National Signing Day is in the rearview mirror and as one reviews and evaluates after such an event it is clear that it was a turning point day in the history of Union County high school football. There is a dynamic future of football here in Union County. What was different this year? The county had a number of prominent players from teams that made an impact and raised eyebrows. 10 players committed to play football next season with half of those players staying local. Four of the five players that stayed local made history in the process.
Who were these young men and where did they decide to play?
Jody Fuller, the top player in Union County, ranked eighth by the Charlotte Observer played for Sun Valley High School. Fuller committed to play next season for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. The 6′ 0″, 200 pound All-Conference wide receiver led all Union County receivers with 68 catches and amassing 833 reception yards in the process.
Matt Privette of Forest Hills High School, All-Conference player and team MVP anchored a line that produced an explosive offense. 3100 yards rushing and 46 touchdowns while passing for over 1400 yards and 15 touchdowns. Privette, the 6′ 4,” 275 pound left tackle will play his football next year at Appalachian State University.
Luke Stennett, the 5′ 11″, 196 pound defensive back out of Marvin Ridge High School will play next season for the Johnson C. Smith Golden Bulls. Luke led Marvin Ridge in tackles last season with 55 and he was credited with 3 sacks and 3 interceptions.
The Union Academy Cardinals had two players commit yesterday, Tyree Drakeford and Devin Chambers. A tremendous accomplishment for a school that has one of the thinnest rosters in the county.
Shane Burns of Porter Ridge High School plays on both sides of the line. The 6′ 3,” 265 who played on a Pirate team that lost in the state championship to Scotland in early December 2011. Burns will play locally next season for Davidson College.
The remaining four players that signed yesterday became part of the first ever football team in Charlotte 49ers’ history: Sun Valley’s Jared Barr, Mason Sledge of Monroe and teammates, Thomas LaBianca and Lee McNeill of Porter Ridge.
Jared Barr, 6′ 3″, 285 pound lineman was all-conference and all-county in 2010 and 2011. His Spartans advanced to the third round of the 2011 state playoffs. Barr played on the varsity squad for three season and was a four-year member of Sun Valley’s All-Academic team. Jared also played in the 2011 Shrine Bowl.
Mason Sledge, 6′ 4″, 250 pound lineman was named the 2011 Rocky River Conference Defensive Player of the Year. Sledge was part of a Monroe Redhawk team that finished 8-4, winning their conference title and reaching the third round of the playoffs in 2011 for the second straight year. Not only does this two-time all-conference and two-time all-county player get it done on the field he excels in the classroom owning a 3.80 GPA.
Thomas La Bianca, 6′ 3″, 280 pounds, was a two-time All-Conference player, first team All-County and a first team All-Charlotte Observer selection as an offensive lineman in 2011. A first-team All-Region choice, LaBianca was a member of a Porter Ridge Pirate team that was 2011 State Runner-Up, finishing the season with 14 wins and 1 loss.
Lee McNeil was named Conference Offensive Player of the Year and first team All-County in 2011. The 6′ 2″ 180 pound Porter Ridge quarterback was 35-6 over three seasons, leading his Pirates to three straight Conference championships and falling just short in 2011 as State Runner-Up against Scotland. Lee led all Union County quarterbacks in passing in 2011 with 2286 yards. McNeill is also a member of the National Honor Society.
It was an exciting and eventful day in Union County football history. These players made their mark and have set the bar for the underclassmen in the county for years to come. Beyond that, as they achieve at the next level, young football players in towns like Marshville, Indian Trail, Marvin Ridge and Monroe will read about their exploits on the gridiron, inspiring the next generation of footballers.