Monday, September 29, 2008

Rain creates a mess for scheduling in CMS

After heavy rains soaked the Charlotte area Friday, Sept. 26, schools chose to not play on extremely wet fields and moved games to Monday, Sept. 29, which is usual CMS policy.

But because of a major Jewish holiday, that begins Monday night, the next available playing date became Wednesday, Oct. 1.

With a full slate of games scheduled for Friday, Oct. 3, moving to Wednesday, Oct. 1, would’ve meant playing two games in three days.

Hamilton said “no one wanted to do that.”

CMS officials thought about playing at 4 p.m. Monday afternoon (Sept. 29) to finish games before the holiday officially started. But staffing was an issue.

Hamilton said she would need 80 police officers and 49 game officials to staff the six home games. Game officials have to be on site 90 minutes before kickoff. Job concerns made that 4 p.m. kickoff impossible, she said.

So Hamilton contacted the N.C. High School Athletic Association “late in the weekend” to ask if CMS could move the Sept. 26 games to Monday, Oct. 6, skirting a usual NCHSAA policy that calls for postponed games to be played at the next earliest possible date. Hamilton got permission.

So teams will now play Friday, Oct. 3 and again Monday, Oct. 6.

“We were not entertaining moving (Oct. 3) Friday games,” Hamilton said, “because we were trying to disrupt as little as possible in the master schedule.”

There are 10 home games scheduled in CMS on Oct. 3, including five homecomings. If CMS had moved those Oct. 3 games to Oct. 6, those homecoming games – expected to generate lots of revenue and good will – would’ve been played on a work night, Hamilton said.

“The postponements were six home games,” Hamilton said. “We have two schools playing tonight (Sept. 29) and two schools that were open. This did not affect everybody in CMS. Moving Friday (Oct. 3) games would. So you just try to make the best out of a situation.”

-- Langston Wertz Jr.

Gas crunch hits high school sports

The gas crunch that is gripping the Charlotte area is beginning to have an affect on high school athletics.

Union County officials have suspended most junior varsity travel, including jayvee football, until the gas crunch subsides. Marvin Ridge athletics director Tony Guylitto said junior varsity volleyball and junior varsity soccer are continuing to play because those teams share buses with varsity teams for away games.

Mecklenburg County athletics director Vicki Hamilton said CMS jayvee and varsity teams games have not been affected.

“We’ve got 30 middle schools rolling out today (Monday), and we’ve got soccer and volleyball on the high school level Tuesday,” she said. “Today, there are no plans to stop anything. I can’t tell you about tomorrow, though.”

-- Langston Wertz Jr.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Q&A with the Observer's Langston Wertz Jr.

Observer staff writer Langston Wertz Jr. answers your sports-related questions. To ask one, go to the bottom of this blog post or email

Q. Why is everyone postponing games? – "SteelerMark"

Mark, high schools don’t have the budgets for field repair due to torn up fields after heavy rains, and they cannot afford short gates due to bad weather.( But some schools have homecomings or games when they expected to make big bucks. You know some people just aren’t going to show up and sit in the rain. Just not gonna happen.”

Q. Not a fan of Country Day, just curious about something: How do they beat a 2A public school defending state champion by three touchdowns and fall from No. 13 in the Sweet 16 all the way to the fourth team receiving votes?

When you lose a game, especially in weeks when lots of other teams remain undefeated, you can slip out. Our poll is a vote and I can’t tell you what other guys are thinking. To me, that would be it. If the Bucs get back to winning a lot, they’ll move back in, I’m sure.

Q. Wanted to ask you about two games this week: Ardrey Kell-Butler and East Mecklenburg-South Mecklenburg.

I think Kell probably wants to show that the Mallard Creek 46-17 thing was a little bit of a fluke. Not that Mallard Creek isn’t good, they’re for real, but I think Kell probably thought something like, ‘They were 1-10. We don’t have to even show up.’ This will be Kell’s chance to show that they were a 9-4 playoff team last year with lots of talent back. Butler better not look past this one. East and South should be low-scoring, though East could bust it open. South Meck is going to have to play its studs both ways, but I’m not sure I would want to do it all the time and risk injuries. I think the Sabres need to be realistic. They’re not going to win the SW4A, but they could make a real run at a 4A state title. But to do that, they need everyone healthy. It’s a thin line.”

Q. Is this really Tom Knotts' last year at Independence. I saw him on TV and read him in the paper and he sounds like it. Give me a school(s) where you think he ends up. Can Myers Park hang with us Friday? I'm a little worried.

His last year at Independence? Could be. I wouldn’t say he’s there in 2010 regardless. But if he wins state this year and the retirement numbers work out and a good job opens, I’d say yes. Where does he end up? That’s hard to say. You don’t know who will have an opening. I know of a few schools that would like to have him, given a few assurances, but it’s not fair to mention them because those jobs are filled. Another wrench in this: Knotts has a home at the beach now. He could coach there. ...Can Myers Park hang? Depends on which Indy shows up.”

Q. What do you think of (Charlotte Latin basketball player David) Chadwick? I thought he was going to North Carolina.

I was surprised he chose Washington State, given it’s a whole country away, but the Chadwicks are close to Washington State coach Tony Bennett, a former Charlotte Hornet, and David will have a chance to play early. I think he’s a great kid. I enjoy talking to him and his father. It’s unfortunate he’s had so many injuries. Last year, I thought he was really making a metamorphosis into a sterling Division I kind of player and he got hurt again. Obviously Bennett likes him as a Division I guy and I think D-Chad, if he stays healthy, is set for a tremendous senior year at Latin.

