Southwestern 2A football preview: A familiar longtime power is favored to win again

By Richard Walker
Two-time defending state champion Shelby is favored again to win the Southwestern 2A Conference football title.

The Golden Lions were a unanimous pick of their league rivals in a preseason coaches’ vote.

Burns, which advanced to the Western finals last season before losing to Shelby, is picked to finish second in the seven-team. The Bulldogs are followed by South Point, R-S Central, Chase, East Gaston and East Rutherford.

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

Coach: David Devine (6th year, 29-33)
Coaching staff: Vernon Beaver, Jordan Rumfelt, Larry Allen, Morrio Clark, Jim Ruark, Howard Sims, Travis Withrow, Ledford Gibson, Alex Leonhardt, Sherwin Brown, Ethan Martin, Thurman Geter
Returning starters: 8
Starters lost: 14
2019 record: 12-3
Top returning players: QB Cam’Ron Sweezy, DE/TE Dorian Starnes, DE/RB Alphonso Goodson, OL Jesse Love, LB Cahari Haynes, DB Ryan Thompson, LB Azari Brown, LB/H-Back Silas Tate, RB/DB Lemont Wilson, OL/DL Jackson Bivins, WR/DB L.J. Allen
Top newcomers: none listed
Season outlook: After tying for second-most wins in school history in 2019, the Bulldogs are eager to pursue a repeat performance. In Sweezy, Burns has one of the area’s most experienced quarterbacks. A lot will be expected of Wilson, one of eight potential sophomore starters who is in line to replace the departed Kujuan Pryor.
All-time record: 302-294 (since 1967)
Last 5 years: 31-30
Feb. 25 at South Point
March 5 at Chase
March 12 East Rutherford
March 19 Shelby
March 26 East Gaston
April 2 at Crest
April 9 R-S Central

East Gaston
Coach: T.J. Postell (1st year)
Coaching staff: Andy Leigh (Defensive Coordinator/LB), Jay Benton (DB), Jamie Cogdill (WR), Dave DeLao (OL), David Sides (DL), Greg Williams (RB)
Returning starters: 8
Starters lost: not listed
2019 record: 1-10
Top returning players: OL/DL Adam Massey, OL/DL Tobias Newsome, TE/LB Jaxon Cogdill, TE/LB Luis Nunez, RB/LB Justin Hall, QB Riley Dunlap, WR/DB Aiden Cloninger, DB Shane Goins
Top newcomers: RB Nehemiah Stovall, RB/DB Mario Rodriguez-Vidal, DL Trent Williams, WR/DB Quintarius Pless, OL Jake Jenkins, WR/DB Ben Summey, WL/OLB Trevar Williams, RB/LB Jake Fox, QB/RB Markel McKinley, QB Trenton Sherrill, LB Dayton Parker, RB/DB David Njie, TE/DL Maddox Emery, OL/DL Graham Kennard, OL/DL Dylan Lambert
Season outlook: New coach comes in with background as head coach and assistant coach looks to rebuild a Warriors’ program that has one winning season in last 13 seasons. Postell says he’s focused on developing an offensive line and teach better tackling.
All-time record: 169-342-3 (since 1972)
Last 5 years: 13-43
Feb. 26 at Shelby
March 5 South Point
March 12 R-S Central
March 19 at Chase
March 26 at Burns
April 2 East Rutherford
April 9 at North Gaston

Coach: Mike Wilbanks (2nd year, 14-1)
Coaching staff: Chris Emery (Offensive coordinator), Jamie Dunaway (OL), Damon Scott (RB), Dobson Collins (WR), Reggie Ross (Defensive coordinator), Ray Barkley (DL), Aubrey Hollifield (LB), Larry Raper (DB)
Returning starters: 7
Starters lost: 15
2019 record: 14-1
Top returning players: OLB Malaki Hamrick, DL Santana Hopper, CB Tyler Arrington, S Torrian Arrington, RB Omar Phillips, OL Shayle Gash, OLB Jimmy Whisnant
Top newcomers: LB Sam Baldree, WR Jacari Shell, QB Gabe Huitt, S Marquis Adams, OL/DL Demario Allen, DT Tyler Boyce
Season outlook: Even with only a seven-game regular season and having lost 26 seniors from last year’s state title team, Shelby could extend its streak of consecutive 10-win seasons to eight years. Junior defensive standouts Hamrick and Hopper are being pursued by top college programs and Tyler Arrington has signed to play at nearby Gardner-Webb.
All-time record: 809-302-41 (since 1910)
Last 5 years: 70-8
Feb. 26 East Gaston
March 5 at R-S Central
March 12 Chase
March 19 at Burns
March 26 Kings Mountain
April 2 South Point
April 9 at East Rutherford

South Point
Coach: Adam Hodge (4th year, 27-12)
Coaching staff: Kirk Crawford, Jeffrey Lawing, Zach Howell, Jeff Patterson, James Justice, Michael Hicks, Shaunte’ Southern, Josh Justice, Kent Hyde, Mitch Painter, Jim Hale, Hunter Armstrong
Returning starters: 11
Starters lost: not listed
2019 record: 6-7
Top returning players: LB Omari Hunt, OL Jacob Patterson, FB Hunter Hogue, QB Will Rhinehart, TE Ethan Simmons, OLB Ben Lunsford, DL Xarique Culbreth, OL Sullivan Absher, QB Ryan Harris
Top newcomers: LB Josh Crowder, WB Cam Medlock
Season outlook: A challenging schedule took its toll on the Red Raiders last season as they endured their first losing season since 2006. But they advanced to the state playoffs for a 13th straight year and will be poised to increase that streak with a group of veteran returnees.
All-time record: 415-186-9 (since 1969)
Last 5 years: 52-19
Feb. 25 Burns
March 5 at East Gaston
March 12 at Cramer
March 19 at East Rutherford
March 26 R-S Central
April 2 at Shelby
April 9 Chase