During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation for next fall.
This week’s team: Butler (Matthews, N.C.)
2011 Season: 11-2, Class 4AA state quarterfinalist, unranked in the final POWERADE FAB 50 but was No. 28 before playoff loss.
Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 25. The Bulldogs have won 42 of their last 44 games, including FAB 50 top 10 finishes in 2009 (No. 5) and 2010 (No. 8) when Butler won back-to-back Class 4AA state titles. Several standouts on this year’s team, including junior quarterback Riley Ferguson, were stars on the 2010 title team.
Last season, Butler lost its two games to FAB 50 ranked foes -- state champion Page (Greensboro, N.C.) and area rival Mallard Creek (Charlotte, N.C.). Before losing to Mallard Creek in last year’s season-opener, the Bulldogs started the preseason FAB 50 at No. 8. If it was coming off a third straight state title, this year’s team would be a lock for the preseason top 10 or higher.
Team Strengths: If quality experience is a barometer, Butler should return to the national elite next season. Top recruit Ferguson passed for 3,345 yards and 48 touchdowns last season after leading the Bulldogs to a state title as a sophomore.
Other Division I recruits on hand include junior linebacker Peter Kalambayi, junior wide receiver Uriah LeMay, who led the team in scoring with 19 touchdowns, and defensive back Channing Stribbling (6-2, 175), who also plays wide receiver. All four have muliple scholarship offers from nationally ranked programs, while Kalambayi is considered one of the top Class of 2013 defensive prospects in the region. Those four are joined by fellow all-conference selections in junior lineman Grant Polofsky and junior linebacker Sean Wiggins.
Another North Carolina team to watch: Jack Britt (Fayetteville, N.C.) has been in the Class 4AA state title chase the last several seasons, including back-to-back runner-up finishes in ’08 and ’09. The 2012 edition of the Buccaneers will be anchored by several veterans back from an 11-3 squad that bowed to eventual state runner-up Garner (N.C.) 34-27 in the semifinals. Leading the way is junior quarterback Mark McRae, who passed for 2,293 yards and 22 TDs and rushed for six scores last season. Other key juniors include tight end Sean MacLain, wide receiver Jalen McDaniel and linebacker Jordan Williams. Sophomore running back Marquis Foshee was the team's second-leading rusher in 2011, while 6-foot-4, 295-pound two-way lineman Joseph Legg is a touted freshman.