Saturday, September 1, 2007

Independence, thanks for the memories

I was watching "Californication" on Showtime when Independence's 109-game win streak ended with an interception in Ohio Saturday night.

I turned on the news and was surprised to see the somber faces talking back to me.

I didn't expect Independence to lose to Elder (Ohio), but I knew this team was more vulnerable than even the past two Patriots teams, which had been quite vulnerable, too.

There were injuries to key players and so many new pieces, and this wasn't the season for coach Tom Knotts to miss a lot of time in the summer. But life happens.

Knotts' father, Don, passed away. Knotts had to be a son and brother more than a coach.

I knew Independence was going to lose someday. I really thought they were going to make a run at the national record of 151 consecutive wins, but I'd always thought when the Patriots finally did lose, it would be at the hands of an N.C. team.

That they lost to an Ohio team, and a team not considered elite in Ohio this season, will get people talking again about how bad N.C. football is and how this state's top program, Independence, was overrated and what have you.

Know this. Independence is not overrated, and the Patriots -- and North Carolina -- should be awful proud of what this team did.

I started to think about it. I covered the Patriots the last time they lost -- in Boiling Springs, to Crest-- in September of 2000. My first child, Trey, wasn't a year old. I had some hair.

Trey is up to my shoulder now. He's nearly 8. I've added another son, Khamani, who's 3. I've seen Bill Clinton leave as president and George Bush serve the better part of two terms, and until Saturday night, I had not heard of the Patriots losing again. It's really been an amazing run, given that you get every team's best effort every week. Every team wanted to be The Team That Ended The Streak.

Elder, like the rest of them, was two times as good as normal Saturday night. Elder played a phenomenal game, rallying from two touchdowns back and may turn out to be a force this season in their state. But there's nothing for Independence to be ashamed of. Losing hurts, yes, but look what all they've done.

They put North Carolina on the map natonally.

They got the state into the discussion about places where you could find great high school football.

They made high school football important in their city.

Back when the streak started, this paper wasn't doing a special section every week and there weren't four television highlight shows going every week, including one an hour-long, all dedicated to showing the Friday night heroes. Charlotte high school football wasn't very competitive back in 2000 and now there's nowhere in the state where it's better. Why? Everybody's trying to catch Independence.

Tonight, on the message boards, people will say "told you so," and "N.C. football is so weak," and N.C. fans will have to grin and bear it. Indy lost. But Indy won, too. They won so much they created a culture where fans in Ohio would go nuts to beat a team from what has always been an inferior football state. They made fans care. They made new fans care.

And maybe when they get home and think about it, they'll remember they still have another streak: seven straight state championships.

No one has ever won eight in this state before.

The chase lives on.

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

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Langston, this was very classy. I'm a starmount fan and tonight I was pulling for Indy. Congrats to them.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Langston. Our boys can still get the 8th straight. A new streak starts Friday with your West Charlotte Lions! Go BIG!

Anonymous said...

They had an amazing run. Charlotte is proud of them!! They need to hold their heads high and keep playing great football...

Anonymous said...

I'm an Elder fan and I wanted to say that the Independence players were very gracious after the loss. They were classy kids. I don't think we'd want play with them on a neutral site or in a regular environment, but on any given night you can win. Tonight was that given night. You guys have an awesome team. Best of luck this season.

Anonymous said...

Dang, L-Dog, I wanted Butler to end the streak. We'll get Big I anyone in November and again in December. They won't win 8 this year. Butler's winning 1.

Katie c/o indy 03' said...

Thank you very much Langston, Indy hasn't lost since i was in high school and now I'm a college grad. And its been though lately not being at home to see the games and the media hasn't always been the nicest to them, i mean how many stories can you write about them winning, and I'm glad you didn't write the "they finally lost" story, your right Indy has done something and they should be proud! Go bIg

Anonymous said...

Langston, this was a very very good tribute. My son played for Indy in 2001 and I've always followed them since. I hope they start a new streak Friday.

Bulldog4life said...

I feel bad for Independence. As a Bulldog player, we wanted to be the team to do it. Looks like we'll be the first NC team to do it instead

App-a-lay-chain man said...

