Winkler (Sr., OL), Evan Walls (Sr., RB/WR), Bailey Welch (Jr.,
QB/DB), Bryson Spruill (Fr., LB)
THE WORD: After reaching the 10-win mark for the first
time since 1993, Randleman lost 20 talented seniors in
the Class of 2015. This year’s senior class is small but
full of solid contributors. Returning players know how to
win games and coach Handy has at least one experienced
starter back in nearly every position group. Sophomores
rising from last year’s undefeated junior varsity squad will
fill other holes, and they’ll see a lot of playing time this fall.
All-Conference receiver Welch shifts to quarterback in the
spread offense. He’s an all-star on the baseball diamond
and brings an added rushing wrinkle to the position.
There’s not a lot of experience in the other skill positions.
Ayers ( 6-3, 305) anchors an offensive line that returns solid
experience, but not a lot of size in Hedgecock ( 5-9, 215)
and Winkler ( 5-9, 260). Frantz ( 6-2, 215) is the highlight of
the defense and he’s the top returning tackler. Elsewhere,
there are holes to fill in a defensive unit that allowed an
18-point average against conference competition. The
Tigers will rely on a lot of young talent in the season ahead.
While they can achieve a playoff berth, it will be hard to
repeat last year’s success.
ENROLLMENT: 764 (2A)
2014 RECORD: 6-6, 2-3
THE COACH: Brett Andrews
THE PLAYERS: John Wagner (Jr., QB/DB), Hunter Mosley
(Soph., RB/LB), Jordan Garrick (Sr., RB/LB)
THE WORD: After serving as a Trinity assistant coach the
past six years, Andrews, a former Trinity quarterback, was
named the team’s new coach in May. He replaces Clayton
Trivett, who resigned after two seasons and a 10-13 record.
Last year’s 6-6 finish ended with the school’s first playoff
berth since 2009. The Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator the
past two seasons, Andrews takes over a team that lacks
numbers – only about 30 players played varsity ball a year
ago. All-Conference performer Wagner is the most talented
of returning athletes. The do-everything player passed for
more than 1,300 yards and 11 scores, to go along with
significant contributions as a rusher and as a defender.
Other top offensive producers graduated from a unit that
averaged 21 points per game last year. Mosley, Wagner and
Garrick are the top returning defenders and most starters
play both ways. Until Trinity develops greater roster depth,
the Bulldogs will struggle to reach the .500 mark again.
ENROLLMENT: 813 (2A)
2013 RECORD: 5-6, 1-4
THE COACH: Jason Bradley
THE PLAYERS: Jordan Sears (Sr., TE/LB), Zach Sykes (Sr.,
OLB), Dre Davis (Sr., WR/DB), Dalton Moncus (Jr., WR/DB),
Paul Walker (Sr., QB), Chase Fountain (Sr., OL/DL), Keaton
Kirkpatrick (Jr., OL/DL)
THE WORD: The Warriors’ continued development will be
on display this season as improved experience, strength
and speed promises more success. Coach Bradley enters
his third year with a few standout players and a team
finally making progress in the weight room. Three-year
starting quarterback Walker leads the pistol offense with a
play-action zone-based attack. He passed for 1,454 yards
a year ago and two of his top targets return in Moncus
and All-Conference pick Davis. Fountain ( 6-3, 268) is a big
sturdy anchor on the line of scrimmage, while Kirkpatrick
( 6-4, 250) showed promise in limited action at the end of
last season. Sears is the heartbeat of the Warriors’ 4-4
stack defense where Sykes will play a significant role.
Although Wheatmore has good skill and experience in
some positions, the team is very young in others. Those
players will be tested by a non-conference schedule that’s
filled with playoff contenders. If the team comes together
during those trials and players refuse to rest on the modest
success they gained in 2014, the Warriors will win more
games this fall.
