Champion Patriots are Great 8’s top team
Each year, Lake Norman Publications crowns a champion in its lake-area Great 8 football rankings.
The 2013 season had plenty of excitement for lake-area teams. Two won state championships. One reached the second round of the state playoffs. Another had the best season in school history. It all made for plenty of interesting match-ups and the promise that 2014 will be littered with outstanding teams and performances, too.
Here is a look at this year’s final rankings:
1. DAVIDSON DAY
The Patriots won their third straight state championship and lit up scoreboards with regularity. All-American quarterback Will Grier was his usual dominant self with 4,989 passing yards and a state-record 77 scoring passes. He also rushed for 1,252 yards and 13 scores. But the Patriots flourished because of improved offensive line play and a corps of new receivers that were consistent. The N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association’s Division II champs also got better defensively, which sometimes was overshadowed by the 50- and 60-point scores.
The Blue Devils rebounded magnificently from a losing record in 2012 to win the North Piedmont 3A/4A conference championship, its first conference crown in a decade. The offense was superbly balanced, with 2,000-yard running back Akease Rankin, 1,900-yard passer Tommy Bullock and size and experience along both lines.
3. SOUTHLAKE CHRISTIAN
The Eagles’ NCISAA Division III championship was the first state title in school history. The offense was geared around 2,500-yard rusher Robert Washington Jr., who scored 28 touchdowns. The defense played solidly all season and never better than the 7-0 win against Victory Christian in the state final.
4. EAST LINCOLN
The Mustangs replaced 16 starters from last season’s state title team and didn’t miss a beat. East Lincoln won the Southern District 7 2A conference championship, but was forced to forfeit three non-conference victories because it used an ineligible player. The team was 12-2 on the field and shined behind sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt, who had a hand in 62 touchdowns.
The Huskies started 6-0 before losing to eventual state champion Mallard Creek, then won four straight. But a 13-10 loss to Independence was the second year in a row Hough lost in the first round of the playoffs. A talented secondary that has college recruiters drooling will return next season.
6. LAKE NORMAN
The Wildcats thrived behind quarterback Josh Ladowski and wide receiver Corey Joyner, two of the state’s best offensive players. Lake Norman lost to rival Mooresville in the North Piedmont 3A/4A conference championship game, but served notice that it likely will be a contender next season, too.
7. WEST MECKLENBURG
The Hawks combined a high-powered offense with steady play on defense and special teams to win their first five games. West Meck’s nemesis proved to be Providence, which beat them 31-27 in the regular season and 14-7 in the first round of the N.C. 4A playoffs.
The Titans were struggling with a 1-5 mark in coach Matt Jenkins’ debut season, but then won five conference games in a row to qualify for the state playoffs.