Dang, Michigan and Indy, too?

Anonymous said...

Amazing run, a streak like that will never happen again in this state again. I'm a Davie fan, and we were 2 of the 109. I was pulling for Indy to keep on winning and eventually break the national record. But oh well, life goes on. Wouldnt want to be Indy's next opponent though.

Lions 41 said...

Sorry, I'm a Lions fan and West Charlotte will NOT be laying down next week. We're rollin' deep to Mint Hill. This is a great blog tribute and all. Still, Dub rolls next week. Two losses in a row.

WCHS Lion said...

Dang, horrible night for the Big I. Chris Leak cut. 109 streak ends. 'Cuse me while I chuckle

Anonymous said...

You obviously don't know much about Ohio football with the quote, "That they lost to an Ohio team, and a team not considered elite in Ohio" Elder won back to back state titles 3 years ago, they play in one the toughest if not the toughest conference in the country (GCL) with St. Xavier who is number 4 in the country right now and the mighty Moeller. They have the number one rated tight end in the country headed to Notre Dame next year. Ask any Ohio team, losing to Elder is nothing to be ashamed of, they are always tough. Instead I would say welcome to Cincinnati High School Football.

Anonymous said...

I'm not really sure how you say that a team who just won back-to-back Ohio DI state titles just three years ago and has made numerous appearances in the USA Today 25 (to name a few things) "Not elite" is beyond me. You are a reporter and should do your homework more, you just look silly when you say stuff like that.

Elder is coming off two down years, but is still among the top programs in Ohio.

Ind. was one tough team, but Elder just out played them in the second half and gutted out a big win. I saw your pregame prediction, you showed little respect for us. You showing that lack of respect again.

41-34

Anonymous said...

Independence shoud be proud of their long win streak. And I certain applaud them for putting it all on the line tonight and having the courage to travel to Cincinnati to play against the Elder Panthers. I had the distinct pleasure of attending this incredible game. I will close in saying that when a Panther roars, a Panther always scores - Welcome to The Purple Panther PIT. Good luck with the rest of your season.

Anonymous said...

Congrats first to Elder for a big win, it looks like they may be back. Secondly congrats to Indy for one he** of a game. I have never seen a high school team that ran routes with such precision, it is something truly to be marveled at. They are an amazing team. And for anyone who says that NC football is weak is an idiot. You don't win 109 straight games by being lucky. That said their is no way a streak like that will ever be attained in Ohio, there is too much parity. Indy would definitely be a force if they played here (Ohio). Once again, excellent game (best I've ever seen) hold your heads high Patriots you played amazing ball. And on a final note, close it out with a bang tomorrow Bombers.

Anonymous said...

Remember the Panther Pit, which is the Home field for Elder is an USA Today top ten place in the country to see a high school football game.

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/preps/football/2001-10-25-top10-stadiums.htm

Anonymous said...

I'm a Butler fan and the one time I cheer for them and they lay an egg. Whether you think NC football or Independence isn't overrated, its really irrelevant. The Patriots had one chance to prove to the nation that NC Football isn't a joke and they blew it. We send out best team up there, and they couldn't beat thier 4th best team. We should have sent Butler.

Anonymous said...

If anyone think Indy or any Football from NC is weak is a complete Idiot.Richmond county,Crest,Shelby just to name a few not counting the Greensboro & Raleigh area schools are power house schools in NC.These schools could complete again any of these so called Power Prep schools that Stack & recruit player to all boys schools(OH,CA).I think Indy record of wins is just as important than De La Salle which is a all boy school,getting the best football player in that state.Indy is a public school & for a team to have over 100 game win streak is insane to even think about & never been done by a public school in America which get the best players in that area & not from all over the state like OH,CA schools does this is the reason these schools are so highly rated.No disrespect to CA & OH school system but you know this is the truth.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess Knotts will have to hit the recruiting trail hard this year. It would be interesting to see a pin map of Independence players' homes.

Anonymous said...

No, OHIO football is that good.

We are pretty good for a bunch of slow white boys.

