Mount Airy’s 2017 football team will be missing a lot of firepower from last year’s unit, which won 13 games, a share of the Northwest 1A Conference title, and reached the West Regional final before falling to West Montgomery.
Nevertheless, the media poll voting in the NCPreps.com preseason rankings has confidence that the Granite Bears will not only rule the new-look conference this fall, but also contend for the state championship again this fall.
The preseason rankings were released on the NCPreps website early Wednesday afternoon, and Mount Airy polled fourth in the 1A version of the poll, the lone local team to appear anywhere in the top 10 of either the 1A or 2A ratings.
The Bears, who went 13-2 last fall, were the second highest-rated team from the West. Murphy, which went 15-1 last year and won the 1A (small) version of the state championship, was tabbed as the preseason No. 1 team. The Bulldogs will carry a 14-game winning streak into this season. Tarboro, which went 12-3 and lost in the 1AA (large) East Regional final to Wallace-Rose Hill, polled in second, followed by Edenton Holmes, which posted a 13-3 season a year ago. The Aces were a 2A (small) team last year and lost in the state championship game at that level. Holmes was reclassified to 1A this season and will play 2017 in the Albemarle Conference, along with 1A runner-up Plymouth.
Plymouth came in sixth, with North Rowan taking the fifth spot after Mount Airy. Rounding out the top 10 are 2016 1AA runner-up West Montgomery, Mountain Island Charter, Mitchell and Swain County.
Last year’s 1AA champions, Wallace-Rose Hill, were reclassified as 2A and came in eighth in the preseason rankings at that level. However, defending 2AA champion Shelby holds the top spot.
In the preseason 4A rankings, West Forsyth is rated ninth, as the only other Piedmont Triad area team ranked.
The Bears will try to live up their preseason expectations starting on Aug. 18 at home against Starmount.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.