber was a back with the Stallions.

Defensively, Hicklin, Neely and JaRyan Jennings return to starting positions, as does cornerback Buddy Byers, but the entire front line will be new, as the Clowney era officially ends.

“You cannot replace Jadeveon Clowney,” said Herron. “All you can do is move forward.”

Juniors Jeremy Hopkins and Matt Meyer, and sophomore Zeke Rodney will compete for the two defensive end positions.

College coaches might not be flocking to South Pointe games this year, as they did the past few seasons while they recruited Clowney, but that doesn’t mean there’s not enough talent to be a state champion, Herron says.

“That is, and always will be, our goal,” he said.

South Pointe

Last year: 13-2, 5-0 in S.C. Region 4 3A
What’s new: What’s new at South Pointe? It’d be easier to ask ‘what’s not new?’ Strait Herron is the new head coach. He has new offensive and defensive coordinators who will implement new offensive and defensive schemes.
Three to watch
DB/WR Tay Hicklin (Sr. 6-1, 175)
DB/WR Montay Crockett (Sr. 6-1, 175)
DB/WR Corey Neely (Sr. 6-1, 170)
Bet you didn’t know: South Pointe High opened six years ago. The Stallions were 3-8 in year one and have gone 47-10 the past four seasons, including 2008, when the team went 15-0 and won the 3A state championship.
Preview analysis: The Stallions could contend for a state championship again this season, but the first few weeks could be ultra-challenging, with the season opener at Northwestern and a week 3 Saturday afternoon kickoff against West Rowan. Both foes went 15-0 last season and won state championships in S.C. and N.C. respectively.
Schedule: Aug. 26, Northwestern; Sept. 2, at Airborne for Christ; 10, West Rowan; 16, at Rock Hill; 23, Spartanburg; 30, at Fort Mill; Oct. 7, at Fort Mill Nation Ford; 14, Fairfield Central; 21, at Chester; 28, York

The Sweet 16
No. 9: Announced in Monday’s Observer and at 3 p.m. today on charlotteobserver.com
No. 10: South Pointe
No. 11: Hibriten
No. 12: Burns (3A)
No. 13: Sun Valley (4A)
No. 14: Independence (4A)
No. 15: Lincolnton (2A)
No. 16: Albemarle (1A)

Friday, August 5, 2011

The 2011 Preseason Sweet 16 Football Poll: No. 11 Hibriten

NOTE: Each day, the Observer will unveil a team ranked in its Sweet 16 football poll. We continue today with No. 11 Hibriten. Saturday (Aug. 6) around 3 p.m, the No. 10 team will be unveiled and each day at 3 p.m. a new team will follow.

(In photo left to right: Hibriten QB Michael McCaleb; RB Julius Gaines; LB Daniel Osborne; C Nathan Schultz)

Denny Seitz
Special Correspondent
If football games were played on paper, and star power and press clippings were the mark of a champion, then fans of Lenoir’s Hibriten High football team might worry.

The Panthers have won 37 games the past three seasons without nearly the amount of fanfare typical of such success. College recruiters aren’t knocking down the door of head coach Clay Lewis.

But there’s a degree of respect afforded the team that makes Lewis proud.

“We talk about building tradition,” Lewis said. “We’re not there yet. We’re not a traditional power. But that’s our goal. That’s what we’re striving for.”

The Panthers, who head into the 2011 campaign at No. 11 in the Observer’s preseason Sweet 16 poll, graduated 29 players, including all but two starters from last year’s 12-3 team.

Despite the losses, they remain the team to beat in the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference. After claiming the conference championship in 2008 and 2009, the team was denied that distinction last year, falling to Alexander Central in overtime in the regular season finale.

Senior Julius Gaines is the Panther who gets the most publicity. He’ll return to a starting cornerback position, where he intercepted eight passes a year ago, in addition to returning both a punt and kickoff for touchdowns.

Senior Nathaan Schultz, a 5-foot-10, 257-pound center, is the lone returnee on offense.

The players force themselves to be humble, and they say the team benefits because their unselfishness and camaraderie lead them to sacrifice gaudy personal statistics in exchange for impressive victories. None of the players on this year’s team earned all-conference honors a year ago.

Consider this: The Panthers leading rusher last season had 905 yards and the team averaged just 8.2 passing attempts per game, yet they were in the lead late in the fourth quarter of two of their three losses last season, including a fourth-round playoff game at West Rowan. And they gave Butler all it could handle in a 35-28 battle.

How do they do it? By focusing on intangibles off the field and by executing their Flex Bone offense to perfection and rotating plenty of players into the mix in their 3-3-5 alignment on defense.

