Saturday, December 29, 2007

Some Bojangle's Shootout-related advice for Charlotte's 49ers

Several national high school basketball recruiting analysts said the top post-Christmas tournament in the country was right here in the Charlotte area.

And the Bojangles' Shootout is beginning to run into a problem.

It's becoming too popular.

I love the site at Marvin Ridge High, just a few miles down the road from the Ballantyne area. The new Union County school is beautiful and boasts facilities as good as any public school I've visited in 20 years of working at this newspaper. It feels every bit like a small college campus.

The 1,700-seat gym, however, gets filled up quick with an event like this. Some fans couldn't get into the championship games Saturday.

It happened at 2,200-seat Charlotte Latin, too.

With the tournament getting bigger every year and attracting more interest, a natural move would be to go to Charlotte's Mine Shaft and Halton Arena.

A key for the 24-team Bojangles' is having two gyms, preferably at one site. I think Davidson's 5,000-seat main arena would be great, but I'm told there's not another gym at that site.

So if I'm Judy Rose, AD at Charlotte, I'm getting in touch with the folks at the Bojangles' and offering up my place for a three-year deal. And I wouldn't charge the folks at Athletes United For Youth a dime. Reason? First the tournament proceeds go to benefit AUY's mission to benefit underprivileged youth in the community, mainly through after-school computer learning centers. So Charlotte would be giving back to the community by reducing overhead for AUY.

Second, Charlotte would get to show off its beautiful arena and facilities to top recruits who are annually coming into the Bojangles' tournament. It's a great recruiting tool and the same reason why UNC and Wake and N.C. State loan facilities to the N.C. High School Athletic Association for state championship events.

And kids talk. If a top recruit like Derrick Favors comes here and likes it, maybe he tells a friend and he tells a friend and maybe -- just maybe -- you land a kid like that who is considering some bigger name schools, but he knows that Charlotte has a certain feel and he's familiar with the school.

If nothing else, it's worth a three-year gamble to see.
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Langston Wertz Jr.

Concessions a highlight of Bojangles' Shootout

MARVIN -- I have to give some of the fans a lot of credit for hanging out so long at the Bojangles' Shootout out here at Marvin Ridge High. The town of Marvin, where the school is located, is really like Ballantyne South, but it is still a pretty good haul from some parts of Charlotte.

And I'm seeing fans in the morning sessions still around for evening sessions. They don't want to drive all the way home, as one told me, knowing they want to come back and see another game later.

So they hang around.

You hang around, you've got to eat, right? Luckily for us media types, Mert's Heart and Soul restaurant is whipping up some neat treats like some freakishly good BBQ sandwiches and spicy chicken and dumplings (but some drinks would be nice, guys). For the fans, there's a big Bojangles' truck selling spicy chicken; there's hot dogs; there's ice cream stands; there's hamburgers; and there's some tasty-looking Philly Cheesesteaks being sold just past the arena floor.

My favorite concession item, though, is something called What's Water Ice. The owner swears it is fat and cholesterol free and says it's also non-dairy.

To me, it tastes like frozen yogurt. And it's very good.

And I don't usually like ice cream.

If you're out here, you gotta try this stuff. I just wish I could buy it at Harris Teeter.

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Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteoserver.com

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Late tipoffs a problem in need of answer

The boys’ game tip-off was at 8:42 p.m.

Ridiculous.

Last night’s basketball quadruple-header at West Mecklenburg - like most in Charlotte - runs too late into the night. A school night, when kids should be at home.

That 7:15 a.m. school bell isn’t going to ring any later the next day.

Basketball normally begins at 4 p.m. with two junior varsity games, followed by the girls’ varsity game at 6:30 p.m. (rarely happens). Boys’ varsity games are listed as 7:45, but that too would be an early Christmas present if it happened.

It’s too much basketball crammed into one night. If there is an overtime game, or one of those games filled with fouls and foul shots (i.e., clock stoppages), well, everything gets pushed back.

It’s like a rainy day at the airport. Sit and wait. Your flight (or hoops game) will happen eventually.

You just might be sleepy when it arrives.

Do the late start times bother you? What solutions would you suggest?

Post your ideas in the comments section.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top stories of prep football season

My top six stories of the high school football season:

1. Independence’s 109-game winning streak snapped.
It had national attention, a huge crowd and it went into overtime before the Patriots lost 41-34 to Cincinnati Elder on Sept. 1. The Patriots hadn’t lost since 2000.

2. Eligibility issues.
Independence had seven players benched because of improper addresses. West Charlotte had one player sidelined, and then its athletics director, coach and an assistant coach suspended. South Mecklenburg’s first playoff berth in 14 years was wiped out, and it had to forfeit all its games.

3. No championship for Independence
The Patriots’ string of seven state titles ended with a 28-17 loss to New Bern, in a game Independence led 14-0. The seven straight championships is a state record.

4. Ardrey Kell
The second-year Knights went 8-5, and two rounds into the N.C. 4A playoffs. Coach Marty Woolbright’s squad jumped to a 4-0 start, and won its playoff opener 31-4 at Roxboro Person.

5. Indy coach Tom Knotts suspended
Knotts was suspended two games - the regular-season finale against Butler and the first playoff - after an altercation with a player’s father following a junior varsity game.

6. Goose poop at Garinger
The Wildcats’ home game against North Mecklenburg on Sept. 14 had to be moved because a flock of geese had dirtied the field. Two weeks later, Garinger returned (the geese had been shooed away) and hosted Hopewell.

Tell me your top stories! Post the ones I've missed in the comments section.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Thursday, December 6, 2007

NCHSAA director Adams on CMS eligibility




N.C. High School executive director Charlie Adams said he understands why some parents and fans cannot understand why South Mecklenburg and Independence were not punished the same way in recent instances where ineligible players were found.

South Meck had a quarterback living with his grandparents without an NCHSAA-mandated guardianship transfer.
Independence apparently had a student who deceived the school about where he lived.
The Independence student was pulled from the team before the second game of the playoffs. South Meck's season ended before the playoffs began.

"We used to have the same penalty for everything," Adams said. "If you had an ineligible player, you dropped the player and forfeited games he played in. Then the (NCHSAA) board started thinking about this thing and came back and said if player or their parents falsify info and school has done everything they could to check that out, then the penalty should be on kid and not the school or team."

Adams said that's why Independence is contiuning to play.

He said he understands how the South Meck situation came about -- no CMS official told the Sabres quarterback and his family that they needed a legal guardianship transfer to play sports. The family did not ask and South Meck athletic officials didn't catch the error.

"We say ignorance is no excuse," Adams said. "It's about where to draw the line. In the South Meck case, very clearly the person was playing out of unit and the penalty, of course, is that the player is dropped from the team and games you participated in are forfeited and your record then determines if you move forward or not."

The Sabres quarterback played in all 11 games, meaning South Meck's season was done.

"Our understanding was that the South Meck case case was clear cut ineligibility," Adams said, "and what we’ve heard is reports of Independence and West Charlotte are falsification of records by individuals or parents. That's the reason for the two different penalities. I know it’s hard for people to understand why South Meck was treated one way and Independence treated antoher but according to CMS, it was two different cases. Eligibility rests with the (school) unit and the only time we’re involved in it is when the school calls us and reports. Then we tell them what penalty is."
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Langston Wertz Jr.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Jim Hayes wrestling tournament is Friday at East Meck

The 2007 Jim Hayes Wrestling Tournament (named for former long time East Mecklenburg wrestling coach and tournament founder) will be held in the East Mecklenburg Gym Friday evening, November 30th and all day Saturday, December 1st.

The Friday evening round begins at 6 p.m. On Saturday wrestling resumes at 8 a.m. and concludes with championship matches at approximately 7 p.m.

Admission is $5 for Friday's session only, $7 for Saturday rounds only, or $10 for both Friday and Saturday. The Jim Hayes Tournament is the longest running invitational wrestling tournament in North Carolina.

This year's participants, in addition to the host East Eagles, are teams from Kannapolis A.L. Brown, Ardrey Kell, Butler, Charlotte Catholic, East Gaston, Hopewell, Independence, Concord J.M. Robinson, Mallard Creek, Mooresville, Myers Park, North Gaston, Phillip O. Berry Academy, Providence, Shelby, Vance and West Mecklenburg.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Concord's EZ Smith is Panthers Coach Of The Week

From Staff Reports

The Carolina Panthers have announced Concord High School Head Football Coach E.Z. Smith III as a 2007 Carolina Panthers High School Coach of the Week award recipient.

The program recognizes outstanding high school coaches that have a positive influence in the communities and schools which they serve.

After teaching and serving as an assistant at a Florida high school for four years, Smith took the head coaching job at Concord High School in 1980, where he has been a force since the day he was hired. Smith has a career record of 251-93-1.

The state championship eluded his grasp for 24 years, but Smith finally led the Concord Spiders to a 3-A State Championship in 2004, and then again in 2006.

Smith’s leadership also extends beyond the boundaries of Concord High School. He enjoys promoting youth football involvement to both players and coaches and has performed a number of public speaking roles.

At a USA Football Coaching School, he spoke on his experiences in working with youth and taught various football formations that new and old coaches alike could use on the field. Out of the football arena, Smith has been active in his church, where he has served as the lay-leader, teaches Sunday school classes, and sings at weddings.

In recognition of Coach E.Z. Smith’s achievement, the Carolina Panthers and National Football League will donate $1,000 to the Concord High School athletic department. The ten 2007 High School Coach of the Week recipients will be recognized December 16th at Bank of America Stadium prior to the Seattle Seahawks vs Carolina Panthers game. During the ceremony, the 2007 High School Coach of the Year will be announced.

