ALBEMARLE — The return of another high school football season brings hope that Stanly County’s four varsity teams can improve on their combined 14-26 overall record last season. Here is a glimpse at how those teams look after the first game of the 2022 season.
West Stanly Colts
2021 Record: 3-6, 1-3 (Rocky River 2A/3A)
With a 45-0 shutout road victory over South Stanly over the weekend, sixth-year coach Brett Morton and the Colts kicked off their season on a high note.
West is trying to turn last season’s three-win campaign into less of a sign of things to come and more of a minor speed bump — the team won its first two games in 2021 but dropped six of its last seven matchups, including a 42-0 playoff loss in Hendersonville.
The Colts’ second full year in the revamped Rocky River Conference will once again pit them against fellow 2A members Anson, Forest Hills and Monroe as well as 3A member Parkwood. Monroe came away with the conference title last season after rolling to an 8-2 conference record and 4-0 record against RRC opponents.
Quarterbacks Carson Morton and Jett Thomas join running back Matthew Parker and wideout JT Barbee as experienced and valuable upperclassmen on the Colts’ roster.
North Stanly Comets
2021 Record: 5-4, 4-1 (Yadkin Valley 1A/2A)
The Comets might have been the only Stanly team with a winning record last season, but their 41-14 home loss to Ledford over the weekend wasn’t exactly what the team and eighth-year coach Scott Crisco were hoping for to start the year.
Senior running back Cameron Smith did his part (20 carries for 123 yards), but the Comets’ defense was unable to silence the Panthers’ rushing attack.
The current Yadkin Valley Conference — where the Comets finished as the 2021 runner-up to Robinson — consists of Albemarle, South Stanly and Union Academy as 1A schools and Robinson, Mount Pleasant and North Stanly as 2A schools.
Starting quarterback Chance Blake will fill the spot left by former dual-threat quarterback Luke Shaver, while Smith and Jay Jackson will share rushing duties.
The Comets will look to get back on track as they travel to North Rowan on Sept. 2.
South Stanly Rebel Bulls
2021 Record: 2-8, 1-4 (Yadkin Valley 1A/2A)
The Bulls’ season-opening blowout loss to West Stanly marked their ninth straight loss to the Colts — a continuation of the team’s struggles over the past few years.
Coach Ryan Ochier is back for his fifth season leading the Bulls and will have his work cut out for him as the team aims to improve on back-to-back two-win seasons. South Stanly is looking for its first winning season in four years and first conference title in more than three decades.
Junior quarterback Drew Gaddy is also back, although his supporting cast looks a little different than it did last season. Braylon Tyson, Ethan Gaddy and Evan Kimrey will each step into expanded offensive roles (replacing Jaxon Barbee, Trevor Tucker and Carson Lowder), while All-Conference linebackers Ethan Gaddy and Peyton Gentry anchor the defensive side of the ball.
South’s next test will be a home nonconference bout with Carson on Sept. 2.
2021 Record: 4-8, 2-3 (Yadkin Valley 1A/2A)
It’s been nine years since the Bulldogs put together a winning season with a state playoff appearance, but sixth-year head coach Richard Davis is hoping for better results this year as most of his roster returns with an added year of experience.
The team’s season began with a 14-0 home loss to Thomasville. Considering Albemarle’s previous season kicked off with a 50-0 loss to that same team, the Bulldogs can take solace in their improved defensive effort thanks in part to defensive linemen Tyquan McDonald and Kenny Miller.
Albemarle wide receivers CJ Ellis, Jaylen Pinkney and Ja’zyion Geiger will look to build a stronger rapport this year with quarterback Dre Davis as much of the offensive line is back to build a more resilient foundation in the trenches.
The Bulldogs are set to square off on the road with West Stanly on Aug. 26 in their second of four nonconference games before launching into YVC play.