WHEN IT COMES TO 1A FOOTBALL, THE ARGUMENT that the West is the best is still alive and well after Murphy and Swain County reached the state cham- pionship game in 2012. For Murphy, it was the third
straight title game appearance. NCISAA schools Christ School
and Victory Christian give further credence to the claim after they
reached the championship round, and the Kings won a state title.
Beyond the small schools and the private institutions, the West
didn’t see a lot of success last season. This year could be different
as larger mountain schools return experience on their march to
Raleigh, Winston-Salem and Chapel Hill.
After winning state titles in 2011, 1A Murphy and 1AA Swain
County reached the state championship game last season. They
both returned home to the Smoky Mountain 1A as runners-up.
The 2013 season begins with high hopes and big expectations in
the mountains and while the Bulldogs and the Maroon Devils face
one another in conference play, they’re both sure to earn a deep
run into the playoffs.
CONTENDERS IN THE OTHER LEAGUE
Competing in the NCISAA, Christ School and Victory Christian
are poised to bring a state championship home to the West.
Christ School marched all the way to the 2012 NCISAA Division
II championship game and the Greenies return a lot of talent and a
strong line, including Malik Johnson ( 6-4, 340). The private school
is in a great position to reach the title tilt again, provided its competition doesn’t recruit all-star transfers to the NCISAA ranks.
Victory won a NCISAA Division III state title last year but recapturing the crown won’t be easy. The Kings open with their opponent
from the 2012 championship game and the rest of the schedule is
filled with teams that either reached their division’s championship
game or won the title. The team lost a lot of seniors – especially on
the line, but there’s enough talent returning for the team to bring
another title to Victory.
Not much changes in the West region during the NCHSAA re-
alignment process. Of the 33 schools in the region five change
classes, including A.C. Reynolds, Franklin, Hendersonville, North
Henderson and Pisgah.
Yet, while there are class changes, none of the teams change
conferences. Overall, the region doesn’t experience many tweaks.
The exception is the new Southern Piedmont 1A conference
where Thomas Jefferson Academy is a new member.
FROM WORST TO FIRST?
In 2011, Thomas Jefferson Academy finished dead last in the
Western Highlands 1A/2A. After posting the best record in school
history during 2012, the Gryphons move to a straight 1A conference with three teams that went a combined 5-28 and another
school in its first year of varsity football (Pine Lake Prep).
The addition of 42-year high school coaching veteran Jerry Cash
before the 2012 season had an enormous impact on the football
program. Moving to this new conference will have an even bigger
role as Thomas Jefferson Academy is in a strong position to win a
Ninety teams across the state changed head coaches during the
offseason, but none may be more surprising than Brett Chappell’s
move from East Henderson to conference rival Pisgah. He takes
with him a track record that includes four conference championships, including the 2012 conference title.
Jave Jones, A.C. Reynolds
QB Austin Brown
RB Jave Jones
RB Gaige Cox
RB Marquel Manning
WR Tommie Holloway
WR Jonathan Allen
TE Chance Towery
OL Malik Johnson
OL Matt Seely
OL Dalton Friel
OL Nathan Dalton
OL Aaron Marquez
ATH Jager Gardner
DL Walker Lanning
DL Colby Tochterman Erwin
DL Dakota Shook
DL Chase McMurray
DL Pat Gilliam
DL Michael Holmes
LB Bryson Bradley
LB Jeremiah Young
LB Jordan Smith
DB Tyler Polsgrove
DB Caelan Rhinehart
DB Cavon Scott
ATH Cole Cuthbertson
TOP 5 TEAMS
1CHRIST SCHOOL: Twenty-three seniors lead a team with a dynamic
rushing attack and a wealth of experience.
2FRANKLIN: A record-breaking running back and an experienced
offensiveline are a good recipe for success.
3ERWIN: The Warriors return depth and talent in skill positions, including a
three-year starter at quarterback.
4MURPHY: Returning skill players put he Bulldogs in a good position to make
their fourth straight title game appearance.
5SWAIN COUNTY: A second-year quarterback and a stingy defense make
the Devils a tough squad to beat.