Pirates have enough returning to make another run
Porter Ridge High is 21-1 against Union County schools since 2010, and there’s no reason to believe the Pirates will falter as long as Blair Hardin is coaching the football team.
Porter Ridge will return seven defenders with starting experience in 2013, along with starting QB Isaiah Hicklin, 1,300-yard rusher Jerrick Robbins and leading receiver Luke Bayly on offense.
Based on what they have returning, the Pirates (13-2 record) should be a state title contender for the third straight season in 2013. The biggest concern for Porter Ridge is the offensive line, where all five starters graduate.
Despite averaging just 220 pounds on the O-line this year, Porter Ridge came within two points of winning the 4A state championship. To get over the hump and win it all, the Pirates need more size and depth in the trenches.
The Pirates will have a tougher schedule next year, when they enter a league with six Charlotte schools — including Butler and Independence.
Union County will be divided into four conferences starting next August because of state realignment, which is twice as many as the current setup.
Sun Valley is dropping from 4A to 3A, while Cuthbertson and Piedmont are moving up from 2A to 3A.
Cuthbertson, Piedmont and Sun Valley will share the new 3A league with Marvin Ridge, Weddington and Anson County.
Parkwood will drop down from 3A to 2A, while Monroe and Central Academy move up from 1A to 2A in the summer of 2013.
Forest Hills will also be in the 2A league, along with West Stanly and Mount Pleasant.
Union Academy will be the only 1A school in the county over the next four school years. The Cardinals will play in an 11-team league from several counties.
Others to watch ...
... Monroe will return 11 starters from a team that went 11-4 and reached the 1AA state semifinals. The Redhawks should be a title contender at the 2A level as well.
... Forest Hills returns two 1,000-yard rushers in Jared Lee ((1,169) and CJ Carelock (1,116) from a team that went 8-4 and placed second in the conference.
... Sun Valley has been to the 4A state quarterfinals two years in a row, and led by 2,000-yard rusher Albert Funderburk, should be a strong 3A next season.
... After going 2-29 over the past three seasons, Parkwood is thrilled to be dropping down to 2A. The Rebels still have a steep hill to climb, but should be a lot more competitive next season.