Four players split the majority of carries last season from the fullback spot, but all four graduated leaving openings for junior Jermaine Davenport and sophomore Zack Walker. The quarterback job belongs to senior Michael McCaleb, with junior Jordan Rutherford, who started on the junior varsity a year ago, also expected to see plenty of action.

McCaleb, last year’s backup signal-caller, is the leading returning rusher for the Panthers. He had 202 yards on the ground and scored three touchdowns. Gaines will be a slot receiver and see considerable time in the backfield. Lewis says the talented Gaines should get 15-20 touches per game this season. And the coach says the team may be lacking the depth it had last year but still has the talent to win every game it plays.

“We expect to win. That’s the bottom line,” Lewis said.

The players have the same lofty expectations.

“Coach says that seniors graduate but tradition never does,” said Schultz. “We’re trying to build a legacy, not just a team.”

Part of that legacy at Hibriten comes from the Panthers Roar, a program in place the past two years that involves players and coaches helping out those in need in the community by doing odd jobs like yard work, or helping people move. It’s become a weekly routine for the players, who have combined forces at various times with a local shelter for battered women, local soup kitchens, and organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

The idea came about, in part, because Lewis and his team wanted to repay the community for the support the community provides on Friday nights during football season. Panthers Roar has made plenty of noise in the Lenoir community, where players have become mentors to the elementary and middle school kids who watch them perform.

“It makes you realize it’s not all about you,” Gaines said.

Added Schultz: “It’s made a huge difference in our team. We’re trying to help people out who support us and help us every Friday night. But it’s so much more than that. It helps us as a football team too. We all know there’s a lot more to the guy lining up next to you than football ability. There’s character. That goes a long way.”

Last year:
12-3, 5-1 (lost 20-14 to West Rowan in fourth-round playoff game)
What’s new: Twenty of the 22 starters will be new, as will the need for as many as six players to begin the season as two-way starters.
Three to watch
CB/RB Julius Gaines (Sr. 6-1, 175): Game-changer with decent speed and great instincts
C Nathaan Schultz (Sr. 5-10, 257): Has athleticism and will be a leader on the offensive line
TE/LB Daniel Osborne (Sr. 6-2, 231): Will mentor a young linebacking corps and could move into spot at defensive end if young, talented unit featuring three sophomores matures quickly.
Bet you didn’t know: Two new starters on the offensive line are cousins Jonathan Minton and Mason Minton. Jonathan (Soph. 6-3, 288) and Mason (Jr. 6-1, 298) both have “big” brothers. Mason’s brother, Fisher Minton, is a 6-5, 330 pound red-shirt freshman at UNC Pembroke. Daniel Minton, Jonathan’s brother, is a 6-3, 310 pound freshman on the Hibriten junior varsity who is expected to be on the varsity by season’s end.
Preview analysis: There’s no flashiness with the Panthers, just hard work and physical play. The style has worked perfectly for the team during its recent streak of stellar seasons and should work again this year. Lack of depth, especially early in the season, could be the biggest obstacle for the team.
Schedule: Aug. 19, East Burke; 26, Tuscola, Sept. 2, at West Caldwell, 9, at Patton, 16, at South Caldwell, 23, Davie County, 30, St. Stephens, Oct. 7, at Fred T. Foard, 14, Hickory, 21, at Watauga, 28, Alexander.

The Sweet 16 (so far)

No. 10: Announced in Sunday’s Observer and at 3 p.m. Saturday on charlotteobserver.com
No. 11: Hibriten (3A)
No. 12: Burns (3A)
No. 13: Sun Valley (4A)
No. 14: Independence (4A)
No. 15: Lincolnton (2A)
No. 16: Albemarle (1A)

Sue Doran named CMS athletics director

Sue Doran, who has been assistant athletics director for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools for the past five years, has been promoted. She is the new county athletics director, replacing Vicki Hamilton, who retired in February.

Doran, 55, had served as interim athletics director since Hamilton’s move. Hamilton was an educator for 34 years, spending the last 17 as CMS AD. She was the first female atheltics director of a city/county district in North Carolina.

Doran said her old assistant AD job will not be filled.

“I’m following someone who was a trailblazer and did a tremendous job,” Doran said of Hamilton. “When you follow someone as dynamic and as effective as she was, I don’t feel the need to come in and make drastic change.”

Doran played basketball and volleyball at Division II schools North Georgia and West Georgia. She got her masters’ degree from West Georgia and started her coaching career there, as a head softball and assistant women’s basketball coach.

She coached at East Tennessee State for 20 years under then women’s coach Susan Yow. Doran also had stops at Drake, Kansas State and UNC-Wilmington. She worked with current N.C. State AD Debbie Yow in the Maryland athletics office and eventually worked with the late Kay Yow with the N.C. State women’s program.

