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