Though defending champion South Granville and Northwood are clearly the top dogs to chase, Carrboro and Cedar Ridge both are capable of winning the Carolina 2A Conference championship.
“South Granville has a lot of players back, and they have to be considered the team to beat,” Northwood coach Bill Hall said, noting that the Vikings have 17 starters returning. “But at the same time Cedar Ridge, Carrboro and our team can beat any other one of the other conference teams. It’s going to be wide open this year.”
South Granville (7-6 overall last year, 4-0 conference) has to face its first season in four years without all-everything Matt Fuhr, the linebacker and all-state tight end who was the 2011 Carolina 2A Conference player of the year. He was also the conference’s 2012 baseball player of the year and has gone on to William & Mary as a pitcher.
The Vikings also must replace quarterback Brandun Lickliter, who guided them to a league-best 28.6 points a game last year, but there’s no weeping in Creedmoor.
South Granville has back senior tailback Josh Bailey (1,784 yards, 21 TDs) and fullback Kenny Walls (818 yards). They each averaged 6.2 yards a rush last year running behind a solid line, most of which is intact.
Vikings’ head coach Mike Hobgood was a tough-as-nails lineman under Northern Durham’s Ken Browning and then Gary Merrill, and Hobgood has built formidable offensive and defensive fronts at South Granville.
Taz Strudwick (6-3, 245 pounds) will anchor the Vikings’ defensive line.
After Northwood ended up 4-7 overall, its worst record by far after five straight trips to the NCHSAA playoffs’ third round. Northwood’s Hall decided in the off-season to shift to a triple-option offense run out of a Flexbone formation.
“The kids have really bought into it, and we’ve had the best summer we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Hall, a coach at Northwood since 1989.
Hall noted that senior quarterback Adam Leviner seems to be picking up the shifty offense “as he gets more and more experience. I expect this offense to really take off.”
Northwood returns sophomore fullback Kadarus Rone and all-conference wingback Monte Smith.
With eight defenders back on defense, led by all-state middle linebacker Jourden Blackmon, Northwood looks stronger than it did last year. All-conference tackle Jay Williams will lead the defensive line.
Carrboro (7-4, 2-2 last year) must replace three all-conference linebackers to shore up its defense, which gave up the fewest points overall (239) of any league team.
But seven all-conference players return for Carrboro – offensive linemen Ezavian Dunn and Scott Peretin, punter Malik Carrington, defensive back Shamek Dolby, wide receiver Marlin Johnson, running back Douglas Parrish and quarterback Alex McVeigh.
Cedar Ridge is coming off a disappointing 3-8, 1-3 season and the loss of high energy head coach Joe Kilby, who took the head job at Apex in the off-season. First-year head coach Chris Casey, last year’s defensive coordinator, believes his Red Wolves have plenty of talent but need time to grow.
Running back Jaylin Grady is one of rare Cedar Ridge seniors returning with experience. Quarterback Josh Kiehle is a sophomore, and all-conference wide receiver/DB Robert Moore is a junior who likely will also backup Kiehle at quarterback.
Central Granville has graduated 2011 NCHSAA athlete of the year Tevin Hester and the school lacks the student numbers to justify its placement in the 2A classification.