After an unconventional season that was downsized and delayed until the spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, high school football is returning to normalcy this fall with a full-sized schedule beginning on Friday. Here is a look at how Stanly County’s four varsity teams are shaping up as their return to the gridiron draws near.
West Stanly Colts
2020-21 Record: 3-1 overall, 3-1 conference
The Colts are looking for success in a revamped conference that now includes Anson, Forest Hills and Monroe as the 2A members while Central Academy and Parkwood are the new 3A representatives.
West Stanly’s last season ended in a swing of emotions — the Colts outscored their first three opponents 93-0 only to have their state playoff hopes erased by longtime rival Mount Pleasant in the regular season finale. Following the latest conference realignment, the Tigers are now a member of the Yadkin Valley Conference.
Although a portion of fifth-year head coach Brett Morton’s starting lineup graduated earlier this year, the Colts will still feature three of their top running backs: seniors Braden Hartsell, Gavin Hudson and Blake Helms. Last season, Hartsell was the team leader in yardage (336) and Hudson posted a team-high six touchdowns.
West Stanly’s season will begin with a nonconference road game against South Stanly on Friday.
2020-21 Record: 6-1 overall, 4-0 conference
Of the four high school football teams in the county, only North Stanly reached the state playoffs last season. Unfortunately, the undefeated Comets were forced to forfeit the tournament due to a COVID-19 exposure within the team.
In a realigned YVC that now includes Albemarle, South Stanly and Union Academy as 1A schools and Robinson, Mount Pleasant and North Stanly as 2A schools, seventh-year head coach Scott Crisco and his Comets are aiming to repeat as conference champions.
Dual-threat quarterback Luke Shaver is back after a season in which he excelled through the air and on the ground — the senior posted 871 yards and eight passing touchdowns along with a team-high six rushing touchdowns. Junior running back Cameron Smith and senior wide receiver Stefan Harris will be rejoining Shaver as the team’s key offensive weapons.
The Comets’ year will kick off on Aug. 27 at home with a nonconference game versus East Rowan.
South Stanly Rebel Bulls
2020-21 Record: 2-2 overall, 2-2 conference
The Bulls are searching for consistency this fall after a previous campaign that consisted of two blowout wins (versus South Davidson and Chatham Central) and two blowout losses (versus North Rowan and North Moore).
Fourth-year head coach Ryan Ochier has a few of his top playmakers back for another season, including sophomore quarterback Drew Gaddy, senior running back Devin Green and senior cornerback Jaxon Barbee. Playing at the varsity level as a true freshman, Gaddy recorded four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns.
The Bulls, however, will have to prove that they can replace the production of the wide receivers who graduated this spring — only one of the six Bulls who caught a pass last season remain on the team.
South Stanly’s season begins with a nonconference home game against West Stanly on Friday.
2020-21 Record: 1-2 overall, 1-2 conference
It’s been eight years since the Bulldogs put together a winning record with a state playoff appearance, but fifth-year head coach Richard Davis is hoping for better results this year.
Last spring, Albemarle’s schedule was limited to only three games: losses to Chatham Central and North Stanly followed by a win over South Davidson. The good news for Albemarle is that sophomore running back Jaylen Pinkney and senior running back Jaliq McRae — the team’s two leading rushers — are back for another season.
With the graduation of quarterback Anthony Chambers, sophomore Ander Artis, junior Omarion Hinson and freshman Dre Davis will likely each see snaps under center.
The Bulldogs open the series on the road with a nonconference game against Thomasville on Friday.