A Union County record-setting star, a sophomore from Vance High School and a fifth-year head coach headline the 2018 Charlotte Observer all-star football team.
Each year, the Observer names the “All-Observer” team to honor the best players from the 162 schools it covers in North and South Carolina.
This season, Indian Trail Sun Valley QB Sam Howell is the offensive player of the year. Vance sophomore linebacker Power Echols is the defensive player of the year, and Vance’s Aaron Brand wins coach of the year honors.
Howell threw for 3,241 yards and 36 touchdowns this season and he ran for 1,392 yards and 17 scores. Signed to North Carolina, Howell is the state’s all-time leader in career yards with more than 17,000.
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Echols is the first sophomore to win I-MECK 4A player of the year. The league is generally considered the state’s best. Echols had 160 tackles, 19 for loss and nine quarterback sacks. He’s got more than 15 Division I offers.
Echols’ coach, Brand, led Vance to a school-record 14 wins and the school’s first appearance in the N.C. 4AA state championship game. Vance, which lost 21-14 to national power Mallard Creek in the regular-season, lost 9-7 to Wake Forest in the state finals. Wake Forest won its 45th straight game and its third straight state title.
▪ Howell is also the Observer’s All-Region offensive player of the year, signifying him as the best player in the newspaper’s coverage zone outside Mecklenburg County. The All-Region defensive player of the year is Central Cabarrus linebacker Derek Boykins, a Shrine Bowl pick who had 117 tackles. Weddington rookie coach Andy Capone is the All-Region coach of the year. Capone led the Warriors to a 15-1 record and a N.C. 3AA state title.
▪ Brand and Echols are the All-Mecklenburg coach and defensive player of the year. The Mecklenburg County offensive player of the year is Charlotte Christian QB Garrett Shrader, a two-time CISAA conference player of the year heading to Mississippi State. Shrader led his team to a N.C. Division I private school state title, throwing for 1,952 yards and 22 touchdowns. Christian also won the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll.
All-Observer First-Team Offense
QB: Sam Howell, Indian Trail Sun Valley, 6-2, 220, Sr: Threw for 3,241 yards, 36 TDs; rushed for 1,392 yards, 17 TDs.
RB: Tyrese “Shady” Blake, Northwest Cabarrus, 5-8, 187, Jr: Ran for 2,332 yards, 33 TDs, averaged 9.1 yards per carry; had 36 total touchdowns 2,500-plus total yards.
RB: Jaylen Coleman, Indian Trail Porter Ridge, 6-2, 195, Sr.: Duke recruit ran 211 times for 1,953 yards, 22 TDs, averaging 9.4 yards per carry.
TE: Andre White, Vance, 6-1, 225, Sr.: Had more than 1,400 yards rushing and receiving and accounted for a school-record 25 touchdowns.
WR: Elijah Bowick, Myers Park, 6-1, 215, Sr.: Virginia Tech recruit caught 62 passes for 1,424 yards and 17 TDs. Posted third straight 1,000-yard season.
WR: Porter Rooks, Providence Day, 6-2, 190, Jr: Top 50 national recruit was all-state. Caught 58 passes for 728 yards, 11 TDs. Ran for three scores.
OL: Larry Dowdy, Belmont South Point, 6-3, 280, Sr: four-time all-conference pick was a Shrine Bowler. Georgia Tech commit.
OL: Jackson Chapelle, Rock Hill South Pointe, 6-3, 270, Sr.: played guard and center for S.C. 4A power. Was 2018 Shrine Bowl pick.
OL: Billy Hambrook, Charlotte Catholic, 6-3, 270, Sr.: Villanova recruit was a 2018 Shrine Bowl selection. Helped lead the Cougars to back-to-back N.C. 3A titles.
OL: Sammy Henderson, Charlotte Christian, 6-5, 275, Sr.: Started 33 straight games for back-to-back N.C. Independent Schools state champs. All-state pick.
OL: Will McDonald, Indian Trail Porter Ridge, 6-3, 285, Sr: Anchored line that opened way for more than 4,100 rushing yards. Named 2017 AP All-State.
SPEC: Muhsin Muhammad, Myers Park, 6-0, 175, Jr: Had more than 1,000 receiving yards, eight scores, plus two punt return TDs and averaged 36.5 yards as punter.
K: Cam Lewis, Hough, 5-11, 190, Sr.: Hit 58-of-62 PATs and 8-of-14 field goal attempts, including two misses of more than 55. Made two 52-yarders to set school record.
KR: JahTwan Stafford, Monroe, 5-9, 180, Sr.: More than 1,300 return yards this season; averaged 37 on kick returns and 19 on punts. Ran for 1,233 yards at tailback.
All-Observer Second Team Offense
QB: Garrett Shrader, Charlotte Christian, 6-4, 200, Sr.; RB: Elijah Burris, Mountain Island Charter, 5-10, 215, Jr.; RB: McKinley Witherspoon, Lenoir Hibriten, 5-10, 186, Sr.; WR: Nolan Groulx, Hough, 5-11, 185, Sr.; WR: Nyier Clark, Vance, 6-0, 185, Sr.; TE: Ricky Kofoed, Charlotte Christian, 6-3, 225, Sr.; OL: Jack Cutler, South Iredell, 6-5, 290, Sr.; Malik McGowan, Charlotte Catholic, 6-4, 315, Jr.; OL: Cooper Butts, Newton Foard, 6-1, 295 Sr.; SPEC: Joe Ervin, Rock Hill South Pointe, 5-10, 186, Sr.; K: Jared Wheatley, Indian Trail Porter Ridge, 6-2, 190, Sr.; KR: Jeremiah Rossier, Olympic, 5-11, 215, Sr.