“I’m a jeopardy question,” Doran said. “I’ve worked with all three Yow sisters.”

Doran later spent three years as an assistant at Providence College before deciding she wanted to get out of coaching. She heard about the CMS assistant AD job from N.C. High School Athletic Association deputy commissioner Que Tucker.

Doran said she’s excited about her knew role, and understood the rigors of it.

“There’s ebbs and flows in every job,” she said. “I try to not get too excited about them and not let circumstances change how I approach. You come in every day, put your head down, and do your job. Some days are tougher than others, but you keep an even keel -- and to borrow a sports term -- keep your eye on the ball. Do that and I think you’ll come through the tough times and the good times.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The 2011 Preseason Sweet 16 Football Poll: No. 12 Burns

NOTE: Each day, the Observer will unveil a team ranked in its Sweet 16 football poll. We continue today with No. 12 Burns. Friday (Aug. 5) around 3 p.m, the No. 12 team will be unveiled and each day at 3 p.m. a new team will follow.

By Ron Green Jr.
Darius Ramsey doesn’t do things halfway.
The senior running back at Burns High doesn’t just work at Subway in Gastonia. He’s a night-shift manager and has been for a few years, working 30 or more hours a week when it’s not football season.
"I can make you the best sandwich you’ve ever had," Ramsey said.
Ramsey has a 4.4 grade point average and a long-term goal of becoming a lawyer.
Just 5-feet, 8 inches tall and 175 pounds, Ramsey can bench press 300 pounds and squat more than 500 pounds, his coach Matt Beam said.
After fighting a fumbling problem as a sophomore, Ramsey committed himself to holding onto the football last season and he did it, handling more the 280 touches with only one drop, and that was on a shaky pitch.
For those reasons and more, Ramsey is at the heart of what could be a special season at Burns this fall.
"I see greatness," Ramsey said. "I want to be good and let it spill over to other people. I’m a senior now. You only get one last time."
Beam, who led the Bulldogs to an 11-2 record last season that ended with a triple-overtime playoff loss to Asheville, marvels at Ramsey.
"All coaches say this about players but I’ll say (Ramsey) is the most complete person, student, hard worker football player I’ve ever been around," Beam says. "He’s unbelievable."
Ramsey, Beam said, received a good citizenship award for Cleveland County students and he’s within reach of becoming the county’s all-time leading rusher.
But Ramsey is just one part of a balanced team.
Quarterback Brandon Littlejohn has passed for more than 5,000 yards and 73 touchdowns the past two seasons. Nose guard Tank Ramseur is a nightmare for opposing centers. Linebacker/running back Travond Ross is a force on both sides of the line.
"We were 1-10 when (Littlejohn) came on campus two years ago," Beam said. "Then he won the quarterback job."
After an 0-5 start in 2009, Ramsey became the starting running back -- and the Bulldogs were off and running.
"I told him the job was his and we won six straight," Beam said.
Last season, the Bulldogs lost their opener to Crest then reeled off 11 straight victories only to get eliminated by Asheville in the second round of the playoffs. Burns had beaten Asheville during the regular season.
"It stayed with me. It’s still with me," Ramsey said of the loss. "I cried for two weeks after that game. I almost can’t talk about it without getting teary-eyed. To have such a good season and to fall short, it was hard."
When Ramsey puts his mind to something, his focus rarely wavers. That’s what happened with his fumbling problem. When Beam pulled Ramsey aside in his sophomore season and told him he couldn’t continue to play him if he kept putting the ball on the ground.
"I was out there starry-eyed as a sophomore. I got thrown into the fire and fumbled twice in the playoffs," Ramsey said. "I dedicated myself after that. I got stronger so I could hold onto the ball. I said I can’t throw any more games away."
With one season remaining at Burns, Ramsey has a similar, singular focus.
"We have big state championship dreams," Ramsey said. "It’s going to be a long road but I have a good feeling."

Last year:
11-2, lost in second round of state playoffs.
What’s new: The secondary lost several players due to graduation and could start three sophomores this season.
Three to watch:
QB Brandon Littlejohn (5-11, 175) Sr.: Passed for 2,287 yards and 39 touchdowns last season.
RB Darius Ramsey (5-8, 175) Sr.: Averaged 6.83 yards per carry and is the Bulldogs’ dynamo.
NG Tank Ramseur (5-10, 285) Sr.: He creates a variety of problems for opponents with his presence along the line.
Bet you didn’t know: In 2008, the season before Matt Beam became head coach at Burns, the Bulldogs won just one game.
Preview analysis: There’s plenty of optimism around Lawndale where the Bulldogs have been on the fast track to prominence the last two years. Stocked with a blend of experience and talent, Burns has reason to think seriously about a state title.
Schedule: Aug. 19, Crest; Aug. 26, @ Kings Mountain; Sept. 2, Mooresville; Sept. 9, @ South Point; Sept. 16, Q-Foundation; Sept. 23, @ Freedom; Sept. 30, @ Chase; Oct. 7, East Rutherford; Oct. 14, Patton; Oct. 21, @ RS Central; Oct. 28, Shelby.