CENTRAL ACADEMY OF TECHNOLOGY & ARTS
ENROLLMENT: 803 (2A)
2014 RECORD: 4-7, 1-4
THE COACH: Scott Smith
THE PLAYERS: Drew Gilbert (Sr., OL/DL), Bennett James
(Sr., OL/DE), Jack Heda (Sr., RB/LB), Brandon Hayes (Sr.,
LB), Luke Jones (Sr., OL/DL), Alex Miles (Sr., DL), Evan
Whiteside (Sr., DL), Christian McKeown (Sr., RB), Deyton
Cook (Sr., FS), Nick Roets (Sr., TE/LB), Clemson Allen (Jr.,
QB), Nate Burnett (Jr., DB), Adam Hinson (Jr., LB), Bernard
Gomez (Jr., K/P), Jesse Blew (Jr., DB)
THE WORD: The Cougars enter coach Smith’s second
season with a wealth of speed, but there isn’t a lot of depth
at most position groups. The magnet school has low football
numbers compared to other 2A schools. Because Central
Academy’s enrollment is lottery-based, predicting the talent
level in each new incoming class is difficult. If the freshman
class increases football participation, the school continues to
become more competitive. Six starters return to the double-wing offense, led by Heda, who rushed for more than 1,000
yards and 8 scores last year. Gilbert ( 6-4, 285) is a college
prospect anchoring the line alongside Jones (6-0, 215). Allen’s
leadership is improved after he shared time at quarterback.
The Cougars’ 4-6 defense returns four starters, including
reliable tackler Hayes and disruptive line-players Whiteside
and Miles. The D-line duo combined for 8 sacks and 24
tackles for loss last year. Central Academy is hard-pressed to
climb to the top of Rocky River 2A standings. Still, the Cougars
are more competitive this fall and they can win enough games
to earn a playoff berth.
FOREST HILLS YELLOW JACKETS
ENROLLMENT: 934 (2A)
2014 RECORD: 5-7, 3-2
THE COACH: John Lowery
THE PLAYERS: Zach Rorie (Sr., QB), Jordan Blakney (Sr.,
WR), Treyon Grace (Jr., WR)
THE WORD: Forest Hills hopes to utilize potent skill-position players to rebound from a second-straight
sub-.500 finish. Five starters return to a spread offense
that averaged almost 20 points per game last fall. Those
numbers will improve thanks to versatile weapons Rorie
( 6-2, 200) and Blakney (6-0, 175). A young line dims the
Yellow Jackets’ ability to contend for a conference crown,
but last year’s 8-3 junior varsity finish hints at what new
starters are capable of producing. Those players get tested
early with a tough non-conference schedule that adds Sun
Valley to last year’s 11-win opponents Cuthbertson and
Weddington. Early contests also force six new starters in
the 5-2 defense to jell quickly. Mount Pleasant and Monroe
book-end Forest Hills’ conference schedule. Although
the Yellow Jackets will outpace other league rivals, they
aren’t quite up to speed with the two Rocky River 2A
front-runners. A postseason invitation is within reach, but
the team’s playoff future depends on converting last year’s
Thursday experience into Friday night success.
ENROLLMENT: 1,000 (2A)
2014 RECORD: 9-5, 4-1
THE COACH: Johnny Sowell
THE PLAYERS: Zephaniah Wall (Jr., QB), Desmen Robinson
(Sr., WR/DB), Nequan Hailey (Sr., OG/DT), Baxter Knotts
(Sr., SLOT/KR), Nick Ashcraft (Sr., OT/DE), Jaylen Nixon (Sr.,
WR), Jadarious McManus (Jr., WR)
THE WORD: The Redhawks have been producing consistent
success in the regular season and that continues this fall
thanks to the return of their quarterback and receiving corps.
However, Monroe’s postseason prospects may be limited
by a lack of depth along the line of scrimmage. Wall is a
talented signal-caller who passed for 1,500 yards and 14
scores last year and his top targets return to the multiple-form
offense. The Redhawks must replace a 2,000-yard rusher
in the backfield. Although Hailey ( 6-1, 300) and Ashcraft
( 6-4, 240) are solid anchors for the line, there’s uncertainty
elsewhere in the trenches. The team must also replace most
of its secondary and linebackers, but there’s strong depth at
those positions. Monroe’s season warms up with challenges
from Sun Valley, Hunter Huss, Weddington and Cuthbertson.
Those opponents prepare the team well for gritty Rocky River
2A competition. If new line players develop and a backfield
weapon emerges, Monroe is a conference front-runner. But
the Redhawks still face a mighty playoff hump to repeat their
2013 run to the 2AA finals.
