Last Saturday, as part of the NCHSAA state championships, the Heel Tough Blog hit the road for the final time as we headed to Kenan Stadium for one last time this season. The focus was on 2021 4✮ ILB Power Echols, who was looking to avenge a loss in the 4AA state title game a year ago. Behind a phenomenal performance from Echols that landed him Player of the Game honors, the Cougars would claim their first state title in school history with a 24-3 win over Leesville Road. Let’s breakdown what we saw from one of the most talented players in the state this past Saturday.
Echols racked up 11 total tackles, leading the Cougars in tackles on what was another huge day for one of the state’s best defenses. When we say that Echols was everywhere, we mean everywhere, as his speed allows him to make plays from sideline-to-sideline. The Cougars love to use him in blitz scenarios and his great acceleration allows him to fire through the gap like a missile, similar to what we saw from Chazz Surratt this season for the Tar Heels in blitzing situations. Echols is a strong open field tackler and when he gets downhill, he can make ball carriers pay by lowering the boom. He is a very aggressive player, but he doesn’t get out position often and takes smart angles to the football. He should be one of the Tar Heels biggest focuses in the 2021 class, especially with Trenton Simpson’s choice to go to Clemson over Carolina.
That 4AA state title also gave us a look at 2021 3✮ OT Andrew Canelas. While the Leesville Road offense struggled to move the ball, Canelas showed some really nice things in pass protection, doing a great job mirroring the defensive ends and showing good footwork to keep the speedy Vance defenders in front of him. The Pride tried to run behind 2020 5✮ OG Mitchell Mayes who was playing the opposite tackle spot, so Canelas wasn’t tested the way he will be next year as the teams top offensive lineman. With most of the focus being on Echols, we weren’t able to focus in on Canelas the way we would have liked, so this could definitely be a young man that we add to the list to get another look at next season.
Vance linebacker and Syracuse Orange commit Stefon Thompson led the group of players that also stood out on Saturday. Thompson had a nice night both offensively and defensively and is a weapon that could either side of the football for coach Dino Babers. Leesville Road do-it-all player Noah Burnette may have had the best day of anyone besides Echols, as he caught all three of the Pride’s completed passes for 35 yards, racked up two total tackles, both for a loss and hit a 34-yard field goal to give them their only points of the game. Other players who made a big impact were Vance wide receiver Jordan Payne and Vance safety Dylan Tucker, the brother of current Tar Heel tight end Carl Tucker.
In the first game of the day, East Forsyth and Cardinal Gibbons battled for the 4A with East Forsyth holding off a comeback attempt to win 24-21. With 2021 4✮ WR Micah Crowell out of the lineup due to injury, we didn’t have anyone to do a full scouting report on, but did see a couple of players standout with big performances. East Forsyth offensive lineman Jaden Lindsey, a name for Tar Heel fans to keep an eye on in the next couple of months, had a good showing, providing plenty of time for his quarterback to work, while his teammate Jamison Warren had a big day receiving for the Eagles. Cardinal Gibbons quarterback Andrew Harvey almost single-handedly kept his team in the ball game, finding his favorite target, Jacob Gill on a consistent basis all day.
That will be a wrap on the 2019 season for scouting reports. We want to thank all of the recruits who took time after the games to talk to us and all of the readers who have continued to make this a successful feature on the site. We’ll be back in August of 2020 to do it all again. Make sure you go back read all of the reports and watch all of the videos and continue to check out all of our content on heeltoughblog.com.