Editor’s notice: Present rosters and final season’s stats have been unavailable for some groups.
There are lots of various things that the autumn season is thought for. The cooling temperatures, holidays reminiscent of Halloween and Thanksgiving, visiting pumpkin patches and roaming by means of corn mazes — and soccer.
Whereas the autumn season nonetheless has over a month to go earlier than it begins, the North Carolina highschool soccer season is about to start out in simply over two weeks and school soccer in Scotland County received’t be far behind. The St. Andrews Knights will open their 2023 season with a Week 0 recreation towards Webber Worldwide (Fl.) in Laurinburg on August 26.
However trying on the Knights’ different 10 opponents this yr, who’re the hardest opponents that St. Andrews will play this yr? I made a decision to rank them in ascending order of problem based mostly on the place and when the sport is performed and the way the Knights match up with the opponent. These rankings are additionally based mostly on my private opinion, respectively, and aren’t indicative of an official ranking scale.
11) Union Bulldogs
The Union Bulldogs completed 0-10 general in 2022, which features a 27-26 loss to St. Andrews.
The Bulldogs’ beginning quarterback from final season Jake Medders transferred to Campbellsville College and backup Myron Norfleet, who began and performed towards St. Andrews final season, had 4 touchdowns however six interceptions and a 47% completion proportion final yr, which leaves that place as a query mark heading into the 2023 marketing campaign.
The staff additionally solely produced 892 speeding yards and 1,507 receiving yards final yr however will function a number of underclassmen that might enhance the offense.
Defensively, Union allowed 36 factors and 386 yards per recreation final season; they did accumulate 670 whole tackles and 10 interceptions as a unit, nevertheless.
10) Kentucky Christian Knights
Kentucky Christian put up a 3-8 document a season in the past and was 2-3 within the Appalachian Athletic Convention.
Beginning quarterback Maxwell Ward and operating again Josh Traylor be part of a plethora of Kentucky Christian gamers who transferred to Campbellsville College this offseason which leaves blanks all throughout the offense and protection. It’s laborious to imagine the staff will be significantly better than it was final yr because of having to interchange so many impression guys.
Though it’s a rivalry recreation between Kentucky Christian and St. Andrews within the “Battle of the Knights,” St. Andrews might have an excellent shot of breaking the tie within the collection between the 2 faculties this season, which presently sits at 2-2.
Kentucky Christian defeated St. Andrews 51-28 in Grayson, Ky. in final yr’s version of the rivalry contest.
9) Level Skyhawks
The Skyhawks concluded the 2022 season with a 4-7 document and have been 3-2 within the Appalachian Athletic Convention.
Level defeated St. Andrews 48-6 within the first recreation between the faculties final yr however the Knights practically received the second assembly as they fell 27-16.
The Skyhawks will return junior beginning quarterback Mitchell Gossett, who handed for 1,007 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions final season but in addition had six misplaced fumbles, sophomore operating again Nadir Mitchell, the staff’s main rusher in 2022 with 374 yards, and receiver and returner Emery Bryant, who led the staff final season with 709 yards. Operating again Shiloh Addo-Nobles, a 368-yard rusher final yr, is just not a Skyhawk this yr although which implies one other participant might want to step as much as fill his spot.
The Skyhawks misplaced some huge items on protection with linebacker Aaron Anderson and defensive again Quan Neal each graduating. Anderson led Level with 90 whole tackles (57 solo) and 12 tackles for loss final yr whereas Neal had 65 whole tackles (40 solo), 4 interceptions, two compelled fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. The staff will get again a number of huge items this yr although with linebackers Kemorian Larkin and San Juan Warner, sophomore defensive lineman Gavin Graham, and senior defensive again Dayvon Dukes all returning this season.
The Knights will play at Level on Nov. 11 within the remaining recreation of the common season.
8) Cumberland (Tenn.) Phoenix
The Phoenix was 3-7 general final yr with a 1-7 mark within the Mid-South Convention.
Beginning quarterback Luke Holloway, who’s listed as a redshirt sophomore on the staff’s web site, might be below middle for Cumberland once more this yr after passing for 1,800 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions, and speeding for 321 yards and 4 scores final season. Senior operating again Treylon Sheppard will even return after main the Phoenix in speeding yards with 577 final season however the offense might want to substitute Jaylen Taylor and Joe Johnson, the staff’s high two receivers in 2022. They do get a lift with redshirt sophomore receiver Elijah Gaskin returning to the staff. Gaskin had 24 catches for 295 yards and two touchdowns in 2022.
Defensively, the staff will look to interchange twin brothers Travis and Tanner Woodall after they each graduated however do get final yr’s sacks chief Jalen Brown and interceptions chief Trevor Griffin again; Brown had 4 1/2 sacks whereas Griffin had 4 interceptions.