The Coach of the Year recipient will receive $2,000 from the Carolina Panthers and the NFL to benefit their athletic department.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More from South Meck's Jimmy Yokeley

In today's editions of the Observer, South Mecklenburg parent Jimmy Yokeley was nice enough to give me an exclusive interview about his son Jey, who was declared inelgible two weeks ago forcing South Meck to forfeit all wins in a 7-4 season.

Jimmy Yokeley found out about the decision on his son about 3:30 the afternoon of Nov. 9, when the Sabres were minutes away from boarding a bus to go to Central Cabarrus. His wife, Sheila, gave him the tearful news on his cell phone.

Jimmy was driving from his home in Wilmington and changed routes. When he got to South's campus, he saw the principal, AD, parents and team all mulling around the football field.

He looked up. At the top of the visitor's stands was his son, 18-year-old Jey, sitting alone, his head in his heads.

"Daddy," Jey said, his face ashen from crying, "I can't believe this is happening."

Today, there are 10 Yokeleys eating Thanksgiving dinner at Jimmy Yokeley's parents home. Jimmy says they will talk about everything but eligibility while enjoying Grandma Judy's turkey, ham and vegetable casseroles, her specialties.

The family is still dealing with the fallout over Jey's eligibility and Jimmy explains in the print article that while his family never asked CMS directly about sports eligiblity when it was going through a rigorous process to get Jey enrolled, including signing a document where CMS was granting his grandparents "in locos parentis," that he felt someone should've told them they needed a legal guardianship transfer.

As it was, the papers that allowed Jey to legally enroll as a student were completed and Jey enrolled last January. In the fall, the papers were redone and sent to the state along with all the Sabres' football players forms. The Yokeleys felt that they'd done everything they needed to.

South AD Mike Jones apparently missed that Jey needed a guardianship transfer when he checked the paperwork before the season and Jones -- whom many people in CMS' athletics tells me is a wonderful man -- would've been the last person able to notice it.

"Mike Jones recorded everything accurately," Jimmy Yokeley said. "He even checked a part of the form that says this student does not live with his parents. I can understand how this happened. Mike, who is a great guy and a great up and coming athletic director, looked at the in loco parentis form, and I'm sure he assumed Jey's grandparents had legal guardianship. The form even talks about acting guardians, not legal, but acting. I'm sure Mike thought Jey was in total compliance."

Unfortunately, Jey was not.

Jimmy Yokeley said at the school the day the team was pulled off the bus, Jey stood in front of his teammates and said to the school's principal, "If I'm the reason we have to sit out, take me off the team and let them play."

Some of his teammates stood up and said, "No, if Jey's not playing, we're not playing."

It's been a trying time for the Yokeley's, who have dealt with people telling what Jimmy calls "some untruths." But Jimmy Yokeley said he wanted to thank people who have supported the family.

I asked him his reaction to the Independence situation, since the Patriots had an apparent ineligible player removed -- because he'd apparently deceived the school about his residence -- and Independence would continue playing whereas South could not.

"I'm not surprised that was the result," Jimmy Yokeley said. "I'm not mad. I've nothing against Independence. I've known Tommy Knotts since I was a kid. My family and his family have been friends in Albemarle for years. My wife, Sheila, taught (Indy AD) Kelly Lewis' kids in Christian pre-school."

Ten years ago, the NCHSAA changed their rules on eligiblity to allow schools, like Independence, to continue playing if a student deceived them about his residence or eligibility, executive director Charlie Adams said. Schools were being forced to forfeit when they really didn't have anything to do with the one family who was causing the problem. The schools asked and got that rule change, Adams said.

I hope the NCHSAA can adopt another rule, or an addendum to one -- to allow a quick review and perhaps a hardship for schools like South and families like the Yokeleys who do everything they're asked to do, but because something uninentionally slips by or no one tells them something is needed legally that the team isn't punished also.

A grace period could've been granted to South, under my scenario, to get Jey Yokeley's eligibility up to standard.

South could've played the game with Central Cabarrus and had it won, it would have had 24 hours on the next business day or 48 to clear up the matter. I think that might be fair.

Finally, I wanted to share a letter that Jey's mother Sheila sent to the Sabres family. She gave me permission to release it. I edited it for brevity and clarity.
============================================================
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

____________________________________________________________

Subject: To our SM families

To all South Meck family members, friends, and supporting community:

Our hearts are torn with sadness for the pain we have unintentionally caused the football program and the entire Sabre community. We cannot describe the misery of the (initial) 40 hours. We are being bombarded by the media (both local and national) and are choosing to minimize what is said.

I am writing from my heart as a parent and mother to reach out to everyone to provide truthful facts that may help everyone involved understand how this tragedy reached the point to a call to the NCHSAA.

We should all be proud of Dr. Furr, Ath. Dir. Mike Jones, and Head Coach Martin. Each of them acted correctly and in proper duty of their responsibilities. We should all continue to stand firm in our support and loyalty to them. They are absolutely awesome and are determined to do what is right for our team. PLEASE keep supporting them. I am too exhausted, ill, and devastated at this point. We need each and everyone of you to help fight this battle.

As most of you know, we lived in the South Meck district for 12 years prior to moving to Union County in late 2003. His oldest and closest friends are there and that is where he wanted to be. It had nothing to do with sports, only friendships.

Let me explain the background of the changes in schools made along the way to Jey arriving at South Meck:

In November 2005, we put our house up for sale to move back into the South Meck district. God had a different plan.

One week later, Jimmy lost his job due to a corporate cut back. In January 2006, Jimmy accepted a job in Wilmington where we were going to relocate. We left our house on the market to go forward and move to Wilmington. Jey went on to Wilmington with Jimmy to start school and I stayed home to continue with my job until such time the house sold and we could move. We were all miserable!

Jey did not play football at Hoggard High. He ran track. After six weeks, Jimmy's job began requiring much travel, our house still had not sold, so we made a family decision to bring Jey back home. He returned to Weddington to finish out his sophomore year.

At this point, a few of our South Meck dear friends had moved their sons (Jey's best buddies) to Charlotte Christian. We went over and visited. We saw and heard great things about the school. We talked with many staff members and naturally coaches.

With Jimmy commuting to Wilmington, me working, house for sale, it seemed to be a stable, nurturing environment for Jey and our family.

It was now July 2006.

For many reasons, it turned out not to be what we expected, Jey's South Meck friends left Christian and returned to South Meck, and to be forthright and honest, it was a financial burden. At this point, Jey asked to go to South Meck to finish high school with his lifelong friends as well as the good education.

This was now January 2007.

With Jimmy still employed in Wilmington, our plans still to move to Wilmington, we approached his grandparents (who live in the South Meck district) to allow Jey to come stay with them until such time we moved - thinking it would be summer.

We went through every proper step with CMS to get approval. We offered to give legal guardianship, but we were told by CMS that it was not necessary due to the unusual circumstances. All forms were signed, documentation processed, etc. Sadly, what CMS approved, the NCHSAA deemed it insufficient. Even with each form submitted by South Meck to the NCHSAA, no one there noticed a "flag" for an entire season.

It was now May 2007, school is coming to a close, and Jey's senior year is upon us.

Jimmy's employer allowed us an extension to relocate. We put our house on the market to sale and buy in the South Meck district so that we could have our son back at our home with us and not leave the circumstances as they were.

Once again God had a different plan.

I was diagnosed with cancer. While I was still in the hospital from having a bilateral mastectomy, Jimmy immediately went to CMS once again to get approval for Jey to remain at South Meck for his senior year and until we could get moved to that district he continued to stay with his grandparents.

Circumstances at this point became so overwhelming, we chose to take our Union County house off of the market because we are physically and emotionally unable to go through a move right now. Cancer affects the ENTIRE family. It is a battle that you can't even describe in words. Jimmy remains commuting to Wilmington, I am fighting with all of my strength and heart, and Jey is the happiest he has been in a very long time because of all of you. THANK YOU! After graduation, and my health is restored, we will finish the journey and possibly relocate to Wilmington.

Please know that from the bottom of our hearts we are so very, very sorry for the pain this has caused everyone. We love you all. Somehow in the midst of this, we know we will all learn from it and become stronger.

I am so proud of our sons. I am proud of you parents. I am proud of South Mecklenburg High School. As I say repeatedly, WE ARE SABRES. WE ARE SURVIVORS.

With warmest regards,
The Yokeley Family

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Don't expect weather to keep dedicated Richmond Senior fans away

Depending on the weather, Memorial Stadium might be soggy on Friday.
It also might be close to full.

Richmond Senior and its legion of fervent fans will invade Charlotte for the 7:30 p.m. N.C. 4AA playoff against West Charlotte.
When the pairing materialized, it reminded me of three years ago, when Richmond was in town for a playoff against Independence.
Gates were scheduled to open at 5:30, a comfortable two hours before kickoff.

The first Richmond fans arrived around 2 p.m.!

What I heard was they politely knocked on the nearby Grady Cole Center door, and asked if they could at least put their seat cushions in the locked, empty stadium. Man, that’s dedication.
Expect another flood of green-wearing fans on Friday. They’ll clash fashion-wise with the maroon of West Charlotte, which also has a huge following.

Both teams are 12-1.

-Cliff Mehrtens

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

7 Steps To Solve CMS Eligiblity Issues

One man's proposal to create new eligibility rules in CMS.

1. Remove teaching duties from ADs.

This would allow them to police eligibility more, run programs more effeciently and even be a first-step in checking eligibility before passing it down to a team we suggest in No. 2.

2. Hire a part-time team of people (CMS police or CMPD police or detectives) to randomly check eligilibity at every school and every sport.

This way families who are cheating won't know when the knock is coming at the door to make sure you are where you said you are. Right now, CMS checks early in some cases and parents know they won't be back.