Anonymous said...

A couple of bullet points from someone from Ohio

- Congrats to Independence on being able to win 109 straight. It is a marvelous feat that is tough to follow. The team reminds me of a few programs in OH such as Princeton in the 70' & 80" and today's Colerain. Hats off to the Pats for streak. Time to start a new one.

- In regards to the author of the blog post, how do you know that Elder is NOT an elite team. Last time I checked the season is not over. Is it becuase they aren't ranked in the national preseason polls that makes them not an elite team? If so do we crown elite team champs in September or on Novemeber?

- Elder does not recruit. They get their prosepective student-athletes from neighboring catholic grade schools (known as feeder schools in Cincy). Elder does not intentfully go out and recruit the highly regarded student-athletes.

Anonymous said...

As a long-time Elder Panther fan and a 1973 graduate of that great school, I would like to say to the Independence Patriots thanks for a great game. You have nothing to be ashamed of as you have a great team and you gave it all.

The blog author obviously does not know what he is talking about when it comes to Ohio football. I'm not sure what it takes to be considered "elite" over in North Carolina, but Elder is in one of the toughest conferences in the nation.

Elder won back-to-back state championships in the not too distant past which is not something to be taken too lightly in a state that has many powerhouse teams like Clevenland St. I's, Lakewood St. Ed's, Colerain, St. X, Moeller, Huber Heights Wayne, and many more.

Elder has an incredible fan base of many alumni as those Patriot's fans saw in Cincinnati last night. Those 10,000 to 15,000 fans give tremendous support to Elder football. Home games are always a sellout and there is a waiting list to get season tickets.

The "Pit" as our home football stadium is fondly known as, is one of USA Today's top 10 stadiums in the country in which to watch a high school football game. Teams who have played at the "Pit" and lost have commented it is one of the greatest places to play a game in.

Elder may not be the greatest football program in the nation, but our men give it all they've got because they are not only playing for their team, but they are playing for every alum who ever graduated from Elder.

So when you say Elder is not "Elite", you actually make your Patriot's team look as if they lost to a run-of-the-mill football team. You devalue the game the Patriots played last night. Rest assured, they lost to one of the finest programs in the country.

Good luck to the Patriots with the rest of your season. You are a great team in spite of what the blog author thinks of last night's game.

Anonymous said...

And to think- Elder may very well come in third in their league this year, the GCL ( which includes St. Xavier, Moeller and LaSalle).
There is a reason why the Herbsteit Challenge is OHIO vs. the USA. With the GCL and teams like Colerain, St. Ignatius, St. Ed's, Glenville, and Canton McKinley, and regularly scheduled games against teams like Louisville Trinity and Indianapolis Cathedral, these contests are an almost weekly occurance up here. Independence's streak was impressive, but there is no way an Ohio team would even run off a 30 game winning streak.
Good luck the rest of the way.

Anonymous said...

Elder may not recruit, but Indenpendence does. That's a fact and no one in Charlotte can dispute it.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from Ohio. I'm a big indy fan and I saw all the games. I think Indy and butler would do well against Ohio's best and I think Indy would've definitely won their share of state titles, but probably not 8 straight.

I would say Ohio football is on par with the very best we have here. Hard to say what the rest of it looks like. Indy had some calls not go their way and seemed to tighten up. Elder had a goto player, Rudolph. Indy's goto player, Carter, is gone for the year. i would've loved to see this game with Indy having its best weapon.

congratulations Elder, great game and have great fans. I wish we had fnas like that. congratulations langston for a nice tribute to our young men. i hope they will get their chins up and make a run for another state title. i really hope we can get a chance to play in another challene like this next year.

Anonymous said...

Here we go with recruiting comments again. Nobody else recruits. Elder doesn't. Butler doesn't. RIchmond doesn't. West Chrlotte doesn't. Its just the Big I. Why can't we work hard like everyone else. Do we get a few guys moving in? Sure. Think Elder or Butler or Richmond haven't? Balonee

Anonymous said...

