Friday, September 7, 2007

WC-Indy feels like old times

It’s 11 minutes to 6 and there’s an already a huge crowd at Independence High’s football field, waiting for the gates to open. The game doesn’t start until 7 and there’s a serious buzz about this week’s matchup between two of the best teams in town.

My phone has rung about 30 times today – no lie – with people wondering if this game was at Independence or at Memorial Stadium. The game is on campus, but it looks like a Memorial Stadium crowd is on the way. Traffic is backed up on all roads entering the school and in the parking lot, Anthony Carrothers Sr. – father of Patriots QB Anthony Jr. – is grilling out and giving food away as people walk by.

Boy, does it smell good.

There’s only a few games in Mecklenburg County every year that have truly a big game feel and this is one of them. West Charlotte-Independence is no longer the top rivalry around. That’s Butler-Independence now, but this game is not second to anything else.

Fans get pumped up about the game and there’s a sense this year that West Charlotte is back to being West Charlotte. Some of the old West Charlotte fans are coming back. They remember that West Charlotte is where Tom Knotts used to coach and where he built the Lions into the type power Mecklenburg County had never seen before – until Knotts got to Independence in 2000.

People here are talking about the Lions’ passing game, asking how Independence will defend it after struggling last week. They’re asking how the Patriots will bounce back after last week’s loss to Elder (Ohio), even asking how will the West Charlotte band do (they’ll show out as usual).

There’s no question this is The Big Game. The clump of fans still waiting for the gates to open – still eating hamburgers from Chef Carrothers – will tell you that.

It’s game night. This is the big game. No better place to be.

Langston Wertz Jr.