This yr would be the first-ever assembly between the 2 faculties.
7) Webber Worldwide (Fl.) Warriors
The Warriors rebounded from back-to-back shedding seasons with a 6-4 document final yr and a 3-3 Solar Convention mark.
Final yr, the offense was a giant motive for Webber Worldwide’s success, averaging 29 factors per recreation; nevertheless, their protection allowed 26 factors per recreation. For the Warriors to proceed that success, they’d want to point out enchancment on that facet of the ball.
And with this yr’s recreation being the season opener for each squads, it’ll be attention-grabbing to see which staff could make fewer errors and is extra disciplined.
This would be the first time the 2 groups have met towards each other on the gridiron.
6) Pikeville Bears
The Bears concluded the 2022 season with a 6-4 document and have been 5-3 within the Mid-South Convention.
Pikeville will be part of the Appalachian Athletic Convention this season and herald a ton of returning expertise from final season.
Senior quarterback Lee Kirkland and junior sign caller Xavier Malone are again with the Bears after they each noticed time on the sector final yr; Kirkland had 1,670 yards by means of the air with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions whereas Malone handed for 1,565 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Operating again Alex Sanders, who’s listed as a graduate scholar on the staff’s web site, will look to high a formidable 2022 season this yr after he ran for 757 yards and 4 touchdowns whereas catching 63 passes for 641 yards and 5 touchdowns. Receiver Derrick Griffith, one other graduate scholar, had 45 catches for a team-high 803 yards and 7 scores final yr and returns to the offense, as effectively.
For the Bears protection, graduate scholar Myson Livingston, a defensive lineman, is again after main the staff with 5 sacks final yr, and junior defensive again Obie Wilson returns to Pikeville after intercepting a team-high 4 passes in 2022. They might want to substitute linebacker Jonathan Morton and defensive lineman Josh Ervin, nevertheless; Morton transferred to Lindsey Wilson in December 2022 and led the Bears with 86 whole tackles (60 solo) final season whereas Ervin was a graduate scholar who had 3 1/2 sacks and a team-leading six tackles for loss in 2022.
This yr would be the first time that Pikeville and St. Andrews have ever performed one another.
5) Bluefield (Va.) Rams
The Rams closed the 2022 season with an 8-3 document and have been 4-1 within the Appalachian Athletic Convention.
Bluefield is ranked because the No. 25 staff within the nation in response to Faculty Soccer Community’s NAIA preseason rankings on Twitter and could possibly be even higher than that if turnovers aren’t a problem like they have been final yr.
On offense, the Rams’ beginning quarterback Nathan Hertisch is listed as a redshirt junior this season which would depart a giant gap to fill there this season. Hertisch handed for 3,183 yards and 33 touchdowns final season but in addition threw 22 interceptions, 9 greater than he had in his freshman yr; he additionally ran for 339 yards and three scores final yr. The Rams have an skilled backup in senior Mason Adams although which might assist hold the offense at a excessive stage. Operating backs Cortarius Gilmore, who’s listed as a redshirt sophomore this yr, and James Thomas, who’s not listed on the 2023 staff roster, will even must be changed after they mixed for over 700 yards and 4 touchdowns on the bottom in 2022.
Changing receiver JaQuan Ebron will even be tough to do after he topped the staff with 1,022 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns and graduated earlier this yr. Having receivers Jewels Grey and Thomas Lee again might be huge, nevertheless; the duo had 1,336 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns final season.
The Rams protection misplaced linebackers Sam Kirtley and Tavarius Corbitt, the staff’s high two main tacklers final yr, in the course of the offseason however does return graduate defensive again Tyrese Wolf, who led the Rams with 4 interceptions in 2022, and senior defensive lineman Quincy Robinson, the staff’s sack chief final season with 5 1/2.
Bluefield will get the benefit of internet hosting St. Andrews on Sep. 30 this yr. The Knights misplaced 50-12 towards the Rams final season in Laurinburg.
4) Reinhardt Eagles
The Eagles tallied an 8-2 season final season and have been an ideal 5-0 within the Appalachian Athletic Convention. They misplaced 23-22 within the first spherical of the NAIA Soccer Championship Collection towards Lindsey Wilson.
Reinhardt is available in at No. 8 in Faculty Soccer Community’s NAIA preseason rankings however might want to substitute some manufacturing on either side of the ball.
Final yr’s beginning quarterback Hunter Arters graduated after accumulating 1,807 passing yards and 18 touchdowns final season, and star operating again Devyn Collins additionally graduated after speeding for 1,017 yards and 17 scores in 2022. Notable gamers returning on offense for the Eagles are sophomore operating again Tyress McKey, junior receiver David Friedberg, and senior receivers Louis Morris and Navarie Solomon; Solomon led Reinhardt final yr with 425 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns.
