High School Sports

NC's Shrine Bowl backfield has strong Charlotte-area flavor

Concord running back Rocky Reid, Lake Norman quarterback Josh Ladowski and Mooresville running back Akease Rankin are part of a high-powered N.C. offensive backfield for the Shrine Bowl. The three accounted for 9,524 yards total offense and 137 touchdowns during the 2014 high school season.
Concord running back Rocky Reid, Lake Norman quarterback Josh Ladowski and Mooresville running back Akease Rankin are part of a high-powered N.C. offensive backfield for the Shrine Bowl. The three accounted for 9,524 yards total offense and 137 touchdowns during the 2014 high school season. Bill Kiser - Special to The Observer

When Hal Capps and others talk about North Carolina's backfield for the Shrine Bowl, the word "interesting" comes up a lot.

That's because Capps, North Carolina's coach, is familiar with three of his options - Lake Norman quarterback Josh Ladowski, and running backs Akease Rankin of Mooresville and Rocky Reid of Concord.

Those three alone could make up a formidable starting backfield against South Carolina in Saturday's 78th annual Shrine Bowl game at Wofford College's Gibbs Stadium.

"It's definitely going to be interesting," Rankin said. "A lot of these guys have talents in different areas, and the coaches are going to use that."

Between Ladowski, Rankin and Reid, the trio are coming off senior seasons that saw them account for a combined 9,524 offensive yards and 137 touchdowns.

•  Reid, an AP All-State selection as a junior, rushed for 2,734 yards and 38 touchdowns in leading the Spiders to a 12-1 record. Reid - who has a verbal commitment to Tennessee, but is rethinking that - set a Cabarrus County career rushing record with 8,112 yards and 91 TDs.



"People won't key in on me, because I've got a pretty loaded backfield with me," Reid said. "It'll be interesting. That could free things up for me and the others."

•  Rankin, a two-time all-conference selection, averaged 10 yards per carry his senior year with the Blue Devils, rushing for 1,543 yards and 23 touchdowns during a 10-2 season. For his career, the Charlotte commit rushed for 3,541 yards - averaging 9.6 yards per carry - and 43 TDs.



•  Then there's Ladowski, a late addition to the roster after Southern Durham quarterback Kendall Hinton injured his ankle during Monday's first practice session.



Ladowski - Gatorade's N.C. player of the year and an AP All-State pick last year - gives the North Carolina team the dual-threat quarterback that Hinton provided, only more so. He broke 12-year-old state records for total offense - 5,647 yards, 3,628 passing and 2,019 rushing - and touchdowns (76) in leading the Wildcats to a 13-2 record and the 4A Western Regional final.

"It's a cool experience, playing with some of the best players in North Carolina," said Ladowski, a North Carolina signee in baseball. "It shows you just how fast the game can be."

Throw in the rest of North Carolina's backfield - Havelock quarterback Travis Sabdo, who threw for 3,454 yards and 43 touchdowns this season; and Princeton running back Johnny Frasier (2,266 rushing yards, 33 touchdowns) - and Capps will have some interesting combinations to use.

"Yeah, it could be interesting," said Capps, also Mooresville's coach. "Our offensive skill team is going to be pretty impressive. The best thing about all these kids are not only elite athletes and football players, but they've got 'football savvy' - an understanding of how the game's played."

Now it's just a matter of getting everybody on the same page.

While the backfield has quickly picked up on North Carolina's playbook, offensive coordinator Glen Padgett said the play of the offensive line will determine how well the backfield will perform.

"The offensive line is always the last to jell," said Padgett, also Concord's head coach. "They're having to learn new schemes, new terminology and new responsibilities."

However, Capps said that the biggest adjustment all of North Carolina's backfield players will have to go through is not being the star.

"When I met with each of them, I asked them how many times they had carried the ball per game," said Capps, who added that he got answers between 20-28 carries.

"I told them, 'Ain't none of that gonna happen in this game.' They'll be lucky if they get 5-8 touches, so they better make the best out of those 5-8 touches. They've adopted to that well - there's no jealousy out here. The kids understood from the get-go that it's all about the team."

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