Langston, enjoyed your comments and I must laugh at some of the Elder people ragging you for calling them not elite this season. They werent' considered one of the Ohio state's best this year. They were 6-4 last year and had a losing season year before. Great win for them. Great article by you. I appreciated Indep's streak and I appreciated Elder's effort. i watched on the internet. I think Indy will be a better team because of this and now that the streak is over, they should play more national games like this.

Anonymous said...

appa-lay-chain man....you dang right. Our Elder boys got 'em yesterday. We played out of our minds. Independence is a great team. I would love to see a rematch.

N.C Prep Observer-Maiden said...

Langston, I agree with some of the comments here. I did not however see how you dissed Elder here. I hope the Patriots players get a chance to read this. I know they took the loss hard. I want them to get back together and get rolling again. I want them at full strength for the rest of their season and the game with Butler, which I'm even more dying to see now. The Patriots hsuld be more hungry now than ever.

App Man1 said...

Great day and bad day for NC football. Little App State wins, Indy loses. Nothing to hang our heads about. Indy travels to Ohio to play elder in its backyard. that's a tough gig for any high school team.

ehsports.com said...

Mr Wertz I'm an Elder fan. Obviously we have been reading a lot of your work and your paper this week. Guess you were wrong about your 110 pick. Our boys played well. Independence got tired late. Was it the travel? Who knows. I know we won. Your paper gives great coverage and I think Charlotte Independence will win states again in North Carolina. They could probably win states here this year, too. But on any given night....

Indyboy 2008 said...

People need to stop hatin' on INdy. It's hard to get everybody's best shot every week. It's hard to go to Ohio the way they had to go and it's hard to play with a D1 DB playing two series and a D1 TE watching and a new QB and new RB playing. Props to my boys. To the rest of you N.C. teams: you still don't want to see us. We'll be back. Promise.

Anonymous said...

Hmmmmm... Interesting. I guess Ohio should be a little worried now. How many of the Elder players are going to "mysteriously" transfer into Independence's district? I suppose Ohio doesn't really pay attention to the "Emperor Has No Clothes" status afforded Tom Knotts and his merry band of rules circumventers by Langston and the other willing accomplices at the Observer and CMS.

Anonymous said...

I went to Independence for 3 years, the winning streak starting my Sophmore year. I congratulate Independence, and I thank the team for giving me and my friends something to get around and be excited about for so many years. After my friends and I graduated, we all went to different colleges, and we all started different lives. The Independence HS football team was one of a few things that kept us all in touch, and gave us something to be excited about together. This team, like so many other football teams is about more than what happens on the field, and the win/loss record. Congratulations to the Independence HS football team, thanks for the memories, and here is to all the memories that are to come. Just because a "winning streak" has ended, doesn't mean the ability TO win has ended. From a guy who will never grow up, just be kids and enjoy the game. All the negative comments that are being left right now are not needed. Nothing but respect for this team, this school, and all the kids that step out on the field at every school across the country every week.
Jason H

Indydad said...

Well said Jason. People need to stop all the nagativity. The Patriots have been good for Charlotte football, like Mr Wertz said so well here. The streak ended, the winning wont

Anonymous said...

Yo Pat and Stan, take a clue from Langston as he knows how to write.

Anonymous said...

Elder is a lot more impressive than I thought. If you campare football programs, Elder is NFL and Indy is a small college in terms of funds and support.

I'd like to see a photo of Elder's weightroom next to a photo of Indy's. The difference would be amazing I'm sure.

Elder doesn't recruit players but they don't have to: their facililities do it for them. Equally, Indy doesn't recruit because their success does it for them.

That's what makes the streak impressive. For a PUBLIC school, with crappy facilities, to win so many in a row, is one of the most impressive feats I know of in sports. It says tons about the coaches. Winning over 100 to me is even bigger than the App St. win.

Anonymous said...

ahh Independece football the main reason for my high school football pain...they beat Butler every time ive watched my beloveded bulldogs..i am almost sad to see it end but i guess im sending an ironic thankyou to indy for all their games hopefully we'll get yall this year

Anonymous said...