This team could have set times where parents who wanted to come in for documentation meetings could visit.

3. Make penalties stiffer.

Parents who cheat the system and get caught lying about address forfeit their child's participation for one year. Coaches who are caught forfeit their coaching supplement and are suspended for the remainder of the season and/or three games the following season in football (six for everything else).

4. Require document of residence as proof or move instead of, say, a Duke Power bill.

I can get my sister's Duke Power bill in Mint Hill put it in my name for a few weeks and voila, my kids can go to Butler. I'd also make parents show PROOF OF TERMINATED LEASE OR CLOSED SALES CONTRACT ON PRIOR RESIDENCE. Some parents may rent/lease the previous property. There should be a burden of proof of that as well, probably a three-month window for that, though, the random checks would probably include families like that naturally.

This prevents Mr. Saavy Dad from renting a cheap place in the new zone, perhaps even moving there, and keeping the Big House in The Cool Neighborhood. If it's that important to move for your kid, really move for your kid. This is one of the most violated policies I know of, that you must fully abandon your prior residence when you move.

5. Stop policy allowing 9th graders to enroll in different schools if there is room.

I might also require students who attend magnet and IB programs to play sports at their home school, or require an interview with the aforementioned eligiblity team to determine they're at the magnet for the magnet and not for the magnet school's track team.

6. Require transferring students to have a signed permission letter from the departing school and arriving school (and I'd do this for intra-county transfers as well). That way everybody knows what's up. If the departing principal has issues, the incoming principal will know there's a potential red flag.

7. Provide every family a document showing complete transfer requirements, including guardianship transfer, to be eligible to play sports.

I'm open to more suggestions.

-----------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Butler Cheerleaders win fourth straight state title

From staff reports

Butler High School is celebrating a four-peat this week. The varsity cheerleaders won their division at the North Carolina High School Athletic Association State Invitational at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh Nov. 17.

The 16-member squad placed first in the medium varsity division for the fourth year in a row. The team also earned the second-highest overall score of the day. More than 100 squads participated in several categories.In addition to cheering at football games, they practice at least three days a week for two-and-a-half hours.

"We focus on perfecting every second in the two-and-a-half minute routine," said coach Kimberly Warr. "We also know what our strengths and weaknesses are, so we highlight the strengths and downplay our weaknesses."

The squad has one sophomore, eight juniors and seven seniors. Nicole Savage is the captain and Melissa Ratzlaff is the co-captain.

C.C. Reynolds is the assistant coach and Levi Brown has choreographed their routines for four years.Myers Park, East Mecklenburg and Hopewell High schools also competed in the medium varsity division and Hopewell took third place.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cheerleaders suspended for flashing during football game

Some cheerleaders at a high school in Ripon, Calif, were suspended for two days for flashing the crowd during a football game Friday.

The cheerleaders decided to make up a cute dance for the last game of the year. They danced to Britney Spears' "Baby One More Time" and bent over and pulled up their skirts. Underneath, the girls had spelled out INDIANS on the bottom of white bloomer underpants they were all wearing.

School officials didn't like it and suspended the girls two days.

Was that too much or about right? What do you think?



------------------------------------------

Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Friday, November 16, 2007

Soccer championships begin tonight

From staff reports

Four championships will be up for grabs this weekend in the annual North Carolina High School Athletic Association's state men's soccer championships.

The games will be played at the Durham Bulls Soccer Stadium at the WRAL Soccer Center in Raleigh. Two games will be played on Friday, and two are scheduled Saturday.

The championship weekend will get underway with the 1-A title match on Friday at 5 p.m., sending the North Carolina School of Science and Math Unicorns from Durham against the Eagles of East Montgomery.

East (22-1-1) and NCSSM (18-4-1) are both making their initial appearances in the state finals. East is led by Charlie Williams, who has scored 10 goals in the postseason, and Miguel Cruz. Gabe Whaley is NCSSM's leading scorer with 26 goals on the year.

The 3-A championship is set for Friday night at 7:30 with unbeaten Lake Norman (28-0) seeking its second consecutive crown and 56th win in a row against Wilson's Ralph L. Fike (21-4-1). Matt Foxx, the North Piedmont Conference Player of the Year, leads Lake Norman and has tallied 32 goals on the year.

Fike has been extraordinary in the playoffs, knocking off four consecutive number-one seeds from their respective conferences.

Cardinal Gibbons makes its third straight trip to the finals and seeks to defend its 2-A crown as the Crusaders (23-2-2) take on the Red Devils of Newton-Conover (21-6) on Saturday at 5 p.m. Junior forwards Daniel Montero and Seph Babbington lead Gibbons, with Babbington the MVP of the state championship match last year.

Newton-Conover, in its first men's soccer final ever, has not lost to a 2-A team all year and is led by all-state performer Brian George, who has scored 22 goals.

The final match on Saturday will be for the 4-A championship, as top-ranked and defending champion Raleigh Broughton (27-0-1) collides with Greensboro Grimsley (20-3-1) at 7:30.

Broughton has ripped off 25 consecutive victories and Brandon Haynes has led the way for the Caps with 22 goals. Big 6-5 midfielder David Dupont tallied the only goal for Grimsley in its 1-0 victory over defending West 4-A champ North Mecklenburg in the regional final.

Tickets will be $8 at the gate.

Wendy's and the Carolina Ford Dealers are the presenting sponsors of the NCHSAA sports program, and the Raleigh Sports Consortium serves as a host city sponsor along with the city of Raleigh and the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors' Bureau.

Cheerleading finals set for Saturday

From Staff Reports

The fifth annual North Carolina High School Athletic Association state invitational cheerleading championships are scheduled for Reynolds Coliseum on the North Carolina State University campus in Raleigh on Saturday.

A record number -- more than 100 -- of teams have registered.

Competition will be held in 10 different categories. The doors open at 7:30 a.m. and competition will begin at 9 a.m.

The Carolina Cup also will be awarded. Cheer Ltd., Inc., one of the NCHSAA's corporate partners that assists with the invitational championship, established the Carolina Cup to recognize annually the top high school varsity cheerleading team in the state.

The team that earns the highest cumulative score among varsity teams during the invitational championship earns the Cup. North Gaston won it last year and Raleigh Sanderson took the Cup in its inaugural year in 2005.

Lake Norman is the only school to have taken top honors in a division in every previous year of the invitational championships.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Transfer problems in Guilford mirror Meck?

Mecklenburg County has, a bit unfairly, been labeled the transfer capital of the N.C. high school universe. I have always maintained that the issues here only mirror those elsewhere.

A very interesting article ran today in the Greensboro News & Record that claims thousands of kids are moving around schools. I'd suggest you click the link and read.

Given the problems South Mecklenburg had Friday with senior quarterback Jey Yokeley being called ineligible because his grandparents were not his legal guardians and his mother lived in Union County, I think the story has plenty of relevance here.

The current rules in Meck County to slow transferring allow ninth graders to pick a high school to play sports in and attend, so long as that school has room for you. There is some area for abuse there. The rest of the rule, not allowing you to play two sports for two schools or transfer anywhere other than your home school, for legitimate reasons, after you declare you school in ninth grade is strong. The best part requires students to physically move into a new school's zone, like Independence's Rod Chisholm did, in order to change schools for any reason.

Could the rules here use some tweaking? Yes. I'd eliminate the policy of choosing a school in ninth grade even though usually the desireable schools don't have room. I think the school board could help also by not allowing the draw lines to get changed so often. It would be nice to know for the next 10 years that if you go to middle school at Y, you'll play high school at X, or at least a group of Xs. Right now, you never know.

Anyway, check out the article. Tell me what you think
---------------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Friday, November 9, 2007

Disappointment at South Meck

You had to feel for South Meck and its fans Friday. Hours before the first round playoff game in 13 years Friday, the Sabres found out they'd have to forfeit all 11 games and their playoff chances because of an ineligible player.

South had generated some real excitement within the school community. Placed in the small 4A playoffs, the Sabres had a big tough team that was equipped to go deep into the postseason. I really thought the Sabres had a great chance to reach their first N.C. championship in 25 years.

I'm not sure what happened. If I'd guess, I'd say it was an address issue. I also feel bad for AD Mike Jones, who is responsible for checking eligiblity. By all accounts, Jones is a good man. I had five Sabres parents and officials call me and express their concern about Jones and say how much they cared about him. "I'd trust him with my wife alone in a room," one Sabres official told me.

South will be really good next year, but not as good as this season. You have to feel for these kids who thought they had a real chance to do something special.

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Thursday, November 8, 2007

And what now for Indy and Knotts?

Independence coach Tom Knotts got his job back Thursday, but if he's going to coach anymore in 2007, the Patriots must win tonight at Greensboro Page.

That's a lot of pressure on Independence.

Remember, they're coming off their first loss to a N.C. team in eight years and 114 games, a loss that came after hours of controversy swirling around their coach, who was suspended with pay following an altercation with Isaac Avant of Philadelphia at last week's Indy-Butler jayvee game.

The loss was hard enough, I'm sure, then the Patriots go all week with the news media on full blast about their coach and their program.

Kind of hard to get ready for a bounce-back game under all of that, right?

But you know what? I think the Patriots are going to rally together for their coach and win Friday. I think this will be the thing that will group this young team together.

I know Knotts loves challenges. This has been a rough season for him, starting with the loss of his beloved dog and then his best friend, father Don Knotts. He missed a lot of summer practice and Independence suffered a lot of injuries and disappointment, their infamous win streak going poof in Ohio in the second week of the season.

