Big South 3A football preview: Cleveland County powers are co-favorites to win league title

By Richard Walker
A year ago, Crest knocked off Kings Mountain 40-34 in the final game of the regular season to clinch an unbeaten league record for a Big South 3A Conference championship.

Based on the coaches’ preseason voting for the 2021 winter/spring football season, little has changed and you should circle Crest’s April 9 finale at Kings Mountain as a title matchup.

League coaches picked Crest and Kings Mountain as co-favorites, with Huss picked to finish third. Ashbrook, Forestview, North Gaston and Cramer round out the preseason poll.

Here is team information for the teams from Cleveland and Gaston counties in that league for the 2021 winter/spring season:

Coach: Darius James (1st year)
Coaching staff: Zeek Bigger, Chris Campfield, Jim Swayney, Shaunte Southern, Tom Urig, Tramayne Booker, Jeff Padgett, Alan Melton, Greg Hayes, Freddie Crawford, Trey Brice, Henry Coggins, James Johnston, Walt Mallonee
Returning starters: 13
Starters lost: 8
2019 record: 2-8
Top returning players: DB Jdon Sowell, QB Chandler Meeks, LB Jay Poole, OL Breenan Gee, OL Alex Hammon, Athlete Brandon Lewis, DB Jihad Muhammed, DL Shyheim Dreher
Top newcomers: Athlete Carmelo Bess, WR Nathon Weber, WR Alex Woody, LB Elijah Haynes, LB Ethan Poole, DL Omarien Hall
Season outlook: James, who becomes ninth head coach in school’s 51-year history, says the young team will be talented. The Green Wave haven’t had a winning season since 2013 – and last year’s 2-8 finish ended their streak of consecutive state playoff appearances at 19 years.
All-time record: 330-227-9 (since 1970)
Last 5 years: 21-37
Feb. 25 Berry Academy
March 5 at Forestview
March 12 at Crest
March 19 Kings Mountain
March 26 Cramer
April 2 at North Gaston
April 9 Huss

Coach: Ben McMillan (7th year, 31-39)
Coaching staff: Andrew Bradley, Collin Burnett, Carson Ginn, Mike Patton, Mo Perez, Jon Putnam, John Rice, Larson Storer, James Taylor, Shawn Watson, Ryan Ward
Returning starters: 11
Starters lost: 11
2019 record: 3-8
Top returning players: OL Nathan Linkous, DE Arias Nash, QB Justin Rocquemore, OL Peyton Martin, OL Drake Trull, DB Charles Holbrooks, OL Omar Cerna, WR Eja Brice, WR Jesse Rhyne, K Jackson Mammano, DB Bryson Simmons, LB Patrick Abernathy, WR Blake Moore, P Adam Haman
Top newcomers: LB Daimean Fernandez, WR Damiean Bentley, LB Jaden Duff, DL T.J. Leake, RB Myles Hamilton, K/P Nick Wilson
Season outlook: McMillan is confident an experience offensive line can be a team strength for the Storm. Sophomore QB Rocquemore has a lot of potential and a group of talented receivers. Cramer will seek to bounce back from a 3-8 finish a year that kept them out of the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
All-time record: 31-39 (since 2014)
Last 5 years: 30-29
Feb. 26 at Kings Mountain
March 5 Crest
March 12 South Point
March 19 at North Gaston
March 26 at Ashbrook
April 2 Huss
April 9 Forestview

Coach: Nicholas Eddins (4th year, 27-12)
Coaching staff: Dave Paddock, Dennis Milne, Patrick Bowman, Daniel Coggins, Alan Wacaster, Skip Young, Marquiet Pettis, Tony Nalley, Luke Bowen, Nathan Geter, Devin Nicholson, Omar Porter
Returning starters: 11
Starters lost: 11
2019 record: 10-3
Top returning players: RB/WR/DB T.J. Ruff, OL Dylan Kale, OL Colin Sarratt, K Blake Roderick, DL/H-Back Eli Hall, LB/RB Eli Wesson, QB D.J. Fuller
Top newcomers: WR/DB Carter Greene, WR/DB Caleb Borders, DL/OL Taree Watkins, LB Nick Beason
Season outlook: Crest returns much of his offensive line and explosive skill players after winning the school’s first league title since 2015. A defensive line with one returning starter will need to be rebuilt as the Chargers seek to extend their postseason streak to 29 years.
All-time record: 426-211-6 (since 1967)
Last 5 years: 52-16
Feb. 26 Forestview
March 5 at Cramer
March 12 Ashbrook
March 19 at Huss
March 26 North Gaston
April 2 Burns
April 9 at Kings Mountain