MOUNT PLEASANT TIGERS
ENROLLMENT: 831 (2A)
2014 RECORD: 12-3, 5-0
THE COACH: Michael Johns
THE PLAYERS: Zach Mayo (Sr., OL), Clayton Horn (Sr., RB/
LB), Cody Reece (Sr., RB/DB), Justice Isenhour (Sr., DB),
Caleb Spears (Sr., OL), Mason Sweet (Sr., DB), Jackson Skey
(Sr., OL), Jon Fernald (Jr., LB), Adam Johns (Jr., WR), Grant
McDonald (Jr., ATH).
THE WORD: After reaching the West Regional finals and
achieving their best record since 2007, the Tigers roar into
the new season with a ground game that is very strong thanks
to an experienced offensive line. Two-time All-Rocky River 2A
selection Mayo ( 6-3, 280) anchors the unit that helped Mount
Pleasant average 274 rushing yards per game a year ago.
Spears ( 5-11, 300) is a force in the trenches and Skey ( 5-9,
250) has tremendous upper body strength. Those line players
thrive in Mount Pleasant’s power-running game that allows
them to get off the ball and attack defenses. Linemen rising
from last year’s 5-6 junior varsity squad supplement a unit
that’s critical to producing success for Reece, North Carolina’s
No. 2 rusher in 2014 with 3,143 yards and 37 scores. Mount
Pleasant lost its starting quarterback and two top receiving
targets on graduation day, but a healthy competition will
produce a smart, reliable signal-caller for coach Johns’
17th Mount Pleasant team. A series of summer passing
scrimmages provide experience for newcomers in those key
skill positions, and the offseason workouts will ultimately
determine who earns the starting jobs. Defensively, the Tigers
are solid at linebacker. Two starters return to the group along
with t wo players who saw a lot of Friday night action last fall.
Horn is on track to be the school’s all-time tackle leader after
166 tackles, 1 sack and 2 interceptions last year. He’s critical
to the Tigers’ improved run defense. Mount Pleasant’s mission
is to force opponents to pass. “If we can make teams throw
on us, we have a better chance of stopping them,” coach
Johns said. “I feel like we can be better than last year stopping
the run.” Four other defensive starters return, including both
of last year’s safeties. The Tigers lack experience on the
defensive line and they must find new cornerbacks to improve
pass defense. Special teams is also an unknown after the
departure of an all-American kicker. Monroe is the biggest
conference competition, while early games against Hickory
Ridge and South Iredell will help determine what is missing
from the Tigers’ championship equation. Mount Pleasant’s
running game is solid, but the Tigers must find enough
confidence in their passing game to keep opposing defenses
honest. If the team finds young players to fill voids on offense
and on the defensive line, Mount Pleasant is a threat for a
deep playoff run.
Speed Read with Coach
at Mount Pleasant just two wins shy of 100 for
Michael Johns of Mount
MICHAEL JOHNS BEGINS HIS 17TH SEASON
his coaching career. The Tigers went 12-3 last
fall and advanced to the 2A semifinals.
What excites you most about the 2015 season?
We have 10 of our starters back from a
conference championship team. We have a lot
of experience in certain spots. We’re looking
forward to seeing what can happen.
What is the team’s strength?
Our strength will be our running game
and offensive line. We had a running back,
Cody Reece, rush for 3,141 yards and 37
touchdowns last year. He’s back with a very
experienced offensive line.
Where can the team improve the most?
We lost two defensive ends, a terrific
defensive tackle and two of our starters in the
secondary. We’re solid at linebacker, safety
and defensive tackle, but we need to replace
two defensive ends and two corners. That’s
the area we’re hoping for some of our young
guys to step up.
What style of offense and defense do you run?
We’re a power running team out of the offset
I-formation. We run a base 4-3 defense. We
have an old-school approach to football. We
emphasize fundamentals and execution.
What goals will the team need to accomplish
for the season to be considered a success?
We’ll use the preseason to fine-tune our
skills as we move into the conference schedule
and postseason. We emphasize blocking
and tackling. That’s what we do in practice. I
believe if you can block and tackle, you can
win a lot of football games.
Describe the Friday night atmosphere at
We have a great atmosphere and a community that supports its football program very
passionately. We always fill up the home side
of the stadium. We’re the smallest school in
the county, but we generally bring the largest
crowds to away games. - Dan Guttenplan