2023 STANLY COUNTY FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Little enters first season as North head coach

Published 2:45 pm Tuesday, August 15, 2023

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First-year head coach Chad Little takes over for the Comets this season, replacing the school’s winningest coach, Scott Crisco.

Little has been an assistant for North since 2009.

The Comets lost several top players from last season’s squad to graduation, including leading running back Cam Smith, defensive lineman DJ Watkins and wide receiver Junior Hill.

Ranked No. 43 in the 2023 MaxPreps 2A Preseason Poll, the Comets are the defending Stanly Cup champions and have not had a sub-.500 season since 2012, going 6-5 last season. Since the 2013 season, the Comets are 78-37 (65.1%) overall.

With just two 2A teams left in the Yadkin Valley Conference, North’s game at Mount Pleasant Oct. 20 will determine which schools gets the automatic bid into the state playoffs.

1) Having taken over for the winningest coach in school history, what were your initial feelings and thoughts taking over first as interim and then full head coach for North?

As interim, I was trying to make sure the football program had what it needed to continue its success.

As time went on and they introduced me as the head coach I talked with my staff to make sure they would still be on board with continuing our philosophy which has proven so successful over the past 10+ years.

We all agreed on keeping things primarily the same. Basically, if it isn’t broken then there is no need to fix it.

Taking over for Coach Crisco is hard. Nobody can replace him. He is the winningest coach in our history. I still call him a couple times a week for advice. We all love Coach Crisco.

2) Who are the returning starters on whom the team will rely the most?

Chance Blake, Jay Jackson, Tad Johnson, Brandon Cole, Dylan Poplin, Conner Lupole, Gavin Clark, Kaden Young, Isaiah Blalock, Jordan Stewart, Toby Etherridge, Quinton Harris and Juice Lilly.

We have 15 seniors and a lot of other key contributors from the playoff team last year that will play a big role again this year.
And other guys to contribute are Kaden Bradford, Laderrick Butler, Brad Luther, Jarrett Martin, Lonnie Padgett, Reid Ruckler, Andrew Yang, Nathan Helms, Solomon Hudson, Jaden Little, Cam Brown and Bret Curlee.

3) Who are the promising newcomers on the team who will make an immediate impact?

Aiden Alsbrook, Gavin Helms, Elijah Bryant, Jaxson Johnson, Jaylan McCoy, Noah Carter, Grayson Smith, SeShawn Swindell, Justice, Jason Grambling, Cohen Lowder, Jermon Collins, Sosa Murphy, Colson Palmer, Levi Snow and Garrett Strawn.

4) North has won or had a share of six Stanly Cups since 2014. What are your expectations for the season in terms of defending the Cup and battling for a conference title?

Our goals have not changed from previous seasons under Coach Crisco. North Stanly expects to win the Cup again this season as well as the conference.

Our goal entering every season is to win the Cup, capture a conference championship and make a run into the playoffs.

5) What are the goals you have for your players beyond wins and losses?

We want all of our student-athletes to become great citizens, students and men.

We strive to be positive role models in hopes our student athletes will all one day be great fathers and productive members of their community.

That’s what the game of football teaches us … to get up when you are down and try harder.

From left, front row: Aden Allsbrook, Jordan Stewert, Isaiah Blalock, Conner Lupole, Jaylon McKoy, Dylan Poplin, Gavin Helms, Jay Jackson, CHance Blake; second row: Charlie Shaver, Noah Carter, Colson Palmer, Cohen Lowder, Jaxon Johnson, Elijah Bryant, Jayson Grambling, Kaden Young, Justice Grambling; third row: Solomon Hudson, Grayson Smith, Cam Brown, Jaden Little, Brad Luther, Nathen Helms, Brandon Cole, Sosa Murphy, Garrett Strawn, Bret Curlee; fourth row: Tad Johnson, Jermon Collins, Andrew Vang, Gavin Clark, Toby Etheridge, Se’Shawn Swindell, Levi Snow, Lonnie Padgett, Reid Ruckler; not pictured: Lorquis (JUICE) Lilly, Caden Brafford. (Photo by DAWN LUCAS)

North Stanly Roster

# Name Ht. Wt. Grade Pos.

Jarrett Martin Jr.

Mark Taylor So.

1 Lorquis Lilly 210 So. RB, MLB

2 Aden Allsbrook Jr. MLB, RB

3 Jordan Stewart 6′ 1″ 160 Sr. WR, SS

4 Isaiah Blalock 5′ 10″ 155 Sr. RB, CB

5 Conner Luploe Sr. WR, FS

6 Jaylon McKoy 6′ 1″ 185 Jr. WR, OLB

7 Dylan Poplin 6′ 0″ 185 Sr. WR, OLB

8 Gavin Helms 6′ 2″ 175 Jr. TE, DE

9 Jay Jackson 6′ 2″ 215 Sr. MLB, RB

10 Chance Blake 6′ 0″ 180 Sr. QB

11 Quinton Harris 5′ 11″ 145 Sr. WR, FS

12 Charlie Shaver So. QB

13 Caden Bradford 5′ 11″ 165 Sr. WR, FS

14 Noah Carter 5′ 9″ 155 Jr. K, P

15 Colson Palmer 5′ 11″ 155 Jr. QB,WR,FS

20 Cohen Lowder Jr.

21 Jaxon Johnson 6′ 1″ 160 Jr. DE, WR

22 Elijah Bryant 5′ 10″ 185 Jr. RB, MLB

24 Jayson Grambling Jr.

26 Kaden Young 5′ 9″ 180 Sr. K, P

28 Justice Grambling So.

30 Solomon Hudson So.

33 Grayson Smith 5′ 8″ 135 Jr. CB, FS

34 Cam Brown So. WR,CB,FS

41 Jaden Little Fr. RB, OLB 42 Brad Luther Jr.

45 Nathan Helms Fr.

51 Sosa Murphy Jr. DT

52 Garrett Strawn Jr. DE, G

54 Bret Curlee So. DE

55 Tad Johnson 6′ 2″ 260 Sr. T, DT

56 Brandon Cole 6′ 2″ 265 Sr. C, DT

57 Jermon Collins Jr. DT

60 Andrew Vang Jr.

61 Gavin Clark Sr. T, DT

63 Toby Etheridge 6′ 3″ 260 Jr. T, DT

70 Se’Shaun Swindell 6′ 2″ 270 Jr. G, T

71 Levi Snow Sr. G

77 Lonnie Padgett 215 Jr. OL, DL

89 Reid Ruckler Sr.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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