I remember when the season started, Knotts was walking around with a green T-shirt with the arms cut out. It had a huge yellow "8" on the back. He wanted his team to win an eighth straight state title. Back then, Indy was feared like SARS. But after two losses in 11 games, including the all-important in-state loss, Indy's intimidation factor is now about as good as Mike Tyson's was after Buster Douglas.

They won't be up 14 just getting off the bus anymore. To get it back, they have to win again.

And if Knotts can make a state championship out of all this, I think it will be his greatest coaching job in a career full of highlights. If Indy gets out of Greensboro alive -- and I'm sure Page will have a packed stadium and a hyped up team waiting to see the circus come to town -- I don't think I'd bet against the Patriots for the rest of the year.

A potential second round game against Butler would be off-the-charts big: Knotts' return. Independence going for revenge. Butler looking for the knockout punch.

The storylines would be thick.

It could be a magical Friday night.

It all depends on what happens 90 minutes from here Friday night.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Here's what should happen to Tom Knotts

I never really thought the Mecklenburg County District Attorney was going to bring charges against Tom Knotts.

The case was too muddied. The parent whom Knotts was involved in all this with, Isaac Richardson Avant of Philadelphia, also played a big role. I don't see how one could face anything and not the other.

And now without criminal charges, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools should reinstate Knotts immediately.

Knotts handled the situation poorly, very poorly. He should not have approached the fan at the fence. That is clear. What is also clear is that fans are out of control these days with the liberties they feel entitled to: throwing things at coaches and players, cursing and spitting. I've seen some ugly scenes, particularly at basketball games where there is absolutely no separation.

I'm surprised we haven't had more instances where coaches got tired of it and approached an irate parent. Knotts didn't hit this man. If he did, this would all be a different matter.

Apparently, he pushed a fence into the man's face after the man pushed the fence towards him. I'm not sure if that is truly what happened. Having spoken to multiple parties and gotten multiple stories, I don't think we'll ever really know.

I think if both men pushed, they meant to do it as a means of intimidation, not to truly make any contact. And this pushing came after witnesses told me that the man's son pleaded with his father to stop yelling at the coach.

Given these circumstances, Knotts' penalty should be what a player would get for fighting or taunting: two games.

He missed last week's game against Butler and should miss this week's game against Greensboro Page. He should be allowed to return to campus Thursday and attend practice Thursday night. He should not be allowed to be on the sidelines for Friday's game.

If I were Knotts' lawyer or his agent, I'd tell him to make a very public statement, lamenting his lack of judgement, apologize for his role in this incident and promise it will not happen again.

After that, we should move on.

Hopefully Knotts will have learned an important lesson; hopefully CMS will increase security around coaches and prevent these kinds of skirmishes from ever starting; and hopefully and parents will think more about the consequences of their actions, especially to their own kids.

-----------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Who could have predicted this?

High school football playoffs always produce surprises. I guarantee there will be scores Friday night that make fans say “wow, didn’t see that coming.”

It’s a continuation of what’s happened all season.

Who among us - and don’t fib - could have predicted back in August:

  • That Independence would have two losses?
  • That a game at Garinger would be moved because of goose poop on the field?
  • That an airplane piloted by a student would fly dangerously close (about 500 feet) above the Hopewell-North Mecklenburg game?
  • That Independence’s Tom Knotts, the state’s highest-profile coach, would be suspended for a confrontation with a player’s father?
  • That Monroe Central Academy, playing its first varsity season, would go 0-11 and tie an N.C. record for zero points in a season (it allowed 615) ?
  • That one game, without overtimes, would produce 120 points ? (Mount Pleasant 72, Monroe 48)
  • That Providence, a preseason Sweet 16 team, would stumble to a 4-7 record?
Playoffs are here. More surprises await.

- Cliff Mehrtens

Monday, November 5, 2007

Handicapping Gaston, Lincoln teams' chances

Breaking down the football playoff brackets for Gaston and Lincoln teams:

---South Point might have gotten a better draw as a No. 2 seed instead of No. 1 in the 3AA West playoffs. The Red Raiders face Kings Mountain Friday - a team South Point has already beaten - and then would likely face Burns, another team South Point has beaten, in the second round. South Point would likely host Ragsdale in the third round. If South Point had been the No. 1 seed, the Red Raiders would have faced a tough game against either Winston-Salem Glenn or Indian Trail Sun Valley in the second round, and then would likely face Charlotte Catholic or A.L. Brown in the third round.

---Things also worked out well for Ashbrook. The Green Wave is the No. 3 West seed in the 4A playoffs despite a 6-5 record. And, if fellow Big South team Crest can win two games, Ashbrook would be at home until the state semifinals as long as it keeps winning.

---None of the Lincoln County teams got a favorable draw. Lincolnton, the No. 5 West seed in the 2A playoffs, would likely have to win road games at Brevard and Wilkes Central to advance to the state championship. East Lincoln, the No. 10 seed in the 2A playoffs, faces Monroe Friday, and North Lincoln, the No. 6 seed in the 2AA playoffs, faces Bandys.

---North Gaston might have the toughest draw of the local contenders. The Wildcats host Concord, and would then likely face road games against West Rowan and Anson Senior.

---Cherryville might win its first game in the 1AA playoffs at home against East Surry, but the Ironmen would likely face an away game against Albemarle after that.

-- Kevin Cary

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Playoffs: One Man's View of the West

OK, I'm looking at the NCHSAA football playoffs -- Western side.

The 4AA bracket is very, very competitive. Let's break it down.

Independence, fresh off Friday's upset against Butler, goes to Greensboro Page, its first road playoff game since November 2000. I pick Independence to win and for Butler to beat Lumberton, setting up an Indy-Butler rematch in round two.

In the next bracket, I think Scotland will get a tough game from West Meck but win and East Burke will handle North Meck.

Next, Hopewell will provide the big first round upset, taking down Greensboro Grimsley on the road. West Charlotte will beat Providence.

Next, I'm picking East Meck over Davie County and Richmond Senior over West Forsyth.

In Round 2, I like Indy over Butler (assuming Tom Knotts is back as coach) and Scotland over East Burke. I like West Charlotte over Hopewell and Richmond to edge East Meck in a single digit game.

In Round 3, West Charlotte beats Richmond in front of 20,000 at Memorial Stadium on Friday night. On Saturday night, Independence beats Scotland County at Memorial in front of just as many.

In the semifinals, Independence stops West Charlotte for the second time this year to advance to an 8th straight state final. The game will sell out Memorial Stadium.

If Knotts doesn't return, I'd pick the Lions over Butler in the semifinals at Memorial.

In the 4A bracket, I'd watch out for South Meck. I can see them making their best playoff run since reaching the '93 state semifinals. I can see a Crest-South semifinal in the west side.

In 3AA, I like the Catholic-Kannapolis second round matchup. Wow, that's a doozie early. And it'll be in K-Town this time. I will pick Catholic to win and go to Hickory -- which will beat Sun Valley in another doozie of a second round game. Hickory will ultimately go to the state finals.

In 3A, I see Carver and Anson Senior getting to the regional final.

What do you think?

-----------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Some Prep football playoff brackets delayed

Inclement weather along the N.C. coast Friday forced some high school football games to be postponed until tonight. That will delay the release of the playoff brackets for some classifications.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association said the 4A bracket should be up today by 3 p.m., as scheduled. The 1A and 2A brackets will post Sunday. The 3A bracket may be posted today since there is only one 3A game to be played Saturday that could affect seeding.

Students rent plane, fly over stadium during game Friday

Spoke with Mecklenburg County system athletics director Vicki Hamilton late Friday night. She told me the strangest thing that happened.

Three students rented a small airplane and flew over Hopewell High during Friday's Hopewell-North Mecklenburg rivalry game.

The plane flew at about 75 feet above the stadium for three runs. Apparently, one of the kids tried to throw a football into the crowd. FAA regulations say aircraft need to fly about 500 feet minimum.

That's dangerous and I'm just glad no one was hurt. I pray no one else ever tries a similar stunt.

________________________
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Friday, November 2, 2007

Video: Exciting end to Butler-Indy JV Game Thursday

Thursday night, a huge crowd nearly filled Butler's field to capacity to see the Bulldogs junior varsity play Independence, which hadn't lost in five years.

Butler scored with less than 10 seconds to play, and then went for two points on the extra point and converted to get a 15-14 lead. Here's video of the final play. An Independence receiver goes up for the ball and a game winning catch at the end. Looks exciting.

---------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Here game highlights



Monday, October 29, 2007

Knotts talks retirement and private school playoffs

It's now officially Independence High's time of the year.

The Patriots play a key game with Butler Friday at Memorial Stadium. Independence has already clinched a share of its eighth straight conference title but needs to win against the Bulldogs to have a shot at having home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

That's key for a team that hasn't been played on an opponent's home field in the postseason since 2000.

Independence has won 114 straight games against N.C. competition and 42 straight postseason games. Patriots coach Tom Knotts, who has had to juggle his lineup this season due to injuries, is liking where his 9-1 team is right now.

"We've stepped it up a notch with DeVonte Holloman at quarterback and two big tight ends and just running the football," Knotts said. "The kids have confidence in DeVonte and know he can make things happen. He's a great leader."

Knotts said Holloman will likely remain the starter at quarterback, though he's been working with original starter Anthony Carrothers in practice with a passing attack. Carrothers missed several games with an ankle injury and is just getting back to form.

"We've got two distinct packages," Knotts said.

I also asked Knotts about retirement last week. We were talking about Country Day and Charlotte Latin and how well those schools are doing, especially against public school competition. His answer surprised me.

"I see the (private school-public school) scores," he said. "Schools that can draw from all over, it's a different ballgame. So, no it doesn't surprise me they do well. I'll probably retire one day to one of those, to a private situation."