Elder does not "stack and recuit" anyone, either from the Cincinnati area or the state. An all-boys Catholic school, it has been around since 1922, and generations within many families have gone to Elder. The first names of the kids change, but the last names stay the same. I have not checked recently, but historically well over 50% of all alumni have lived within three ZIP codes.
The grads support Elder. It is not unusual for the winner's share of the "split the pot" fundraiser at football games to be $2000 or even more. My friend, who has had season tickets for 24 years, moved from the 20 yard line to the 23 yard line three years ago only because the field moved three yards when the Field Turf was installed. All the costs were paid by separate contributions, not tuition proceeds.
Good luck to Independence for the remainder of your season; the more you win, the more points Elder earns in Ohio's computerized playoff system. I hope Independence wins out.

Tom Stites, Albemarle said...

Langston, this was one of the best things you've written in a long time. Well said. Bravo.

CMS watcher1 said...

Mr Wertz, well said. Independence congratulations. Elder, great game

Robert said...

I am glad the author changed his article to include the fact that bush never beat clinton in a general election, and that elder is just "not elite this year". It would be nice if my comments were not deleted though

Anonymous said...

Robert, I saw nothing wrong with the article and nothing changed. anyway, it's a great piece.I reread tonight after we got home from picking up our son at school. Kids were talking aboutit. Glad Langston did the piece. Keep your heads up guys.

Butler fan #1 said...

Leak and Indy on the same day. say it ain't so. Man.

Anonymous said...

P-A.

P.A.T.R.

P.A.T.R.I.O.T.S. Patriots. Whoo!

Paul said...

Langston, I just wanted to clarify a comment you made at the end of that story. You said no one has ever one eight state titles. Do you mean eight in a row? Shelby High School has won 11 titles dating back to 1968, including 3 in the last 9 years. Thats batting 0.333 over the last 9 years, and 0.282 over the last 39 years. I dont know if any school in the state can touch such sustained excellence. The tradition at Shelby High is amazing. Congrats to Independence for such a long winning streak. Now lets see you play some of the stronger teams in the region like a Gaffney, SC or be paired in a playoff brackett with JH Rose from the east. Good luck to a new streak.

Anonymous said...

Paul, i thought he meant 8 in a row since that's the streak indy goes for now. no one has done that. shelby's won 11 over a gazillion years. what indy's doing is beyond that. again, we should be awful proud of our boys.

Anonymous said...

Will you Raiders quit with the recruiting allegations.Richmond has recruited as well.Had a qb a few years ago staying with a coach.What Richmond County should have done is hired Maurice Flowers who no doubt would have the Raiders passing the ball like no one down East.Good luck Richmond winning another meaningless conference title and losing in the 2nd round to another subpar Charlotte school.The Raiders are jealous.They only matter in Richmond County.When folks talk about N.C. football no one mentions Richmond...maybe talking about their last state title almost 10 years ago.Im a Raider grad and the program is average by Raider standards.No state title appearances and last year a new low.Being shut out at home.The Raiders are 10 years behind Charlotte offenses and the gap will continue to grow with the good ol boy network of coaches they have.If Indy loses a few games the Raiders may get them in the first or 2nd round....another blowout by Indy

Anonymous said...

Yea, Richmond is way behind now with their old school offense. They're losing to Myers Park and folks like that. Honestly, i think County Day wouuld take Richmond

Anonymous said...