The Eagles will get their interceptions chief from final season again in senior defensive again Keyovione Whitlock after he picked off three balls a yr in the past. The losses of linebacker Kenneth Lowery and defensive again Jalen Everett will trigger the staff to seek out different gamers to step up of their positions, although.
The Knights misplaced 43-14 towards the Eagles final yr in Waleska, Ga.
3) Lindsey Wilson Blue Raiders
The Blue Raiders have been 10-2 general and 7-1 within the Mid-South Convention final season with a 10-7 quarterfinals loss to Grand View within the NAIA Nationwide Soccer Championship Collection.
Lindsey Wilson is Faculty Soccer Community’s No. 4 ranked staff of their NAIA preseason rankings and can look to duplicate final season with lots of returning expertise.
The Blue Raiders averaged 340 yards of offense and 29 factors per recreation in 2022 and allowed solely 31 speeding yards and 10 factors per recreation.
Lindsey Wilson defeated St. Andrews 57-6 within the Knights’ season opener final yr.
2) Bethel (Tenn.) Wildcats
Bethel is coming off a yr by which they went 11-0 within the common season and 8-0 in Mid-South Convention play however suffered a 27-17 loss to No. 12 Keiser within the first spherical of the NAIA Soccer Championship Collection playoffs. Keiser ended up making the NAIA championship recreation however would fall to No. 3 Northwestern 35-25.
The Wildcats are listed at No. 6 in Faculty Soccer Community’s NAIA preseason rankings and have a number of notable gamers coming back from final yr and transferring into this system.
Senior star quarterback Joaquin Collazo III might be again for the Wildcats after a season by which he handed for 3,331 yards and 29 touchdowns with simply eight interceptions. Collazo III was voted the Craig Mullins MSC Offensive Participant of the Yr and likewise obtained Related Press All-American Second Crew honors final yr. Junior operating again Terrance Roberts, who rushed for 796 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2022, junior receivers J.D. Dixon and Avont Burns, who mixed for over 1,600 yards and 15 whole touchdowns final season, and offensive lineman Jackson Sarratt, a first-team all-conference choice final season, additionally return on offense for Bethel this yr.
Notable transfers on offense for Bethel embody operating again Martize Smith (College of the Cumberlands), receiver Jaylen Taylor (Cumberland College), receiver/kick returner Tyler Ball (Iowa Wesleyan), and offensive lineman Tyree Winn (William Jewel). On protection, defensive backs Jaren Rainey (East Carolina), Brian Hughes (Kentucky Christian), Jaylon Beasley (Marshall), and Cortez Eatmon (West Florida), together with defensive linemen Anthony Shipton (Texas State) and Deris Jackson (Arkansas State), all be part of the Wildcats for the 2023 season.
The transfers on protection will substitute a bunch of gamers on that facet of the ball, which embody defensive lineman Jaylon Sanders and linebacker Jakobe Griffin. Sanders collected a team-leading 5 1/2 sacks final yr for Bethel and Griffin led the staff in whole tackles with 106 (34 solo).
The Knights final performed the Wildcats in 2021 after they misplaced 42-22 at residence.
1) Davidson Wildcats
The Wildcats are coming off of an 8-4 general season and an ideal 6-0 document at residence the place they misplaced 41-0 towards Richmond within the first spherical of the 2022 NCAA FCS Playoffs.
With Davidson being a faculty within the NCAA and St. Andrews within the NAIA, the expertise hole is already substantial. Think about that the Wildcats made the FCS playoffs final season for the third-straight yr and that the Knights completed with a 1-10 document, and that distinction turns into much more important.
The excellent news for St. Andrews although is that Davidson graduated beginning quarterback Jayden Waddell, who handed for 889 yards and ran for 494 yards final yr, and operating backs Dylan Sparks and Coy Williams, a duo that mixed for 1,614 yards and 16 touchdowns on the bottom in 2022. They may, nevertheless, return junior backup quarterback Luke Durdin, who handed for a quarter mile and 6 touchdowns final yr, and junior receiver Maxwell Weaver, who led Davidson final yr with 15 catches for 313 yards.
On protection, the Wildcats graduated three of their high 4 main tacklers from final yr’s staff however deliver again their second main tackler from final season, junior defensive again Daniel Carter, and senior defensive linemen Jonathan Hammond and Aaron Warren, who collectively had 15 1/2 tackles for loss and seven 1/2 sacks a season in the past.
St. Andrews misplaced 56-6 at Davidson final season. This yr’s recreation might be on Sep. 23 in Davidson as soon as once more.
Attain Brandon Hodge at [email protected] Observe him on Twitter at @BrandonHSports.