Preseason poll favorites

Watauga’s football team was selected to finish first in the Northwestern Conference.

TAYLORSVILLE — Watauga’s football team was the top choice in a preseason poll by media who cover the Northwestern Conference to win its second straight league championship.

A total of 16 members of the media, which included coverage areas of each team in the conference, selected Watauga, which finished with 102 points to repeat as NWC champs. The poll was conducted by Alexander Central Sports Information Director Jonathan Watts.

Watauga, which finished the poll with eight first-place votes, finished the 2018 regular season with a 13-1 record and went 7-0 in the NWC. The Pioneers eventually lost to eventual 3-AA state champions Weddington in the fourth round of the 3-AA state playoffs.

Freedom was second in the poll with 96 points and five first-place votes. Freedom went 9-3 overall in 2018, 6-1 in the NWC. Patriots quarterback Jayden Birchfield was also selected by the media as the Preseason Player of the Year with eight votes.

Alexander Central was third in the poll with 89 points, including three first-place votes. The Cougars finished the 2018 season with a 9-3 overall record, 5-2 in the NWC.

Hickory was fourth in the poll with 60 points after finishing 2018 with a 5-6 overall record, 3-4 in the NWC. St. Stephens was fifth with 39 points after finishing 4-7, 3-4 in 2018. The two 4-A programs were the bottom two teams in the preseason poll. South Caldwell, which finished 3-8, 2-5 in 2018, was sixth in the poll with 36 points. McDowell (0-11, 0-7 in 2018) was seventh with 27 points.

Birchfield completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 2,821 yards and 27 touchdowns with just seven interceptions for the Patriots in 2018. He also rushed for 516 yards.

Watauga quarterback Anderson Castle was second in the Preseason Player of the Year poll with five votes, while Watauga running back Bryce Satterfield was third with two votes. Hickory running back Cody Young was fourth with one vote. No other players made the list.

Castle rushed for 741 yards and 11 touchdowns and passed for 549 yards and nine touchdowns against three interceptions despite missing the first six games because of a wrist injury in 2018. Satterfield rushed for 1,661 yards and scored 23 touchdowns last season. Young gained 108 yards on 13 carries in 2018.

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