High school football previews: Part 3 – Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference

WWW.CAROLINASSPORTSHUB.COM High School Football Previews
Aug. 16 – Others (Mountain Island Charter and Clover)
Aug. 17 – Catawba Valley 2A, Western Foothills 3A conferences
Aug. 18 – Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference
Aug. 19 – Big South 3A Conference

By Richard Walker

Old school meets new school in the newly-constructed Southern Piedmont Conference that will be a combination 1A/2A league.

Perennial powers and longtime county rivals Burns and Shelby along with East Gaston are the 2A teams in the league that has recent power Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy as a Class 1A school along with Bessemer City, Cherryville and Highland Tech.

Burns is the preseason favorite to win the league championship after last year sharing the Southwestern 2A title with Shelby. That’ll make the Oct. 29 regular season finale between the Cleveland County rivals at Shelby’s Blanton Memorial Stadium one of the biggest games of the year.

Thomas Jefferson is considered the biggest threat to the top two teams if for no other reason than the Gryphons have University of Virginia wide receiver commitment Dakota Twitty, who is considered one of the top talents in North Carolina.

Here is the preseason coaches’ poll:

1. Burns
2. Shelby
3. Thomas Jefferson
4. East Gaston
5. Cherryville
6. Bessemer City
7. Highland Tech

And here is a look at the team in the league from Gaston and Cleveland counties:

Bessemer City
Coach: Larry Boone (18th year, 91-111)
Coaching staff: Eric Nichols, Keith Fox, Billy Beaty, Jerrod Holmes
Returning starters: 7
Starters lost: 4
2021 spring record: 1-6, 1-5
Top returning players: RB/LB Justice Cooper, OL/DL Mason Chastain, QB Jameer Holmes
Top newcomers: none listed
Season outlook: Coming off the school’s worst record in eight years, seven returning starters give the Yellow Jackets hope of a turnaround. The three top returning players – Cooper, Chastain and Holmes – were all-conference honorees last season for coach Boone, the winningest coach in program history.
All-time record: 329-551-35 (since 1925)
Last 5 seasons: 35-23
Aug. 20 at Community School of Davidson
Aug. 27 at Cramer
Sept. 3 Pine Lake Prep
Sept. 10 Christ the King
Sept. 17 at Thomas Jefferson*
Sept. 24 Highland Tech*
Oct. 1 Burns*
Oct. 8 at East Gaston*
Oct. 15 at Shelby*
Oct. 29 Cherryville*

Coach: David Devine (7th year, 35-36)
Coaching staff: QB/OC Vernon Beaver, RB Alex Leonhardt, OL Ledford Gibson, OL Larry Allen, TE Thurman Geter, WR Morrio Clark, ILB Howard Sims, OLB Butch Packard, DB Sherwin Brown, DB Travis Withrow, DL Nathan Geter
Returning starters: 15
Starters lost: 7
2021 spring record: 6-3, 5-1 (Southwestern co-champ)
Top returning players: LB/WR Cahari Haynes, OL Jesse Love, RB/WR Ryan Thompson, LB Silas Tate, FS Chatlen Baccus, LB Azari Brown, DB/WR L.J. Allen, RB Jeremiah Norris, OL Jackson Bivins, LB/TE Hunter Davis, DE Nick Vinson, QB Ben Mauney, RB/DB Lemont Wilson, OL/LB Caleb Byrd
Top newcomers: none listed
Season outlook: A heartbreaking second-round playoff loss to eventual state champion Salisbury will have the Bulldogs hungry for more this season, especially with 15 returning starters back. And one of the new starters, sophomore quarterback Ben Mauney, got the start in the Salisbury game when record-setting senior Cam’Ron Sweezy was injured late last season.
All-time record: 308-297-3 (since 1967)
Last 5 seasons: 34-26
Aug. 20 at Forestview
Aug. 27 Crest
Sept. 3 Kings Mountain
Sept. 10 at Watauga
Sept. 17 Highland Tech*
Oct. 1 at Bessemer City*
Oct. 8 Thomas Jefferson*
Oct. 15 East Gaston*
Oct. 22 at Cherryville*
Oct. 29 at Shelby*

Coach: Tim Pruitt (7th year, 20-46)
Coaching staff: Scott Jenkins (Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers, Dell Garren (Defensive Line), Tim Moss (Offensive Line), Ben Pierce (Running Backs), Houston Gilmore (Defensive Backs/Wide Receivers), Josh Garren (Defensive Line), Leroy Montgomery (Team Manager).
Returning starters: 14
Starters lost: 6
2021 spring record: 2-5, 2-4
Top returning players: QB/LB Kadin Beaver, OG/DE Mitchell Lackey, Slot/CB Jackson Owens, RB/LB Cooper Sloan, Slot/FS Landon Hahn, QB/RB/LB Chase Miller, LB Kam Bolin, OT Jack Dellinger, OT/NG Caleb Hovis, WR/CB Carter Spangler, DE Cain Cash, FB/OG Elijah Gibson, C Gage Vernon, DE Shamyr Moss
Top newcomers: none listed
Season outlook: Cherryville returns lots of young players who got lots of experience in the spring. And while the league the Ironmen play in will be a challenge, Cherryville, Bessemer City, Highland Tech and Thomas Jefferson will be competing for the 1A playoffs and playing perennial 2A powers like Burns and Shelby (and West Lincoln in a non-conference matchup) will give them playoff preparation if they can make it that far.
All-time record: 356-547-28 (since 1926)
Last 5 seasons: 19-35
Aug. 20 at Avery County
Aug. 27 West Lincoln
Sept. 3 Blacksburg, S.C.
Sept. 10 at Chase
Sept. 17 at Shelby*
Sept. 24 East Gaston*
Oct. 8 at Highland Tech*
Oct. 15 Thomas Jefferson*
Oct. 22 Burns*
Oct. 29 at Bessemer City*

