EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the third part of The Enquirer-Journal’s ongoing series previewing Union County players at each position group for the upcoming football season. To catch up on the rest of the series, please visit enquirerjournal.com/sports.
Union County has produced a lot of talented receivers over the past decade, and there should be an abundance of productive pass-catchers around the county again this fall. Led by one of the top receiving prospects in the country, here are five Union County receivers to watch once the season kicks off in August.
Shaleak Knotts, Sr., Monroe
The star of the Class of 2022 in Union County, Monroe receiver Shaleak Knotts is poised to be one of the top senior receivers in the county this fall.
A four-star prospect with offers from over 20 Division 1 schools, Knotts (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) is seen as the next great college prospect to come out of Union County, following the likes of Jamison Crowder, Sam Howell, Grayson McCall and Will Shipley. Knotts has produced since he was a freshman in 2018 and could capture several county career records with a big year this upcoming season. Over the course of his career, Knotts has caught 144 passes for 2,370 yards and 31 touchdowns in 33 career games, including 34 catches for 607 yards and seven touchdowns in nine games this spring.
This fall, Monroe will be considered the favorite to win the new 2A/3A conference that includes county teams Central Academy, Forest Hills and Parkwood, and Knotts is a big reason why. Once the season starts, teams will have to decide whether they want to double-team Knotts at all times. That might not be a wise choice, however, as fellow rising senior Elliott Reed caught 30 passes for 546 yards and seven touchdowns opposite Knotts last season.
Elliott Reed, Sr., Monroe
Speaking of Reed (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), he should also be in line for a huge season. After missing the entire 2019 season, Reed was third in the county in receptions (30), second in receiving yards (546) and tied for first with teammate Shaleak Knotts in touchdowns (7).
Considered a two-star prospect, Reed gives the Redhawks an impressive second option if opponents load up to take Knotts away.
Like Knotts, Reed also contributes on defense. In 10 games this spring, Reed intercepted a county-high four passes and had an additional four passes defensed and a fumble recovery. As Monroe makes the transition to 2A this spring, the Redhawks could have two 1,000-yard receivers this fall, and that would surely make them a threat to take home a state title.
A.J. Colombo, Sr., Cuthbertson
One of the most underrated players in the county, Cuthbertson rising senior A.J. Colombo (5-foot-9, 160) has been among the most productive receivers in the area over the past two seasons.
As a sophomore in 2019, Colombo caught 54 passes for 600 yards and one touchdown while running for 274 yards and six rushing scores. He followed it up by catching a county-high 49 passes for 460 yards and another touchdown this spring, averaging over eight catches per game during Cuthbertson’s six-game season.
Colombo is also a threat in the return game. During the spring, he averaged 33.0 yards per kickoff return and scored on a 71-yard kickoff return in a 31-10 win over Piedmont this spring. With Cuthbertson losing both its starting quarterback and starting running back from the spring to graduation, Colombo will be counted on more than ever to help lead the Cavaliers offense this fall.
Landyn Backey, Sr., Weddington
Backey wasn’t among the top 10 players in the county in catches this spring, as he only hauled in 17 in eight games, but he made the most of his chances when the ball was thrown his way.
Backey averaged 21.1 yards per catch this past season, racking up 359 receiving yards and six touchdowns to lead the Warriors in both categories. Backey’s six receiving touchdowns were third in the county behind Knotts and Reed, who both had seven.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound receiver was among Weddington’s best players in the playoffs last season, as he caught eight passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns in two postseason games. That type of clutch production will be vital for the Warriors this upcoming season as they transition to the 4A classification.
Isaiah Mobley, Jr., Parkwood
Parkwood seemingly had a productive sophomore at every offensive position this spring, as Mobley (6-1, 185) led the Wolf Pack in catches (20), receiving yards (331) and receiving touchdowns (four) in seven games this past season.
Mobley reported his first Division 1 offer from the Charlotte 49ers through his Twitter account (https://twitter.com/IsaiahMobley6) on June 25.
Parkwood had one of the top passing attacks in the county this spring and expectations remain high for this fall. With Enos at quarterback and Mobley and rising senior Jack Williams, who caught 18 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown this spring, at receiver, Parkwood hopes to challenge for a conference title.
This year, Parkwood will be in a new conference with the likes of Monroe and Forest Hills. The Wolf Pack were 1-3 against Monroe as members of the Southern Carolina Conference over the past four seasons, while they’ve won three of their past four games against the Yellow Jackets.