All-Observer Third Team Offense
QB: Kennique Bonner-Steward, Hough, 6-3, 215, Sr.; RB; Demetrius Mauney, East Rutherford, 6-0, 190, Sr.; RB; Corey Siemer, Newton Foard, 6-1, 205, Jr.; WR: Gavin Blackwell, Indian Trail Sun Valley, 6-1, 175, Soph; WR: Will Kakavitsas, Providence, 6-1, 170, Sr.; OL: Chance Carroll, Hough, 6-3, 280, Jr.; OL: Anthony Carter, Butler, 6-5, 285, Jr.; OL: Jake Ransom, Richmond Senior, 6-3, 270, Sr.; OL: Ikem Ekwonu, Providence Day, 6-5, 290, Sr.; OL: Triston Miller, Charlotte Country Day, 6-6, 290, Sr.; SPEC: Keyon Lesane, Butler, 6-0, 190, Sr.; K: Evan Davis, Boiling Springs Crest, 5-9, 170, Sr.; KR: Ray Grier, Belmont South Point, 6-3, 200, Jr.
All-Observer First Team Defense
DL: Isaac Chapman, Alexander Central, 6-1, 270, Sr.: two-time Northwestern 3A/4A player of the year had 58 tackles, nine sacks, four fumble recoveries.
DL: Kedrick Bingley-Jones, Providence Day, 6-4, 260, Sr.: Florida recruit is top 250 national prospect. He had 78 tackles, 13 sacks, two safeties.
DL: JT Whitmore, Mallard Creek, 6-3, 235, Jr.: All-conference pick had 52 tackles (36 for oss), 15 sacks, 20 QB hurries and two interceptions.
DL: Stephen Sings, Vance, 6-3, 225, Jr.: 60 tackles, 12.5 sacks for a N.C. 4AA state championship finalist. Sings also had 21 tackles for loss.
LB: Power Echols, Vance, 6-1, 200, Soph: I-MECK 4A defensive player of the year had 160 tackles, 19 for loss, nine QB sacks and five forced fumbles.
LB: Jacob Roberts, Mallard Creek, 6-0, 220, Sr.: All-conference Shrine Bowl pick had 115 tackles, 33 for loss and six sacks. Also had three interceptions.
LB: Derek Boykins, Central Cabarrus, 6-1, 225, Sr.: Shrine Bowl pick had 117 tackles, four sacks, three interceptions and five QB hurries.
DB: Jaylen Mahoney, Rock Hill South Pointe, 5-11, 180, Sr.: Shrine Bowl pick had 51 tackles, four interceptions and one sack.
DB: Tyus Fields, Hough, 5-10, 185, Sr.: School’s No. 2 leader in tackles (195). He had 42 tackles this season plus two interceptions and 12 pass breakups.
DB: Lannden Zanders, Boiling Springs Crest, 6-1, 195, Sr.: Had 51 tackles, plus five interceptions. He returned two for touchdowns.
P: Holt Cloninger, Gastonia Forestview, 5-10, 180, Jr.: Averaged nearly 40 yards per attempt; put 90 percent of kickoffs in end zone and had four FGs of more than 50 yards.
PR: JB Awolowo, Charlotte Christian, 5-10, 175, JR: Returned 14 punts for 248 yards, two scores. Had 253 yards receiving, 284 yards in kick returns, 54 tackles.
All-Observer Second Team Defense
DL: Jacolbe Cowan, Providence Day, 6-5, 265, Jr; DL: Noah Kyei, Mallard Creek, 6-2, 270, Sr.; DL: Gio Paez, Hough, 6-3, 295, Sr.; Joe Camara, Northwest Cabarrus, 6-3, 275, Sr.; LB: B.J. Ramseur, Boiling Springs Crest, 5-10, 230, Sr.; LB: Jake Harkleroad, Myers Park, 5-11, 205, Sr.; LB: Aristotle Bowles, Olympic, 5-10, 215, Sr.; DB: Trey Bly, Myers Park, 5-8, 160, Sr.; DB: Obi Egbuna, Charlotte Christian, 5-11, 180, Sr.; DB: Xavier Marshall, Vance, 6-1, 205, Sr.; Zyone Easterling, Rocky River, 5-11, 175, Sr.; P: Conner Maynard, Hough, 6-2, 185, Sr.; PR: Skylin Thomas, Lenoir Hibriten, 5-10, 188, Sr.
All-Observer Third Team Defense
DL: Jeremiah Brown, Kings Mountain, 5-9, 295, Sr.; DL: Terrell Dawkins, Concord Cox Mill, 6-5 240, Sr.; DL: Antwon McGee, Gastonia Ashbrook, 6-0, 280, Sr.; DL: Travali Price, North Lincoln, 6-4, 220, Soph.; LB: JT Killen, Charlotte Christian, 6-2, 200, Sr.; LB: Prince Bemah, Gastonia Huss, 6-1, 210, Sr.; LB: Osita Ekwonu, Providence Day, 6-2, 220, Sr.; DB: Tony Davis, Gastonia Huss, 6-2, 195, Sr.; DB: Zyone Easterling, Rocky River, 5-11, 175, Sr.; DB: Gabe Jeudy, Ardrey Kell, 6-2, 175, Sr.; DB: Calvin Jones, East Rutherford, 5-10, 170, Jr.; P: Dylan Weybrecht, Olympic, 5-10, 200, Sr.; PR: Justin Olson, North Mecklenburg, 6-3, 195 Sr.