THE SWEET 16 (So far)
No. 11: ??? To be announced at 3 p.m. Friday (8/5) on CharlotteObserver.com and in Saturday's print editions
No. 12: Burns 3A
No. 13: Sun Valley 4A
No. 14: Independence 4A
No. 15: Lincolnton 2A
No. 16: Albemarle 1A

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Triton principal Brooks Matthews named NCHSAA board president

CHAPEL HILL— Brooks Matthews, principal of Triton High School in Erwin, will serve as president of the North Carolina High School Board of Directors for the 2011-12 academic year.

Allison Sholar, who will be moving from the Pender County schools as superintendent to Currituck County, will be the immediate past president. Stewart Hobbs, now the superintendent of Yadkin County, is the incoming vice president.

A graduate of Buies Creek High School, where he lettered in four sports, and Campbell University, Brooks has an excellent athletic and administrative background. After coaching and teaching at Cape Fear Christian Academy for three years and Dunn High School for four, he went to Triton High School starting in 1984 and has been there ever since.

He taught advanced biology and coached men's and women's tennis as well as women's basketball, and then became assistant principal and athletic director in 1990. Brooks served in those capacities until 2001, when he became principal.

New Board members were recommended by the NCHSAA's Nominating Committee, based on the requirements of the Association's constitution and by-laws. The member schools at eight regional meetings select nominees for consideration across the state, then from among those nominees individuals are selected by the Nominating Committee to fill the available slots. They were approved by the membership at the Annual Meeting.

The new Board members nominated were either filling vacancies produced by members going off the Board due to completion of their terms or those who are off due to retirement or leaving public school work.

They include: Region 5-- Robert Logan, superintendent, Chatham County schools; Region 7--Sally Bradshaw, principal, Fred T. Foard High School; Region 6--Carla Black, principal, Concord High School (filling unexpired term of Page Carver); Region 3--Angie Miller, athletic director, Nash-Rocky Mount schools; and Region 6--Bill Rogers, athletic director, Porter Ridge High School. Re-elected for a full four-year term was Dwayne Stallings, superintendent, Perquimans County schools, for Region 1.

"Our presidents have served the Association extremely well over the years,” said NCHSAA commissioner Davis Whitfield. “We look forward to Brooks Matthews serving as president. He will certainly provide great direction and leadership."

"We are also excited about those who will be joining the Board of Directors, which should help us maintain an outstanding Board to serve our membership.”

-- NCHSAA media release

Monday, August 1, 2011

Providence baseball coach tapped to coach USA National Team

Providence coach Danny Hignight is one of four coaches picked to coach to the USA 14-under national team at the Pan Am Games in Venezuela Aug. 10-22. He is in Cary at the USA Baseball Complex, where the coaching staff has invited the nation's top 40 players and will select a team of 18 to make the trip to the Pan Am Games.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/08/01/2497268/ex-panther-minter-to-coach-at.html#ixzz1TpvhgvY2

Ex-Panther Minter to coach at J.C. Smith

Former Carolina Panther Mike Minter is leaving his high school football head coaching job at Concord First Assembly to take a position at Johnson C. Smith University.

Minter, 37, said he wants to be a college head coach someday and is making this move - to be co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs and special teams coach - to build his resume.

“My goal is to be a head coach in the college ranks,” he said, “and what better way to get started than at Johnson C. Smith and help them turn that program around and make it a winning program.”

Minter coached at First Assembly for three seasons, leading the team to a 33-4 record and two straight N.C. Independent Schools state championships in 2009 and 2010. He said the 2011 team will average about 280 pounds on the offensive and defensive lines and feature defensive ends who stand 6-foot-6 and 6-4.

His son, star tailback Mike Jr., has moved to Nebraska, where he will live with his grandparents and attend a 4A public school. Minter and his son hope for Mike Jr. to play for Nebraska, where Minter played.

Even without Mike Jr., Minter says First Assembly will be strong again this season.

“We’ve got a pretty good football team coming back,” said Minter, adding that existing staff will coach by committee this season. “We’re pretty stacked again. I just don’t see anybody scoring too many points on us on defense.”