Knotts at Country Day or Christian or Latin or Providence Day -- or even Victory Christian -- could be very interesting if those schools had an opening in a few years when he's ready.

PRIVATE SCHOOL PLAYOFF PAIRINGS

Here are Friday's first round N.C. Independent School football playoff pairings:
No. 8 North Raleigh Christian (1-9) at No. 1 Charlotte Latin (10-0)
No. 5 Providence Day (6-3) at No. 4 Victory Christian (4-3)
No. 7 Raleigh Ravenscroft (6-4) at No. 2 Charlotte Christian (8-2)
No. 6 Forsyth Country Day (6-4) at No. 3 Charlotte Country Day (8-2)

Note: The Latin-North Raleigh winner plays Prov Day/Victory winner in the semifinals. The Raleigh/Christian winner plays the Forsyth/Country Day winner.
--------------------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Friday, October 26, 2007

Lions' Flowers is Panthers coach of the week

West Charlotte football coach Maurice Flowers is the Carolina Panthers' coach of the week.

The Panthers and the NFL will donate $1,000 to the Lions' athletic department. The ten 2007 High School Coach of the Week recipients will be recognized December 16th at Bank of America Stadium prior to the Seattle Seahawks vs Carolina Panthers game. During the ceremony, the 2007 High School Coach of the Year will be announced. The Coach of the Year recipient will receive $2,000 from the Carolina Panthers and the NFL to benefit their athletic department.

The Coach of the Year program recognizes outstanding high school coaches that have a positive influence in the community and schools.

Flowers, who played at East Meck and J.C. Smith, started his coaching career at Olympic seven years ago. He built the Trojans into a playoff team and after starting at West Charlotte this year, Flowers has the Lions at 8-1 and has helped rebuild community interest there.

Off the field, Flowers is the Dean of Students for West Charlotte. He has had a positive influence on the entire student body.

“[Flowers] interacts with a lot of kids,” said Lions athletics director Masanori Toguchi. “He makes sure that they set goals and look toward their future.”

To help do that, Flowers has organized Alumni Wednesday, where West Charlotte alumni come to the school to talk to the players about anything from football to making wise choices. Flowers also helps build interest and excitement in the team by hosting Meet the Community, in which the team visits with West Charlotte fans.

In recognition of Coach Maurice Flowers’s achievement, the Carolina Panthers and National Football League will donate $1,000 to the West Charlotte High School’s athletic department. The ten 2007 High School Coach of the Week recipients will be recognized December 16th at Bank of America Stadium prior to the Seattle Seahawks vs Carolina Panthers game. During the ceremony, the 2007 High School Coach of the Year will be announced. The Coach of the Year recipient will receive $2,000 from the Carolina Panthers and the NFL to benefit their athletic department.

------------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Private Shrine Bowl rosters released

Here are rosters for next month's Oasis All-Star Shrine Classic.

Oasis All-Star Shrine Classic

2007 North Carolina Roster


Name

School

Position
Ander, Evan
Westminster-Catawba

QB/WR
Ashcraft, Ben
Char. Latin


FB/LB
Bersin, Brentin
Char. Latin


WR/S
Butler, Clem
Harrells


RB/DB
Chavalaris, Thomas
Country Day

K/P
Cline, Joseph
Ravenscroft

OL/DL
Daniels, Andrew
Halifax


OL/DL
Davis, Brian
Providence Day

OL/DL
DeVaughn, Jonathan
North Raleigh

WR/DB
Duhaney, Justin
Victory Christ.

TB/CB
Fairfax, Brien
Hickory Grove

FB/DE
Fallar, Elliot
Southlake


RB/LB
Flamer, Julian
Country Day

OL/DL
Fry, Nolan

Ravenscroft

OL/DL
Generette, Kaysan
Trinity


FB/LB
Gilkerson, Tyler
Southlake


FB/LB
Grice, Chris
Trinity


ATH
Hanson, Braden
Char. Latin


QB
Johnson, Kelly
Providence Day

WR/OLB
Kinard, Bo

1st Assembly

FB/LB
King, Andy

Harrells


WR/DB
Penrose, Cameron
Fayetteville Christian

WR
Reilly, Dale

Victory Christ.

WR/S
Robinson, Brandon
Char. Christ.

WR/DB
Rose, Lee

Char. Christ.

FB/LB
Shankel, Orfeus
Providence Day

TE/DE
Stallsmith, Daniel
Southlake


QB/DB
Stanback, Ravone
Victory Christ.

OL/DL
Sturgis, Alex
Country Day

WR/S
Sullivan, Travis
1st Assembly

WR/LB
Thompson, Josh
Char. Christ.

OL/DL
Tingling, Xaundre
Asheville School

WR/DB
Walker, Beau
Ravenscroft

WR/DB
Weddle, Taylor
Forsyth Country Day

LB/WR


2007 South Carolina Roster



Name

School

Position
Andrew Fedyschyn
Ben Lippen
OL
Arnett James
Pee Dee

DE
Brent Klapthor
Wilson Hall
TE
Brett Walen
Heathwood Hall
QB
Chris Somheil
Wilson Hall
OL
Conner Danieloski
Porter Gaud
OL
Curtis Ward
Willimsburg Academy
OL
Daniel Plunkett
Ben Lippen
OL
David Barton
Heathwood Hall
DB
Don Shelly

Holly Hill

LB
Ed Stephens
Pee Dee

LB
Eric Pringle

Charleston Collegiate
RB
Jacob Baker
Thomas Heyward
DB
James Lane
Thomas Heyward
LB
Josh Walters
Hammond

DB
Joshua Pratt
W.W. King
DB
Kahiry Long
Porter Gaud
LB
Kyle Williamson
Ben Lippen
QB
Lewis Tyler
Laurence Manning
RB
Livingston Long
Porter Gaud
WR
Mason Toole
Orangeburg Prep
RB
Michael Herman
Hilton Head Prep
QB
Raymond Watkins
Northwood Academy
OL
Ryan Lee

Heathwood Hall
OL
Ryan Steed

Pinewood Prep
DB
Shandon Kemmerlin
Calhoun Academy
FB
Steven Harvin
Hammond

DB
Stone Pinkney
Hammond

LB
Terrell Brown
Charleston Collegiate
WR
Travis Cerasula
Augusta Christian
LB
Tyler Bourdo
Augusta Christian
QB
Wellington Baker
Thomas Sumter
DL
Zack Cooper
Augusta Christian
OL

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Stop the complaining, and do the math

Happens every fall, sure as the leaves change color. The Shrine Bowl team is announced, and fans bellyache about kids who didn’t get picked.

It’s a thankless job for the coaching staffs. There are more than 330 high schools in North Carolina. That’s a lot of seniors to choose from. Combines are held the summer before. Film is studied and re-studied.

Then, the state’s best 44 seniors are chosen.

Not everyone agrees, but some fans are myopic. Hey, your conference isn’t going to have 10 players chosen. Your school isn’t going to have four (two per school is the limit).

Normally, two quarterbacks are picked. Tough choice. A third may be listed as a receiver or defensive back, but try picking three from the whole state.

Players 45-80 on the coaches’ list would make a fine team.

But there is only room for 44.

Fans shouldn’t lose sight of what the game generates - funds for children at Shriners Hospitals.
Don’t complain that this guy or that guy didn’t make it. Be happy for the 44 that were picked, and that a game exists to help kids that are much less fortunate.

-Cliff Mehrtens

Friday, October 19, 2007

East Meck tries to validate an upset

I'm at Myers Park this week to see if East Mecklenburg can validate its upset of Butler last week and set up a potential conference championship showdown at home with Independence next week.

The Eagles have won four straight and don't give up 10 points per game. Myers Park has lost four straight. On paper, it looks like the Eagles should be able to set up the Independence game and play for their first conference championship since 2001.

In 2001, the Eagles beat Butler 32-6 to secure their first Southwestern 4A title in nine years en route to a 13-2 season that ended with a loss to Independence in the N.C. 4A Western Regional championship.

--Langston Wertz Jr.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Will Garinger win this season?

It's a question I am getting often these days, including at the tail end of Friday's "High School Gametime Show" on WCNC, Channel 36.

"Can Garinger win this season?"

We all know Garinger hasn't won since 2002. No team needs to win more.

Friday, Garinger lost its 54th straight football game on the field Friday to Charlotte Catholic. The Wildcats (2-5) picked up two forfeits two weeks ago, but have two shots at that first legimate win since 2002: at Olym
- pic (1-8) Friday and against Waddell (1-7) in two weeks.

But Garinger hasn’t always struggled. In the early '70s, Dwight Clark was the 'Cats quarterback and he went on to make "The Catch" against Dallas in the 1982 NFC Championship Game.

From 1959-66, Garinger played in four state championship games, a rather Independence-like streak.

The Wildcats beat Greensboro 20-6 to win the 1959 N.C. 4A state title.

So there's some good history to lean on. And to answer the question -- will Garinger win this year? -- I can only say, "I think they have a chance."

--------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thoughts from the game of the week: East Meck & Butler

It's 6:18, still 40 minutes plus from kickoff and I'm watching East Mecklenburg and Butler getting ready for the game of the week in Charlotte-Mecklenburg tonight. Rapper Kanye West is playing on the speakers asking if we know how he feels, man, because he's not one of the Cosbys, he says, "I didn't go to Hill-man."

Some of the players bounce up and down to the music -- and to the moment.

Butler is going to get its first big test since losing to West Charlotte 20-14 a few weeks back and East Meck -- which has quietly put together a solid season -- has a shot to show it can be a factor in the race for the Southwestern 4A championship and in the playoffs.

The Eagles are excited about tonight and the rest of the season but looking at their roster I see only 17 seniors and 27 underclassmen. Of those underclassmen, 15 are freshmen or sophomores. The future here is bright.