East Gaston
Coach: T.J. Postell (2nd year, 2-5)
Coaching staff: Andy Leigh (Defensive Coordinator/ILB), Jay Benton (DB), Clint Jordan (OLB), David Sides (DL), Jamie Cogdill (WR), Dave DeLao (OL), Greg Williams (RB).
Returning starters: 15
Starters lost: not listed
2021 spring record: 2-5, 1-5
Top returning players: RB/LB Justin Hill, RB/OLB Markel McKinney, RB/OLB Ben Summey, RB Nehemiah Stovall, QB Trenton Sherrill, TE/LB Jake Fox, OL/DL Adam Massey, TE/LB Luis Nunez, WR/DB Mario Vidal-Rodriguez, WR/DB Clay Harper, TE/DL Jaxon Cogdill, OL Jake Jenkins, OL Dylan Lambert, RB/DB Shane Goins, WR/OLB Aiden Cloninger, TE/DL Maddox Emery
Top newcomers: OL/DL Josiah Lucas, OL/DL Christian Clark, OL/DL Braden Cross, OL Logan Dixon, TE/DL Cody Scott, RB/LB Chase Johnson
Season outlook: The Warriors will look to build on a strong finish to end the spring season and have 15 returning starters returning among them 803-yard rusher Justin Hill. Postell focused the spring on developing strong line play and four of those players also are returning.
All-time record: 171-347-3 (since 1972)
Last 5 seasons: 8-43
Aug. 20 at North Gaston
Aug. 27 South Point
Sept. 3 at Cramer
Sept. 10 Cherokee
Sept. 24 at Cherryville*
Oct. 1 Thomas Jefferson*
Oct. 8 Bessemer City*
Oct. 15 at Burns*
Oct. 22 Shelby*
Oct. 29 at Highland Tech*

Highland Tech
Coach: Pedro Truesdale (2nd year, 1-4)
Coaching staff: Assistant coaches: Sam Moore, Stacy Rubin, Larry Freeman, Carl Beam, Shamon Moore, Andrew Beam
Returning starters: 18
Starters lost: 4
2021 spring record: 1-4, 1-4
Top returning players: QB Vinson Whitted, TE/DE Trent Dockery, Athlete Neo Smith, OL/DL Patrick Hullett, RB Kamari Sheppard, OL/DL Bryson Greene, FB/LB Marcus Rubin, RB/LB Camron Newman, WR Elijah Whitted, WR/DB Kevin Foster, LB/OL Kyle Trantham
Top newcomers: Athlete Micah Hinton, WR/DB Carmelo Adams, TE Carson London
Season outlook: Second-year head coach Truesdale welcomes 18 returning starters back from the school’s first team to record a league victory in three straight seasons. The conference got a lot more challenging this season but the Rams are hoping experience will help them compete for a Class 1A playoff berth in the 1A/2A conference.
All-time record: 35-159 (since 2002)
Last 5 seasons: 10-39
Aug. 27 Hickory Grove
Sept. 3 W-S Carver
Sept. 10 Draughn
Sept. 17 at Burns*
Sept. 24 at Bessemer City*
Oct. 1 Shelby*
Oct. 8 Cherryville*
Oct. 15 Christ the King
Oct. 22 at Thomas Jefferson*
Oct. 29 East Gaston*

Coach: Mike Wilbanks (3rd year, 20-4)
Coaching staff: Chris Emery (offensive coordinator), Jamie Dunaway (OL), Damon Scott (RB), Dobson Collins (WR), Chris Ward (defensive coordinator), Aubrey Hollifield (DL), Ray Barkley (DL), Larry Raper (DB), Adam Webber (DB)
Returning starters: 10
Starters lost: 12
2021 spring record: 6-3, 5-1 (Southwestern co-champ)
Top returning players: LB Malaki Hamrick, LB Sam Baldree, DL Santana Hopper, DL Demario Allen, DL Tyler Boyce DL, DL Jaden Pierce, DB Marquis Adams, DB P.J. Hopper, WR Luke Williams
Top newcomers: QB Daylin Lee, WR Izay Bridges, RB Bricen Kee, CB Kamari Houze, FS T.J. Griffin, WR Ja’Keith Hamilton
Season outlook: On paper, Shelby lacks experience, but Wilbanks has two major college recruits on defense (Hamrick and Hopper) and thinks simply gaining experience will help an offense that lost nine starters from last year’s team. Junior quarterback Daylin Lee has looked impressive in preseason drills and is expected to lead a high-scoring offense.
All-time record: 815-305-41 (since 1910)
Last 5 seasons: 61-10
Aug. 20 at Kings Mountain
Aug. 27 at A.C. Reynolds
Sept. 3 Crest
Sept. 10 Hibriten
Sept. 17 Cherryville*
Sept. 24 at Thomas Jefferson*
Oct. 1 at Highland Tech*
Oct. 15 Bessemer City*
Oct. 22 at East Gaston*
Oct. 29 Burns*