1. Myers Park
For each of the past five seasons since taking over at Myers Park, coach Scott Chadwick has improved the Mustangs’ win total every year. Last season, he guided them to a school-record 13 wins and a trip to the Western regional final, so improving on that will be tough but not impossible. After averaging a school-record 35.9 points per game last year, this offense comes back potentially even better, although a new offensive line must hold up for them to reach their full capability. Myers Park has a passing game featuring quarterback Drake Maye, receivers Porter Rooks, Muhsin Muhammad III, Twan Flip, Logan Mauldin and Jordan Bly along with what could become a star-studded running game with brothers Tim and Jacob Newman, so they’re loaded. The key to this year will again be on the other side of the ball, though. While the Mustangs can score with anyone, this defense will need to come close to matching last year’s squad, which surrendered just over 10 points per game. Roe Chitwood returns at linebacker, and the secondary is excellent with Bly and Cameron Roseman-Sinclair, one of the country’s best safeties. All in all, this could be a magical season for the Mustangs, who enter the year nationally ranked in many polls and atop the Super 7 maybe to stay.
2. Charlotte Catholic
The Cougars are coming off another state title – their second consecutive and third in four seasons. With an elite offensive line featuring North Carolina commit Malik McGowan and stud running backs Lamagea McDowell and Paul Neel leading the way, this team is already able to run the ball with great efficiency, something that will serve them well once the weather cools down. In the meantime, expect a defense that features next level linebackers Ty Foley, Billy Brewer, Jacob Schachte and Liam Barbee to become household names as they limit teams’ run games and allow the Cougars to once again compete for another title.
3. Charlotte Christian
To outsiders, it would appear the Knights lost too much from their unbeaten state championship team, but that would be an oversight. No team can retool as quickly, and coach Jason Estep is a master of mixing his schemes to fit his personnel. However, don’t expect this team to look much different than last year. Estep is high on new quarterback Matthew Tuomala. He has a ton of options to get the ball to, including Logan Jones, JB Awolowo and running back Henry Rutledge, who will share carries with Chip Kasay. Freshman Liam Groulx will fit into that offense somewhere, and he could be their next megastar before his four years are up. This team won’t skip a beat on offense, and if LJ Brown can stabilize a new secondary, it could be a third straight title for the Knights.
The Bulldogs love to start their offense with the run game, and that’s going to once again be a very big strength for this year’s squad. Big back Jamal Worthy no longer has to split carries, although Lamont Brooks will get more than his fair share. Whoever has the ball will run behind a seasoned line featuring Anthony Carter, Trey Richburg and Leo Arredondo that could end up being one of the area’s top units. Jacalyn Morrison and the Law brothers – Donovan and Darius – will help shore up a defense that is mean and hungry after ending last year with a painful 33-8 loss to Myers Park in the playoffs.
5. Providence Day
Something went terribly wrong for the Chargers. They entered last season with such high expectations only to start 0-3 and end on a three-game slide to finish 5-6. Aside from losing some key personnel, not much changes for Providence Day, who is again expected to challenge Charlotte Christian for CISAA supremacy. To do so, Jacolbe Cowan and Kedrick Bingley-Jones will need to have big seasons. Both are major college recruits and terror on the ends. Teams can’t double both of them, and either can change the course of a game. Offensively, Cody Cater is in his third year as the starter and has complete control of the scheme, which should lead to a big year for him and speedy receiver Jesiah Davis.
6. Ardrey Kell
The Knights backdoored their way into a shared So. Meck 7 title as they went 5-1 in league play to reverse a horrendous 1-5 start. Last season, they barely gained over 1,000 yards rushing as a team and averaged under four yards per carry. New coach Greg Jachym seems to have a plan to improve upon that. Out of necessity, Michael Hetzel and Cedric Gray combined to catch over 110 balls between them and could again statistically have the biggest impact of any pair. The key is going to be if they can limit points, but the Knights have stars on defense as well with Gray, the outstanding cornerback, and tackle machine Steven Bauer back at linebacker. The Knights have a chance to establish themselves in a conference that is up for the taking this season.
7. Charlotte Latin
The Hawks played young last season at nearly every position, but that’s paid big dividends as now they are the experienced team with 14 seniors playing big roles in 2019. That experience will go a long way, but the talent is definitely on the roster to have the Hawks more than competitive in the CISAA and among the top Division II in the state. Jake Helfrich is back at quarterback. Running backs Carter Stockwell and Ja’Varis Bufford will split carries and keep each other fresh. All-conference returnees AJ Tolber and Randy Johnson key a defense that allowed just over 17 points per game last season but should be even stingier this time around.