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?

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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.

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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.

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Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Here game highlights