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Vote now: Who is the Team to Beat in North Carolina 1-A Football This Season

Here are 12 teams that figure to be in the mix for a state title this season; reigning champion Mount Airy returns plenty of key pieces
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Football season is among us once again. Practices officially kicked off across North Carolina on July 31, with first games scheduled for August 18 for most schools.

In the 1-A classification, Mount Airy is the reigning state champion and returns plenty of key personnel from last season's 15-1 team that defeated Tarboro in the state title game last December.

Here are 12 teams, including the Granite Bears, we have identified as having a great opportunity to make a run at the state championship for the 2023 season.

Cast your votes, as the poll will remain open until September 1. 

You may vote as often as you like.

Mount Airy: Last season's 1-A state champions return running back Tyler Mason (2,309 rushing yards, 49 touchdowns), the offensive Player of the Year in the Northwest 1-A, quarterback/linebacker Ian Gallimore (1,058 passing yards, 10 TDs, 569 rushing yards, six TDs, 138 tackles on defense), running back/linebacker Caleb Reid (859 rushing yards, 14 TDs, 100 tackles) and DE/TE Deric Dandy, the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference (95 tackles, 6.5 sacks).

The Bears return nine starters on an offense that averaged 48 points per game and eight on defense that allowed seven points per game.

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Tarboro: The Vikings have made six straight appearances in the 1-A title game and return their talented running back duo of Mason Satterfield (1,445 rushing yards, 21 TDs) and Kamerin McDowell-Moore (1,393 rushing yards, 21 TDs) along with three-year starter Omar Lewis at quarterback. 

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Robbinsville: The Black Knights are coming off a 9-4 campaign last season and an appearance in the second round of the playoffs and have running back/safety Cuttler Adams back after rushing for 2,202 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Murphy: The Bulldogs are coming off a 9-4 record last season and a trip to the third round of the playoffs. Hunter Stalcup (2,205 rushing yards, 25 touchdowns) returns to lead the offense.

Eastern Randolph: The Wildcats finished 11-2 last season and lost to eventual state champion Mount Airy in the third round of the playoffs. You can always count on this team to be in the thick of the state championship picture.

Thomasville: Kevin Gillespie has restored the winning tradition in Thomasville as the Bulldogs finished 11-2 last season and advanced to the third round of the playoffs before losing to Draughn.

Mitchell: The Mountaineers are coming off an 8-4 season and a trip to the second round of the playoffs and will need to replace their top offensive performers.

Draughn: The Wildcats capped off a 13-2 season last year by making it to West Regional Championship before falling to Mount Airy. Draughn averaged 45 points per game and return quarterback Eli Tillery (2,549 passing yards, 32 touchdowns, 590 rushing yards, 10 TDs) and running backs Nigel Dula (1,807 yards, 29 touchdowns) and Justice Cunningham (845 rushing yards, 16 touchdowns).

Northampton: The Jaguars always find themselves in the state title conversation and are coming off an 11-3 season, losing to Tarboro in the fourth round of the playoffs. Demarjay Lassiter (649 rushing yards, six TDs) who was the third-leading rusher last season, is a key returning piece on offense

Swain County: The Maroon Devils should be much improved from last season's 4-7 mark and an appearance in the second round of the playoffs. Leading rusher Joshua Collins (719 yards, four TDs) and Josiah Glaspie (477 rushing yards, seven touchdowns) will be key contributors.

East Bladen: The Eagles are coming off a 5-6 season and a first round exit from the playoffs and return Masion Brooks, who rushed for 1,436 yards and 19 touchdowns last season.

Starmount: The Rams finished 7-4 last season and lost to Cherokee in the first round of the playoffs. Greg Lloyd has taken over as the head coach and brings his 149-80 career record with him, who spent the last 16 seasons at Kings Mountain, who he led to a 13-1 record last season.