Seven plot lines to follow on gridiron this season
by Leanne Cloudman
By Eric Lusk
email@example.com Yadkins high school football teams went back to work last Saturday and will begin contract drills this weekend. Here are some of the biggest story lines worth following with the regular season set to kick off in a little over two weeks.
1) Who is going to win the new Mountain Valley 1A/2A Conference? If you listen to conference coaches, Starmount and Elkin will lead the pack in the new nine-team league. A coaches vote, published in the N.C. Prep Football News preseason yearbook, gives the Rams the nod over the Buckin Elks for the top spot. Starmount will host Elkin in the Battle of the Bridge on Oct. 2. Both teams made it to the state semifinals in their respective classification last season. Both were beaten by eventual state champions (2A Newton-Conover and 1A Mount Airy). Starmount must replace some key components from its 2008 run, including the schools new single-season rushing leader (Rashaun Gaither, 2,000-plus yards) and the 08 MVAC Defensive Player of the Year (lineman Matthew Walker, who was all-conference on both sides of the ball). Elkin will have a new quarterback under center after graduating team leader Russell Stewart but features one of the most experienced lines in the league. Wilkes Central was picked to finish third in preseason voting by league coaches, followed by Ashe County, East Wilkes, West Wilkes, North Wilkes, Alleghany and Forbush. The new conference combines teams from the Northwest 1A and Mountain Valley 2A conferences that were in place the past four years.
2) Who will emerge as the MVACs top players? Conference coaches voted Starmount junior Jake Barr as the leagues preseason player of the year. Barr is the starting quarterback but may play an even bigger role on the defensive side as a DB. Hes a good one, with two years of varsity starting experience already under his belt. Based on his 2007 numbers, East Wilkes running back Aaron Bauguess has to be in the preseason MVP conversation. He galloped for 2,000-plus yards as a sophomore, a big reason the Cardinals won two playoff games that year. He missed all of last season after suffering a knee injury in a preseason practice. Starmounts Israel Murphy could be the go-to back this fall, taking over the reins from Gaither. Elkin doesnt necessarily have a superstar skill player like in past years but may not need one if the lines live up to early expectations. As Starmounts Matthew Walker proved last year, lineman can earn MVP awards. In that vein, keep your eyes on Forbush senior Chad Faircloth, who has been named to the NC Prep Football News preseason all-state team. Forbush coach Pat Mitchell also is high on Cody Evans, who he says could be a significant playmaker this fall, and Brett Baity, who could be a workhorse on both sides of the ball.
3) Whats the most intriguing non-conference game among MVAC teams? Well learn a lot about Starmount and Mount Airy when the teams collide on opening night in the Granite City on Aug. 21. Elkin picked up independent schools power Charlotte Latin for its endowment game, and that Sept. 25 match-up has created a lot of buzz already. But for the Elks, it comes between two key conference games, against Ashe County and Starmount. How will coaches approach that game play to win or rest starters for more important league games? Forbush opens against former conference partner North Surry at home Aug. 21. Well learn a lot about the Falcons 2009 chances to rebound from last years 2-9 record from that contest.
4) What will be the best conference game in the MVAC? With Starmount and Elkin being picked 1-2, the 2009 version of the Battle of the Bridge looms as the headliner for now. The opening week of conference play on Sept. 11 has a Rivalry Week theme, with Elkin traveling to East Wilkes and Starmount visiting Forbush. The final week of the season, where conference titles could be won and lost, will feature a Starmount-Wilkes Central clash in Boonville. East Wilkes closes in what could be the cold mountains of Ashe County. Elkin will wrap up the regular season at home against Forbush.
5) Who will win this years Unifi Bowl? The annual Starmount vs. Forbush clash will be played in East Bend for the second year in a row. The Falcons likely will need home field advantage, as they begin the season as the heavy underdog to their fierce county rival. Forbush won in 2005 and 2006, but Starmount has captured the last two Unifi Bowls.
6) What will be the best conference game in the MVAC? With Starmount and Elkin being picked 1-2, the 2009 version of the Battle of the Bridge looms as the headliner for now. The opening week of conference play on Sept. 11 has a Rivalry Week theme, with Elkin traveling to East Wilkes and Starmount visiting Forbush. The final week of the season, where conference titles could be won and lost, will feature a Starmount-Wilkes Central clash in Boonville. East Wilkes closes in what could be the cold mountains of Ashe County. Elkin will wrap up the regular season at home against Forbush.
7) Which college will Forbush senior Chad Faircloth select? The Falcon lineman has been getting a lot of interest from Division I schools, including several in the ACC, according to coach Pat Mitchell. Signing day isnt until February, but this is the time of year when recruiting ramps up for college prospects. He spent the summer in camp, Mitchell said. Hes done what hes had to do. All the schools now just want to see him play his senior year.
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