Coach: Chris Medlin (14th year, 83-76)
Coaching staff: Brian Horne, Justin Williams, Steven Bartlett, Chris Rayfield, Jack Price, Rod Abrams, Bruce Brown
Returning starters: 15
Starters lost: not listed
2019 record: 6-6
Top returning players: RB/Athlete Jamarion Dawkins, RB Camury Reid, LB Jaycob Neely, OL Jacob Todd, DL Christian Williams, DE Traviyon Barnett, FB/DL Joab Dennard, DB Quan Duncan, DB Quay Duncan, WR Josh Medlin, OLB/SS Jakeem Dennard, DB/Slot Riley Biddy
Top newcomers: OL/DL Myles Jackson, OL Christian Mixter, WR/DB Nathaniel Aguilar
Season outlook: Dawkins is one of the best athletes in the league and could help the inexperienced offensive line gain confidence as the season wears on. The Jaguars have made the state playoffs 11 of the last 12 seasons, but haven’t had a winning record since 2016.
All-time record: 134-128 (since 1998)
Last 5 years: 25-34
Feb. 26 at Crest
March 5 Ashbrook
March 12 North Gaston
March 19 Hickory
March 26 at Huss
April 2 Kings Mountain
April 9 at Cramer

Coach: Randy Thompson (1st year)
Coaching staff: Tyree Taylor, Tebaris Gordon, Tommy Bolin, Curtis Boyd, Demetrius Green, Logan Bradley, Ben Bolin, Rikki Murriel, Antonio Coleman
Returning starters: 6
Starters lost: 16
2019 record: 9-3
Top returning players: Athlete Malik Corry, DB Ray Mackey, DB/LB Darius Williams, OL Giovanni Bernal, DL O’Michael Williams
Top newcomers: QB Cory Adams, RB/DB Chazz Armstrong, WR Noah Caulder, DL/OL Reggie Spivey, Athlete Qualin Thompson, RB Teddy Jeffries, WR Tevero Blake
Season outlook: Thompson is the 11th head coach in the Huskies’ 59-year history and becomes a first-time head coach after seven years of collegiate experience and eight years of high school experience. He’ll look to extend a school-record for winning seasons to five years.
All-time record: 319-312-14 (since 1962)
Last 5 years: 43-21
Feb. 26 North Gaston
March 5 BYE
March 12 at Kings Mountain
March 19 Crest
March 26 Forestview
April 2 at Cramer
April 9 at Ashbrook

Kings Mountain
Coach: Greg Lloyd (14th year, 102-66)
Coaching staff: Kevin Cruise, Darrel Wilson, Mike Harris, Michael Kennedy, Shane Short, Diron Bell, James Brown, Matt Bridges, Jeff Williams, Brad Melton, Shane Cole, Jeff Cloninger, Ted Trahan, Tom Lease, Jacob Lineberger, Ed Winder
Returning starters: 15
Starters lost: 7
2019 record: 12-3
Top returning players: LB Dameon “Day Day” Wilson, DE Javari Wilson, QB Ethan Reid, RB Rashaard Brooks, DT Robert Lipscomb, OT/OG Blake Davis,
SS/OLB/TE Chance Cannon
Top newcomers: RB Jaylin Mims, WR/SS Peyton Fisher, OL Isaiah Eskridge
Season outlook: Fifteen starters return from a team that was an overtime heartbreaker at Charlotte Catholic from the state title game. Those veterans should make the Mountaineers a state championship contender again. Kings Mountain has won 10 or more games four times in the last five years.
All-time record: 505-439-40 (since 1922)
Last 5 years: 56-14
Feb. 26 Cramer
March 5 at North Gaston
March 12 Huss
March 19 at Ashbrook
March 26 at Shelby
April 2 at Forestview
April 9 Crest

North Gaston
Coach: Justin Clark (1st year)
Coaching staff: OL Clay Julen, WR Jack Carpenter, RB Stephen Bates, Defensive coordinator Kyle Creed, DL Tony Powell, OLD Dshonney Ferrell, ILB Jabari Brewer, DB Markeseo Williams
Returning starters: 12
Starters lost: 7
2019 record: 1-10
Top returning players: WR Waylin Webb, ILB Colby Pruitt, OLB Wes Parker, OLB Ian McFadden
Top newcomers: QB Daniel Scott
Season outlook: Former North Gaston and Western Carolina quarterback Clark returns to his alma mater in hopes of leading the Wildcats to their first conference win since 2015. Clark had been a head coach at West Henderson and an assistant at Ridge View, Westwood and Boiling Springs in S.C. and at Northview, Ga.
All-time record: 161-354-4 (since 1971)
Last 5 years: 10-45
Feb. 26 at Huss
March 5 Kings Mountain
March 12 at Forestview
March 19 Cramer
March 26 at Crest
April 2 Ashbrook
April 9 East Gaston