Butler is senior dominated and much bigger, in terms of size.

The Bulldogs know their time is now. They need a big performance tonight as we near the showdown Nov. 2 with Independence.

There are some games you walk into that just have that big game feel to them. This is one. Both teams are ready to get rockin'. I'm ready to watch.
-----------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Redshirting young athletes

Washington, D.C. Schools officials recently decided to provide students a fifth year to complete four years of athletic eligibility, according to a story in The Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/04/AR2007100402717.html?sub=AR).

In a nutshell, the story says D.C. students can only play high school sports for eight semesters -- but they have 10 consecutive semesters to do it in, beginning when they enter the ninth grade. One exception is they may not play two years as a 12th-grader.


N.C. students are given eight consecutive semesters to complete their eligibility, beginning in ninth grade. Same for kids in nearby South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Maryland and Virginia enforce the same rule, according to The Post.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association has not even discussed changing its rule, according to spokesman Rick Strunk. "The goal is to move kids towards graduation," Strunk said. "We've got to look at the big picture: Less than one percent of North Carolina kids will go on to play in college."

But the 10-semester rule should benefit D.C. students, a Board of Education representative told The Post, because it gives students an extended period of time to play sports and lets them adjust to high school life -- much like college athletes who redshirt as freshmen.

Said Strunk: "You don't redshirt in high school."

But kids can essentially redshirt in middle school, or earlier. I know of several prep coaches who held their sons back so that, when they got to high school, they would be physically more developed and more mature than classmates.

One Union County parent told me recently he plans to hold his middle-school son back to better prepare him for prep baseball.

To me, the only difference between doing that and redshirting in high school is a high school redshirt would in theory get an extra year of practice with the varsity or JV team. That's more valuable than an extra year on a middle school team.

"We have no jurisdiction over the middle schools," Strunk said. "I know that (redshirting) can still happen at the middle school level. I would question somebody who might do that."

So would I.

What are your thoughts?


--Ryan Basen

Readers Sweet 16: Indy's Still No. 1

Our third reader's Sweet 16 still shows the newspaper's crack staff might not be as bad at doing this as some folks would have you believe.

Both polls still are chock full of the same teams with the same top five teams. Everyone else is mixed around a little bit. Seems to me that the top 16 is pretty clear. What about you?

-----------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com
-----------------------------------------------------

Observer Staff Sweet 16
(Scroll down to the end of this post to see the video, with more insight into the rankings. Also see this week's Prep Insiders video.)
1. Independence
2. Charlotte Latin
3. W. Charlotte
4. Butler
5. Country Day
6. Shelby
7. Hickory
8. Catholic
9T. N. Gaston
9T. South Point
11. Mt Pleasant
12. Northwestern, SC
13. Sun Valley
14. Clover, SC
15. Anson Sr.
16. W. Rowan

Reader's Sweet 16
1. Independence
2. Charlotte Latin
3. W. Charlotte
4. Butler
5. Country Day
6. Hickory
7T. N. Gaston
7T. Shelby
9. Sun Valley
10. Mt Pleasant
11. Charlotte Catholic
12. Clover, SC
13. Northwestern, SC
14. W. Rowan
15. W. Iredell
16T. Kannapolis Brown
16T. Crest



Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Some suggestions for end-zone celebrations

I like the tight enforcement of the no-taunting rule in high school football.
Critics say let the kids have fun. You’re taking the fun out of the game.
No, they’re policing the idiocy.

Little kids - and I have one - emulate what they see and hear, quite often in the athletic world.

A filmed highlight on ESPN’s SportsCenter has a huge impact on kids watching. They see an NFL player doing something "creative" after a touchdown or interception, and it soon is imitated on the playground.
Or, as we’ve seen, during a high school game.

A few years back, diving into the end zone on a breakaway scoring run was all the rage. Several runners were penalized, rightly so. They had seen, they had copied.

I’m all for fun, but excessive celebrations can lead to hard feelings.
Here are suggestions for touchdown scorers, interceptors, sackers, or any player in a celebratory mood:

-High-five a teammate.

-Hug the guys who blocked for you.

-Jump up and down. Holler.

-Run to the sideline for more hugs. There’s always a party there after touchdowns.

-Wave to your family, buddies or girlfriend(s) in the stands. They’ll love sharing the moment with you.

-None of these will get you ejected.

-Cliff Mehrtens

Friday, October 5, 2007

Let the high school kids spike the ball, dadgumit!

I'm sitting in the press box at Providence Day, looking at the best natural grass field in town and waiting for the unbeaten Chargers to play the unbeaten Charlotte Latin Hawks, and I just had the greatest idea:

Let's let the kids spike the ball after touchdowns.

Blam!

The National Federation of High Schools, which governs public schools, has started a new rule to hopefully improve sportsmanship. I don't have a problem with that. It's just with how it's being implemented, at least in our state. Kids can't jump up and celebrate anymore. The slightest thing draws the flag and this flag means ejection.

It's taking some of the fun out of the game. Letting the kids spike the ball could put some of the fun back in. And I'm not talking about letting the players dance or get together for choreographed group celebrations. I'm talking a simple old-school spike.

Blam!

You all feeling this?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Weddington vs. Myers Park, other Union football notes

Weddington and Myers Park officials have different perspectives on what happened after Friday night's Southwestern 4A conference football game at Myers Park.


For a summary of school officials' actions in response to the situation, see the Sports page in Friday's Observer. But here is what the paper won't tell you:


Weddington won the game 38-37 on a successful two-point conversion in overtime. Quarterback Anthony Boone lofted a fade left to receiver John Paquette, who cradled the ball in the deep corner of the end zone. Paquette got a foot down in the end zone about one foot from the sideline, Boone said.


After an official signaled the catch was good, the Warriors left their sideline and stormed the field to celebrate with the offense.


Something then happened amidst the mob of Warriors and Mustang defenders on the field. A few Weddington coaches restrained players, players restrained players and one particularly angry Mustang had to be held back by a few teammates and coaches.


That's what I saw while standing on the field. And, according to school officials, the game tape does not reveal much more.


Said Weddington principal Brad Breedlove: "It was over fairly quickly. The coaches had it under control and our own players had it under control."


Breedlove, who attended the game, attributed the scuffle to the emotions of a big conference game. It was only Weddington's fourth SW4A win in its third year in the conference.


Cynthia Robbins, a spokeswoman for CMS, had a different take. Robbins, speaking on behalf of Myers Park officials, said a Weddington player made "inappropriate remarks" to a Myers Park player after the game, which may have incited the fight.


"It's never O.K. to retaliate," Robbins said. But "rushing the field like that is not a good idea no matter what...It's not really good sportsmanship. We don't condone that."


Robbins did not report any Myers Park injuries, but one Weddington senior had to be carried onto the team bus by two teammates. He took the bus home and was back in school Monday, healthy...


--Kudos to the Weddington players and coaches, who acted fast and got off the field quickly before the situation got out of control.


And kudos to coach Phil Williams and a few Warriors, who hung outside the bus to talk to reporters. Given the circumstances, I would have understood if they climbed onto the bus and left the school without granting interviews...


--Thumbs down to a few Myers Park fans who, while walking to their cars after the game, took some parting shots as they passed the Weddington bus.


--Kudos to the Marvin Ridge football team. The first-year Mavericks won at Unionville Piedmont Friday to improve to 2-4. With winnable games coming up against first-year Hickory Ridge (0-7) and Porter Ridge (2-4), Marvin Ridge could make the state playoffs. Four wins often gets a team in with the expanded format...


--Marvin Ridge had an off-field victory as well recently, when it landed the Bojangles' Shootout in December. First, the new western Union County school hired a Charlotte school's athletics director and basketball coaches. Now it has Charlotte's premier annual high school basketball tournament.


For a report on the consequences of this move for Union, see Sunday's Neighbors of Union County section...


--I don't think Central Academy should be fielding a varsity football team this year. With fewer than 20 players, the Cougars don't have the numbers -- or size -- to compete at the varsity level, especially not in a conference against several Class 2A teams.


Forget about losing games, including some by awful scores. What about the safety of some players? Many Cougars are big enough to hang in varsity ball, but many others are not. They should have fielded a JV team for a second straight year at the Monroe magnet school.


On the bright side, the players have not quit on coach Tony Pyland despite their considerable disadvantages. --Ryan Basen

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Readers Sweet 16 Poll No. 2

The second Charlotte Observer Sweet 16 readers poll featured one first-place vote for Charlotte Latin, whereas the entire Observer staff and four other readers voted Independence first.

Beyond that, the readers poll is still not vastly different than the writers. Both polls have the same top five teams and pretty much reorder a few other teams.

Charlotte Catholic, however, was No. 7 in the writer's poll and No. 12 in the reader's version.

Who's doing a better job? Let us know.

Observer Writers Poll
(Scroll down to the end of this post to see the video, with more insight into the rankings.)
1. Independence
2. Charlotte Latin
3. W. Charlotte
4. Butler
5. Country Day
6. Shelby
7. Charlotte Catholic
8. Hickory
9. N. Gaston
10. Mt Pleasant
11. Clover, SC
12. Indian Trail Sun Valley
13. Belmont South Point
14. Rock Hill Northwestern
15. W. Rowan
16. Anson Senior

Reader's Poll
1. Independence
2. Charlotte Latin
3. W. Charlotte
4. Butler
5. Country Day
6. Hickory
7. Shelby
8. N. Gaston
9. Sun Valley
10. Mt Pleasant
11. Clover, SC
12. Catholic
13. Belmont South Point
13, (tie) W. Rowan
15. Northwestern, SC
16. Anson Senior
On The Bubble: Boiling Springs Crest; W. Iredell; Rock Hill South Pointe; Kannapolis Brown; Charlotte Christian


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Knotts: Patriots need to be more consistent

Five games into the season, Independence coach Tom Knotts thinks his team still has a lot of work to do.

