This conference loses Anson County and picks up Charlotte Catholic, Parkwood and Monroe. Pretty good pickup I'd say. I think it can be one of the best conferences in 3A depending on how some teams shape up. Here are my thoughts on this conference and how I think it'll shake out.
1. Catholic- The Cougars were fairly young a year ago and got even younger due to several injuries throughout the year. They will be led by RB Milan Howard who has 4 offers and was a 1000yd rusher a year ago. Michael Neel, Vaughan Hall, Lamagae McDowell and Sam Broom will all be factors in the backfield. There is a competition at QB to replace Brady Berger who is heading to Catholic U to play football. No clear cut front runner at this point. Catholic did hire a WR coach so that is interesting. Offensively the Cougars are as deep as I have seen them in quite sometime. On defense the Cougars will be replacing two great rushers in Will Neal and Reid Brandt. Along with Ben Brodowicz in the secondary, but they have Ari Rodriguez returning and Chase Foley along with Adam Robbe. The Cougars are looking very loaded once again.
2. Monroe- I am putting Monroe in the 2 slot because I love their offensive talent. They have as much offensive talent as anyone in the conference I believe. They will have an explosive passing game this season. My one concern for them is defense. I am NOT saying they don't have a good one, but can they stop Catholic's Wing T attack which features much more passing than when Oddo roamed the sidelines. It's a legit question mark I think. They can score, but can they keep everyone else from scoring?
3. Weddington- I almost put them at 2a because I feel like they will still be very very tough. Losing I believe 15 starters off of a state championship team does hurt though. They do offset that by having one of the best coaches in the state Tim Carson at the helm to get them right. They will have a tough game at Crest followed by home games with Sun Valley and Catholic. Those three weeks I think will define their season. I expect them though to contend for the conference title down the stretch and be a force in 3AA.
4. Sun Valley- Sun Valley has I believe a few question marks. One of them is not the QB. Howell is one of the best in NC and to think he is going to be a junior is scary. He alone will win them games I believe. However, they come with question marks. They lost their RB to Metrolina Christian how will that impact the offense? Also will they play defense? Last year they gave up 28 PPG which is not going to win you a conference title or give you a deep run in the playoffs. So because of those concerns they are fourth for me.
4a. Marvin Ridge- Decided to make a tie for 4th with Marvin Ridge. I think the Mavs are going to be a solid team, but I know they do lose some talent including 3 star Dmitri Emmanuel along the OL who is on his way to Charlotte. If they can replace those guys I think they will be fine. Just not sure they have the talent to beat Catholic and Monroe. Weddington is a rivalry game so that could be close and it could come down to defense as to whether or not they beat Sun Valley. All in all I think they'll be ok. Having some stability at the HC spot certainly helps.
6. Cuthbertson- Cuthbertson has not done much since Austin Kendall graduated and I don't expect that to change in 2017. Last year their defense suffered giving up nearly 25PPG. That will not get it done in this conference. I have not had a chance to see them yet with 7 on 7s or spring ball, but hope to soon to see what kind of skill players they have. Just cannot put them any higher than this for now.
7. Parkwood- The Rebels have a shot for a quick 3-0 start this season heading into a game vs Buford out of Lancaster, SC. My only question is will they fall apart in conference play much like they did a year ago in the Rocky River 2A. Also with Coble gone that raises some question marks as well with a new unproven coach taking over.
8. Piedmont- Looking at Piedmont last year and going into this year I just do not see it. Teams like Catholic and Weddington will eat that double wing or as I call it "Three Stooges Offense" alive. They just don't seem to have the talent there yet to compete in this conference. Not a knock on anyone just simply the truth. Unless they have some secret weapons I don't know about they'll battle it out with Parkwood for last place in the SC3A conference.