by Andrew Stark
In what has become somewhat of a yearly ritual, MaxPreps.com has Butler High School ranked in its national preseason football poll.
The Bulldogs enter the poll as the No. 25 team in the nation and are the only North Carolina school included in the rankings.
“It is an honor, but we have our own team goals,” said Bulldogs coach Brian Hales. “We are focused on what we can control: going undefeated in the conference, winning a conference title and, ultimately, winning a state championship.
“It is flattering to be ranked in the nation, but that is really just peoples’ opinions. When the season is over, there will be 25 undefeated teams on those lists, so we are just focused on what we can control.”
On both sides of the ball, the Bulldogs are loaded with talent, most of which helped Butler win a state championship in 2010. Linebacker Peter Kalambayi ranks as MaxPreps.com’s 33rd-best Class of 2013 prospect and is rated the No. 3 linebacker in the country. Uriah LeMay, a Georgia recruit, is the 95th-ranked player in the country and is ranked the 12th-best wide receiver. But Kalambayi and LeMay are not alone in their stature.
Riley Ferguson led the Bulldogs to the 2010 title and is one of the highest-ranked pro-style quarterbacks in the country. Linebacker Sean Wiggins was Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly’s 2011 Defensive Player of the Year and is considered a major-college recruit. Defensive backs Channing Stribling and Malachi Hanes, along with running back Josh Glisson, are highly rated prospects for the Bulldogs. And defensive ends Grant Polofsky and Corwin White, and nose guard Darrin Dubose, are expected to be key contributors.
Last season, the Bulldogs had an 11-2 record but lost in the Class 4AA quarterfinals to eventual state champion Greensboro Page, 40-26. As was the case last year, the Bulldogs open their season with an August 17 home game versus Mallard Creek, which was the other team to defeat Butler, 28-20, during the 2011 season.
“I would be lying if I said that game (against Mallard Creek) wasn’t a big deal,” Hales said. “That was the first time some of these kids had lost (while in high school), and some hadn’t lost since youth football. Plus, we want to start our season off with a win and get going on the right foot.”
The Bulldogs kick off their Southwestern 4A conference season on Sept. 14, when they travel to Myers Park.