The Patriots have been behind since off-field issues forced Knotts to miss nearly all of summer workouts in July. Among them: his father, Don, passed away.

Independence has been sluggish all season and had its 109-game win streak snapped by Cincinnati's Elder High in its second game.

As the Patriots get ready for South Meck (4-1) Friday at 7 p.m., Knotts is looking for more consistent play from his young team.

"I think we take two steps forward and a little one back," he said. "That game last week (a 36-14 win over Myers Park) could've easily been a 50-something game."

Knotts is concerned that 5-7 quarterback Anthony Carrothers is struggling to find open receivers. Knotts said Patriots receivers ran free deep several times last week and Carrothers missed them.

"I don't know why," Knotts said. "I'm hoping it's not his height. I've got to figure out what it is. He seems to be seeing the rush. That's typical of a young quarterback."

Knotts said he planned to spend more practice time standing directly behind Carrothers to try to determine if he needs to coach him more -- or simply have him roll out to see passing lanes better.

------------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Latest AP football poll is out

The Associated Press football poll for North Carolina, based on 15 media voters statewide (first-place votes in parentheses):

4A
1. Independence (15), 4-1
2. Richmond Senior, 5-0
3. Wilmington Hoggard, 4-0
4. West Charlotte, 5-1
5. Butler, 4-1
6. Garner, 6-0
7. Scotland, 5-0
8. Greensboro Grimsley, 5-0
9. Boiling Springs Crest, 4-1
10. Hope Mills South View, 6-0
Also receiving votes: Wake Forest-Rolesville, Raleigh Leesville Road, Gastonia Ashbrook, Pembroke Swett, Fayetteville Byrd.
---
3A
1. Western Alamance (12), 6-0
2. Rocky Mount (3), 6-0
3. Belmont South Point, 5-0
T4. Asheville Roberson, 5-0
T4. SouthWest Edgecombe, 5-0
6. Anson Senior, 5-1
7. Charlotte Catholic, 4-2
8. West Rowan, 5-0
9. North Gaston, 4-1
10. Northeast Guilford, 4-1
Others receiving votes: Kernersville Glenn, Hickory, Eastern Alamance, Kannapolis Brown, Greensboro Dudley, Wilson Hunt, Hertford County.
---
2A
1. Reidsville (14), 5-0
2. Shelby (1), 4-1
3. Jacksonville Northside, 5-0
4. South Columbus, 5-0
5. Southern Vance, 5-1
6. Mt. Pleasant, 5-0
7. Southwest Onslow, 4-1
8. Bunn, 4-1
9. Burlington Cummings, 3-3
10. Salisbury, 5-1
Others receiving votes: Brevard, West Davidson, Pittsboro Northwood, Whiteville, North Lincoln, Lenoir Hibriten, Mitchell County, East Lincoln, Thomasville Ledford.
---
1A
1. Thomasville (12), 5-0
2. Warsaw Kenan (3), 6-0
3. Mt. Airy, 5-0
4. Polk County, 6-0
5. Plymouth, 5-0
6. Siler City Jordan-Matthews, 5-0
7. North Duplin, 5-0
8. Wallace-Rose Hill, 4-1
9. Ayden-Grifton, 5-1
10. West Montgomery, 4-1
Others receiving votes: East Bladen, Pender County, East Surry, Murphy, Salemburg Lakewood, Louisburg, Pamlico County, Cherryville.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Porter Ridge football, Union soccer

Sunday's Neighbors of Union County section featured an analysis of the struggles of the Indian Trail Porter Ridge football program. A longer version of that story ran online(www.charlotte.com/264/story/290812.html).


The piece generated some questions from readers. Let me first explain the origins of what was an unusual story for the section:


My original intent was to write an item for this blog, after I covered the Pirates' game against Charlotte Ardrey Kell Sept. 14. That was the first time I saw Porter Ridge play this season. I was surprised at what I saw. The defense played fine; the offense did not.


Some readers had previously complained to me and a colleague about the Pirates' offense. After I watched the unit against Ardrey Kell, I was curious what was going on. That prompted me to pitch a brief analysis to my editor.


Then the story began to grow. Through several interviews with sources and conversations I have had (on and off the record) with a few students who live in the Porter Ridge school district, it became clear that the causes of the Pirates' struggles stretched back further than this season.


Once I wrote a draft of the piece, a decision was made to run it in the paper instead of the blog.


Let me make a few points about our coverage:


--We are not cheerleaders or promoters. We cannot focus only on the positives of Union prep sports. We strive to avoid criticizing a kid in print for what he/she does on the field of play. But that does not absolve the adults who are responsible for coaching and/or supervising these kids.


--Prep football is a different animal. Hundreds of people attend games, making it a community event in many areas -- not just a game. It's also usually a revenue-generating sport; ticket and concession sales from home games drive funding for other school sports. That means the success and popularity of a high school's football team could impact more people than you may think.


So football gets higher scrutiny from the media than other prep sports. In other words, if the successful Porter Ridge softball team suddenly struggles, we are unlikely to do a report on that.


--Porter Ridge stands out. This is a large Class 3A school in a fast-growing part of the fastest-growing county in the state. So it may receive more media scrutiny than an average high school, much as Marvin Ridge did when we examined the construction of the Mavericks' athletics program.


I am convinced there is more to the Porter Ridge football story than what we have reported so far. Let's hear from you. What did we miss?...


One item to close:


--The Porter Ridge boys' soccer team hosts Weddington Monday at 6:30 p.m., in a matchup not only of top Union teams but also two of the best teams in the state. The Warriors (7-0-1 before Wednesday's match against Butler) are ranked the No. 9 Class 4A team in North Carolina. The Pirates (10-2-2) before Wednesday's game against Hickory Ridge) are No. 7 in 3A. Monday is the only time this season the teams meet.


Marvin Ridge (8-3) is among teams receiving votes in the 3A state poll. Monroe (7-3-1) and Central Academy (6-2-3) are among teams receiving votes in the 2A poll. Neither Marvin Ridge nor Central Academy has any seniors. --Ryan Basen

First-ever Readers Sweet 16 poll says ....

The readers have spoken.

And they’re not saying that much differently than the Observer’s Sweet 16 panel.

For the first time in the 23-year history of the Sweet 16, the Observer has invited readers to be part of the voting process. A group of six readers were selected from more than 400 who responded and wanted to be a part of it.

Those readers followed the same rules as do the the writers: pick 16 area teams on an individual ballot.

A first place vote counts 16 points. A 16th place vote counts 1. We added up the votes and came up with the reader poll.

One voter missed the voting deadline this week and will join the poll next week. The other five readers picked the exact same top six teams as the Observer’s wrtiers, and with a few exceptions, pretty much chose the same teams.

Did they get it right?

OBSERVER SWEET 16
(Scroll down to the end of this post to see a video with more insight into the rankings.)
1. Independence
2. Charlotte Latin
3. West Charlotte
4. Butler
5. Char. Country Day.
6. West Rowan
7. Shelby
8. Hickory
9. North Gaston
10. Charlotte Catholic
11. Mt. Pleasant
12. Clover, S.C.
13. Sun Valley
14. South Point
15. B. Springs Crest
16. Char. Christian


READERS SWEET 16
1. Independence
2. Charlotte Latin
3. West Charlotte
4. Butler
5, Char. Country Day.
6. West Rowan
7. Hickory
8. Clover, SC
9. Shelby
10. N. Gaston
11. Sun Valley
12. B. Springs Crest
13. Char. Catholic
14. Clt Christian
15 Rock Hill N’western
16. Anson Senior
------------------------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Monday, September 24, 2007

Little e and other cool stuff

Hop-scotching around high school football:

  • One little “e” - and we don’t mean the NASCAR driver - is making readers pay close attention. There is South Point, in Belmont, an N.C. 3A school. Then there’s South Pointe, a Rock Hill school that plays in 4A. They both wear red. They’re both contenders.
  • Speaking of confusion: How about next summer, someone organizes a scrimmage that includes Hickory Ridge, Porter Ridge and Marvin Ridge? Round out the field by inviting Cedar Ridge (it’s in Hillsborough).
  • I heard two cool nicknames at last weekend’s games. West Charlotte receiver Bobby Grier is called “Lights Out.” It fits, as Grier is one of the state’s top track sprinters. When he gets the ball in the open field, it’s well, lights out. West Rowan defensive tackle Matt Sheets is called “Blob.” Don’t snicker. The blob can move - he recovered a fumble for a touchdown in the 26-17 victory against Statesville on Friday.

Two underdogs you can’t help but root for:
  • Garinger on a 51-game slide which it’s surely tired of hearing about. The Wildcats got the geese problem fixed at their stadium, in time to host Hopewell at 7 p.m. Friday. On the downside, Garinger has been shut out four times in five games.
  • Monroe Central Academy, playing its first varsity season, is 0-5 and has been outscored 277-0.

Loved the quote by Myers Park coach Jim Ruark, when asked about an onside kick early in the second quarter:

“We don’t play this game to lose. We don’t play it to just be out here. We play it to win.”

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Gaston, Lincoln updates

Here's a look at what going on in Gaston and Lincoln County football, one week into the conference season:

Three things making news:

1. Ashbrook. The Green Wave stunned the rest of the Big South 3A/4A conference with its 35-17 win at Crest Friday. This week, Ashbrook (3-3) will get another test when it faces 5-1 North Gaston.

