Ravenscroft’s Ned Gonet, the dean of area high school football coaches, said injuries played a role in last year’s 6-5 record.
“We had a pretty good team, although our record wasn’t as good as we had hoped,” he said. “We did win the conference championship, though, and I thought we did a pretty good job overall.”
The N.C. Independent School Athletic Association has five Division I football teams and four advance to the playoffs. The Ravens did not advance despite winning the Big Eight Independent Football Conference title because of losses to the other Division I schools – Charlotte Christian, Charlotte Country Day, Charlotte Latin and Charlotte Providence Day.
Ravenscroft’s running corps looks solid with Garrett Hicks, an NCISAA preseason all-state pick by N.C. Prep Football News, Tiger Harris and sophomore Donald Fuller. Aidan Nesvisky leads the line prospects.
Harrells Christian (9-4, 2-1), the NCISAA Division II runner-up, is expected to make a playoff run with eight returning defensive starters and offensive standout Samuel Dixon, a 210-pound running back from a team that lost to Davidson Day 69-28 in the title game. Dixon averaged 10 yards per carry while gaining 1,655 yards and scoring 21 touchdowns in 2013.
North Raleigh (3-7 and a Division II team) returns 10 starters, including runner Tripp Norris and lineman William Schubert. Coach Rich Landis, who has a 100-40 career coaching record, has 25 lettermen.
Division II Wake Christian graduated only four seniors from a team that broke a string of eight consecutive losing seasons with a 6-6 mark and a playoff appearance. Luke Ryals, the Bulldogs’ two-time defensive MVP at linebacker, will take a bigger offensive role as quarterback and linebacker.
Kyle Patterson was the second-leading receiver in 2013, and Will Cruickshank was the club’s lineman of the year.
“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet; we’re still in the process of rising,” coach Steve Cochran said.
Cary Christian finished 4-5 in 2013 and returns 10 starters. Among the leaders are Zach Wharton (133 tackles), lineman Byran Hellman and linebacker Jack Gomperts (98 tackles).
St. David’s Daniel Evans is making his coaching debut this year after a standout quarterback career at Broughton High and N.C. State. The Warriors return 15 starters, including runner/linebacker Reef Ivey and quarterback William Wompler, who is getting some recruiting attention. Evans also is impressed with versatile Braxton Montague, sophomore Baylor Wordsworth and runner Melvin Briggs.
Rocky Mount Academy, 10-2, is coached by veteran B.W. Holt. Jacob Hunter scored 32 touchdowns last year, and quarterback Bruce Andracchio accounted for 22 touchdowns.
Raleigh Word of God: The Rams are moving from eight-man football to the more prevalent 11-man game.
New coach Eric Clemmons’ team will play an independent schedule before joining Harrells Christian, Ravenscroft, Wake Christian and North Raleigh Christian in the Big East Independent Football Conference next year.
The Rams had been an eight-man power in the past, but were 1-8 in 2013 after consecutive 10-2, 12-0 and 11-0 seasons.
Carrboro: Trai Sharpe led Carrboro to the state championship game two years ago as a sophomore. He missed all of last season as the Jaguars struggled to a 4-7 record. New coach Melvin Griffin has a corps of veterans to take into Mid-State 2A games. Linebacker Sam Blobe and defensive back Rowe Mellott were all-conference picks in 2013.
North Johnston: Veteran coach Ashley Ennis left Erwin Triton to build at North Johnston, which was 0-11 in 2013. Offensive line play could be strong with Greg Castle (6-foot-3, 275) and Jacob Cuddington (6-5, 265). The Panthers play in the Eastern Plains 2A.