I paid money to watch the game live on the internet. I was born and raised in Lexington, NC, where football once ruled. It got me hooked on High School football. And saturday night, I was an Independence Patriot fan. I dare say that everyone that knew about this game in the state of North Carolina was a Patriots fan Saturday night. Independence represented the entire state of North Carolina. And like it or not, they are the best this state offers in high school football. If you don't think Independence has had an impact on this state's football programs, then take a good look around you. Teams that once ran option offenses and predominantly run offenses are now switching to pass oriented offenses. They are not stupid, they have seen the success that the Big I has had and they want that same success. Look at smaller programs such as Cummings and even my alma Mater of Lexington, or Thomasville, our arch rival. All of them have gone to a pass oriented offense. Yes, the Big I is the measuring stick in this state and I am so proud of them for having the guts to drive to Ohio and play. These kids have nothing to be ashamed of. To get comments from Elder fans on how good the Patriots plays were or how precise their passing routes were should have an impact on them. Even though they lost, they made their mark on the Elder fans and they appreciate the effort that the Big I gave. The only cloud I see on the horizon is Butler high. Butler is putting up monstrous numbers so far. I have predicted that Butler would beat Independence this year, but after the loss to Elder, I might have to eat my words. Independence can make the choice, let this loss demoralize you and cause you to lose your focus, or, choose to get up off your tails, get mad, work even harder, and show everyone why you are the premier program in this state. Good luck to the Big I the rest of the way. And I say this proudly, there is not a team in the eastern part of the state that can beat Independence or Butler. Sure, J.H. Rose, which has won what, 3 straight state titles in a row is successful. But their pass defense is horrible and if they played Independence or Butler, they would get their butts handed to them. Most eastern schools still like the smashmouth football and it just won't cut it against Butler or the Big I. So whoever the 4-AA rep is, I say the west will win again. And I still say Coach Knotts should invite Elder to come to Charlotte next year and play the Big I in the queen city. Well, good luck to both Butler and the Big I from a die hard high school football fan. I appreciate both programs and hope for an awesome game November 2nd.

Anonymous said...

Langston,
You're a class writer and lots of times - I think you hit it right on the head. I was there too. Ohio has high school football stadiums like we have churches. Those people were extremely good to us and treated us with the upmost respect. They love good football and its practically religion to them. Probably why the Hall of Fame is there.
This experience was a blessing to everyone, we just didn't come home with a win. The biggest difference between these two teams was the fact that Elder used teamwork and intelligence while Independence relied on the usual athleticism. Elder played with incredible enthusiasim and desire, which was not present with our boys.
We're very proud of them anyway and we love them all dearly. I hope this loss will make them all a better TEAM and that the coaching staff, in particular, will learn from what these guys did to them. I also wish your readers would "let go" of the recruiting issue. Can you blame kids for wanting to play for such a program? Those kids come to them. Period. Don't believe it? Then bring forward one that will make it a lie. Langston, keep doing what you do because you're an excellent writer who reports the truth well. Thanks. (CWC)

"Purple" Doug said...

Mr Wertz, I must agree with the reports on this board. I have read your work for the past month leading up to the elder-independence game. I live in Ohio, out side of Cincy. You are one of the best writers i have ever seen do high school sports and one of the better ones period. i didn't agree with all your points in this story. i think elder is an elite team and that will show as the season goes on. Independence should be proud of their streak. I think the travel and injuries hurt Independence. I still think Elder may have won with Independence having everyone anyway.aypxztw

Anonymous said...

Having been there to see the game, I think it's important to realize the Independence players did not lose the game to Elder, the coaches did. The Elder coaches made successful adjustments as the game progressed that were able to yield results. The Independence coaches were not able to step up to this challenge.

The entire weekend of football was great for any fan of the sport. Some phenominal talent and programs were on display. The Independence players showed they belonged in the company; it's just a shame the coaching staff let them down.

Job well done to all the players on the field.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I have to agree with the coaches comment. Patriots made no adjustments at half and it cost them badly. Good article though Wertz

Anonymous said...

Some say, "the coaches lost it". May have. The coaches "won" several of the other games along the way that I thought weren't winnable. Thanks for the ride, coaches AND players! Good luck on the road to an 8th State Championship.

Anonymous said...

I'm a true believer in "things happen for a reason". Independence has so much to be proud of and a loss like this should be no comparison to the "loss" Coach Knotts endured this summer when he lost his father. As with any loss, you pick yourself back up and keep living. High School football is awesome, and I am a big fan.....but the true priority should be life. The sun will still rise and set and Independence will still shine. Keep the faith! That's why they play the game. RR

Susie said...

Langston,
Thanks for the positive article. It's nice to finally see some positive comments about our Independence Patriots. Well written! I hope you keep encouraging them the rest of the season.
Go BIG I!!!!!
We're gonna get #8!!