2. Cherryville. The Ironmen have had only one winning season since 1978, but Cherryville is already 4-1 this season. Quarterback Cameron Lovelace returns Friday against Highland Tech after a one-game absence, and Cherryville will be a big favorite for its fifth win.

3. East Gaston's reunion: The Warriors will see a familiar face Friday when they play at Kings Mountain. Former coach Greg Lloyd is now at Kings Mountain, but the move hasn't benefitted either team yet. The two schools are a combined 1-9 this season.

Three games to watch Friday:

1. North Gaston at Ashbrook:
North Gaston crushed Hunter Huss behind seven touchdowns from running back Princeton Brooks, but the Ashbrook defense shut down Crest in the second half last week. The Green Wave had an effective pass rush last week, but North Gaston quarterback A.J. Blue won't get rattled with defenders in his face.

2. Crest at Forestview: Crest players were angry after losing to Ashbrook Friday night, but the Chargers have to put that behind them. Forestview is the surprise team in the Big South 3A/4A, winning three of its first five games after a 1-10 season in 2006. But the Jaguars must slow down Crest running back Ryan Black to keep their conference title hopes alive.

3. East Lincoln at Lincolnton: East Lincoln mustered only seven points against North Lincoln last week, and must win to stay in the conference hunt. Lincolnton running back C.J. Wilson scored three touchdowns Friday, and is starting to return to his play in 2005, when he led the Wolves to the 2A state championship game.

Three bold predictions:

1. South Point quarterback Desmond Lowery
will challenge North Gaston's A.J. Blue for Big South 3A/4A conference player of the year. Lowery and the South Point offense have overwhelmed their first five opponents, and the Red Raiders' game against North Gaston Oct. 26 could determine the conference winner and player of the year.

2. North Lincoln will set a school record for wins. The Knights are 5-1 this season, and should win at least nine games this season. That would be the most for the Lincoln County school, which opened in 2003.

3. West Lincoln will miss the playoffs. The Rebels (1-5) still have games with conference favorites East Lincoln, Lincolnton and North Lincoln left, and would likely need four wins to qualify for the playoffs.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Want to vote on the Sweet 16?

We're looking for readers who will vote on a special Sweet 16 poll each week. Email lwertz@charlotteobserver.com with the subject line "I want to vote!"

We'll ask that selected voters submit votes by Sundays at noon.

C'mon guys, you're always saying we get it wrong. Here's your chance to make sure we get it right.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Big Scare for Butler QB Charest

Somewhere about 9 o'clock Friday night, Illinois coach Ron Zook got a heart palpitation he couldn't explain.

Down in southeast Charlotte, star recruit Jacob Charest, Butler High's 6-foot-2 strong-armed quarterback, fell to the ground in the middle of Butler's 49-7 win over Ardrey Kell.

Butler was in a dogfight. The Bulldogs were ahead 14-7 and Kell had just fumbled at Butler's 9.

Charest, a top 20 national recruit at his position, found himself scrambling and saw teammate Mickey Brewer ready to throw a block. Brewer threw the block and it sent a Kell defender right into the front of Charest's left knee, which turned red as an apple.

"I was so scared," Charest said, "because it hurt so bad. It felt like I hit my funny bone in my arm, but it was my knee. It was terrible."

Charest laid on the ground, with trainers and his parents surrounding him. Everyone was huddled so tightly around him that it looked like six people warming their hands over a campfire in Alaska.

Luckily, Charest gingerly walked off the field under his own power in about five minutes -- and the Butler crowd went wild.

Junior quarterback Mick Zubel came in and handed off twice and Robert Boykin and Kenneth Boulware gained 7 and 34 yards and Butler scored to go up 21-7. The game was over and on Butler's next series, Charest came in and rolled to his right -- showing no signs of injury -- and snapped off a 14-yard pass to Boykin and then a 15-yard scoring pass to Mickey Brewer.

He looked OK. Bulldogs coach Mike Newsome said it's likely a bruised knee. Independence lost star tight end Mario Carter with a knee injury to start the season and the Patriots offense hasn't been the same. Butler is lucky Charest will be back. And he plans to get his team -- which struggled after struggling in Monday's loss to West Charlotte -- playing better.

"I've got to get these guys going," he said. "It's on me. We'll get this fixed."

------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Profanity rule aimed at wrong folks

I don't agree with the N.C. High School Athletic Association's proposal to fine schools whose student-athetes use profanity on the field.


First of all, this puts an awful burden on the game officials. If a kid gets in an official's face and curses him out, that's one thing. But officials already have to deal with enough without monitoring what a kid says under his breath when he drops a pass.


Secondly, the association is targeting the wrong crowd. When a player drops an F-bomb on the field, few people hear it. When an entire student section unleashes a chant with the initials BS, as Sun Valley's students did in consecutive September football games, dozens of little kids and others can hear it loud and clear.


It's also dubious to take money away from the schools for such a matter. Judging by the aggressive fundraising of many area high schools, they need all the money they can get to run efficient sports programs. -- Ryan Basen

Coaches discussing injuries

It's the policy of Weddington coach Phil Williams, he says, not to discuss his players' injuries. Hence the lack of an update on senior Stephen Efird's condition heading into the Warriors' game against Providence Friday.


It's my understanding that NFL and college teams are required to file accurate public injury reports before each game. This has been going on long before fantasy football was popular.


Local high school teams face no such mandates. So Williams can do whatever he wants. But he is the only coach I have ever worked with over the last few years who refuses to address injuries.


We don't have that luxury. When Efird is taken off the field in an ambulance in front of a capacity crowd at Weddington's home opener, it becomes our duty to report what happened to him and what condition he is in. Just part of the job.


What do you think? Are there other coaches who do as Williams does? Should the N.C. High School athletic Association create a policy to address this? -- Ryan Basen

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

West Charlotte will be in the hunt

A loss isn’t always devastating.
West Charlotte split the most arduous two-week football schedule in the state, losing 49-32 to seven-time reigning 4A champ Independence and beating No. 2 Butler 20-14.

"When you play Independence, they’re going to expose any weakness you might have and need to work on," coach Maurice Flowers said. "They showed us some things we needed to work on. We went and worked on it, and Butler got to see it."

West Charlotte’s two-week test served notice that it remains a state title contender, after reaching the 4A title game last December.

"This helps tremendously getting us ready for conference play, and the state playoffs," Flowers said. "We’re not going to play two tougher teams in the state. One thing we know is we go into every game knowing we have a chance to win."

West Charlotte (4-1) will open ME-CA 6 4A at home against Hopewell (4-0) at 7 p.m. Friday. It will be a 4A team in the playoffs - and miss 4AA foes like Independence and Butler.

But the Lions know they can hang with the best.

"The best football in the state right now is being played in Charlotte," Flowers said. "If we’re one of the best teams in Charlotte, we know we’re one of the best teams in the state." -- Cliff Mehrtens

Monday, September 17, 2007

What's next in Gaston, Lincoln County?

Friday is the sixth week of the high school football season and more importantly, it’s the start of conference play for most Gaston and Lincoln County teams. Here’s a quick look at what’s going on, and what’s going to happen:

Three things making news:

1. The North Lincoln defense. The Knights have three straight shutouts heading into Friday’s game at East Lincoln.
2. South Point quarterback Desmond Lowery. Lowery, as his older brother Devon once did, has the South Point offense rolling. The Red Raiders are averaging more than 300 yards rushing and 39 points a game.
3. Forestview’s resurgence: The Jaguars went 1-10 last season, but are 3-1 heading into Friday’s game at Burns.

Three games to watch Friday:

1. Hunter Huss at North Gaston: These teams have played several close games in recent years, including two games in which Hunter Huss rallied from 21-point deficits to win. Hunter Huss quarterback Marshall Williams made his first varsity start against the Wildcats in the playoffs last season, and North Gaston dared the 5-foot-7, 150-pound Williams to throw. Expect the same strategy Friday.
2. North Lincoln at East Lincoln: The emerging rivalry between these Lincoln neighbors adds a little spice Friday. Both teams are contenders in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference, but the key might be whether the North Lincoln defense can slow East Lincoln running back Adrian Forney.
3. Ashbrook at Crest: Ashbrook is better than its 2-3 record, but the Green Wave will have a challenge against Crest. Ashbrook has won two straight close games, and upset the Chargers 13-12 at Crest in 2005.

Three bold predictions:

1. North Gaston quarterback A.J. Blue is considered a top Division I prospect, but I expect him to get moved to a different position in college. He’s not a polished passer – Blue has completed only 11 of his past 34 passes – but he has 4.5-second speed in the 40-yard dash and the size to be a college free safety.
2. Lincolnton is 1-4 this season, but expect the Wolves to win at least five of their final six games. Lincolnton’s four losses are to teams with a combined record of 13-4, and the Wolves have too much offensive talent to slide down the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference standings.
3. East Gaston, which won a share of the Big South 3A/4A conference title, will finish last in the conference. The Warriors (0-4) lost almost all of their offense from last season and haven’t been competitive in any of their four games this season.
-- Kevin Cary

Friday, September 14, 2007

Victory Christian tries to ask a question of Latin

It's 7:21 and kickoff of tonight's Victory Christian-Charlotte Latin showdown is nine minutes away. Everybody is talking about heavy rain blanketing the Charlotte area, but over here on Providence Road in south Charlotte, the skies are clear.

As my grandma, Lillie McNeely was fond of saying, it hasn't rained a dry drop over here.

In warmups, Victory Christian looks large and impressive, a group of former NFL players stalking around the teenagers giving them advance instruction.

Latin fans are a little nervous about tonight's game, talking about all the Division I potential players are on the Kings team. I think there are at least 10, but Latin has six or seven of its own. There aren't too many games in Charlotte this season -- public or private -- that will have this kind of talent on the field.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com