Q. We were talking about the highlight shows over at CarolinaVarsity. I know you're on GameTime, but step away and tell me strengths and weaknesses of each one. Also, could gametime go to an hour?

I haven’t seen Channel 9’s show since Harold Johnson retired, so I can’t comment. I think Mike Solarte’s crew at News14 does a great job and has statewide highlights, and they’re on earlier. I can tell you to do that kind of show as early as they go is crazy hard.

Of course, Delano Little and the crew at WBTV have been doing this the longest and they’re an hour long now. I miss the glory days of the show with Paul Cameron and Delano (and Harold flying around on a helicopter on Channel 9). I grew up with that stuff. I am biased, but I think HS Game Time is the best now. It’s more polished and Greg Bailey is the best local anchor around here. I call him Mr. ESPN. Gametime needs to be longer – say from 11:15 to midnight -- and if it were me, I’d air the roundtable part they put online with the main show for the Saturday morning replay. If the show went longer, I’d add in as the final segment of the show on Friday nights. It gives you that Fox/CBS pregame kind of thing for high schools. And I still think the first station to do this kind of show with basketball (even during the week or on Saturday mornings) is going to be a ratings-winner.

Q. Langston, speaking of the GameTime show. We can see it down here at Byrnes. C'mon dude, NW above us in the Carolinas rankings and Indy? 31-14 ring a bell? You used to show us some love.

You’re right, and I know better. Sometimes when you’re sitting under the hot lights and have to go all stream-of-consciousness, you lose a little common sense. Right now, Byrnes is the King Daddy in the Carolinas.

Q. Langson, you know Knotts pretty well, right? I read people on here who say he doesn't care about his kids. True or false? Recruit? True or false? Overboard? True or false?“

I’ve known Knotts for 19 years. Does he care about his kids? Yes. I’ve seen him go way out of his way for his kids. Do some coaches do more? Sure. Some less? Ditto. Does he recruit? CMS investigated his program for months and nearly spent $100,000 doing it. Nothing concrete turned up. That’s the only fact I can offer. I think sometimes when people hear something enough and they repeat it to somebody else who repeats it to somebody else, it becomes true simply because the story has been told so many times.

Q. Is Butler really No. 2 in the state? I was shocked when I read that and I'm a dawg fan.

I was surprised, too. I think ’09 is the Butler year, but who knows, maybe ’08 is, too. I don’t vote in the AP poll. Cliff Mehrtens votes for us, but apparently lots of writers across the state smell what Butler coach Mike Newsome is cookin’, if you know what I mean.

Q. Dude, they are roasting you over at CarolinaVarsity. You don't know much. You only say what you're told. You don't research. What's up? You slippin?

Everyone has an opinion. I can only report that I try hard and I do have some idea of what I talk about. Of course, I am regurgitating what I’m told. It’s what reporters do, in a sense. We ask questions, get answers, get the facts, marry them together and write stories. I’ve covered Charlotte sports for 20 years. I’ve got a tad bit of perspective, I think.”

Q. I'm a middle school coach from up east and we were having an argument about the best teams. Could you tell us who you think is in the state finals all classes this year?

All classes? Hmm. Private schools? Charlotte Christian over Charlotte Country Day; 1A: Thomasville, Warsaw Kenan and Mount Airy, in that order are the best teams. I’m not sure who goes little and big. So I can’t pick a winner. In 2A: I can see Newton-Conover getting there, and Reidsville – by far – is the best team in 2A, but I’m not sure of geographic big-little breakdown either. That’s why this is hard to do.

3A, Dudley is the class of the field. They’ll be big 3AA. I like Belmont South Point and Eastern Alamance, too. And Catholic should finish strong and be there with Sun Valley and Kannapolis in the West.

4AA? I’d say Independence over Fayetteville Britt. Small 4A? Wilmington Hoggard (if they stay small) against some combo of Asheville Reynolds, South Mecklenburg or East Forsyth (assuming all are small).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

NCHSAA football polls released

The N.C. Associated Press high school football polls
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Class 4A
School, record Points Last Week
1. Independence (13) 3-0 139 1
2. Butler (1) 4-0 119 2
3. Raleigh Millbrook 5-0 107 4
4. Fayetteville Britt 4-0 104 3
5. Raleigh Leesville Road 5-0 65 9
6. Davie County 4-1 55 7
7. Wilmington Hoggard 2-1 41 8
8. East Mecklenburg 4-0 38 10
9. Winston-Salem Mount Tabor 4-1 27 5
10. East Forsyth 4-1 25 —
Others receiving votes: Asheville Reynolds 22, Fayetteville Seventy-First 11, Mallard Creek 5, Southern Pines Pinecrest 4, Richmond Senior 3, Boiling Springs Crest 2, Durham Jordan 2, West Johnston 1.
Class 3A
School, record Points Last Week
1. Greensboro Dudley (8) 5-0 134 1
2. Rocky Mount (6) 3-1 129 2
3. Eastern Alamance 4-0 99 4
4. Jamestown Ragsdale 5-0 83 7
5. Belmont South Point 4-1 76 6
6. West Craven 4-0 55 10
7. Winston-Salem Carver 4-1 53 8
8. Hertford County 4-1 38 3
9. Waynesville Tuscola 4-0 32 —
10. Oxford Webb 4-1 19 5
Others receiving votes: Harnett Central 15, Asheville Roberson 8, High Point Andrews 7, Newton Foard 4, West Rowan 4, Monroe Sun Valley 3, South Granville 3, SW Edgecombe 3, Kinston 1, Anson County 1, Hickory St. Stephens 1, Kannapolis Brown 1, Wilson Fike 1.
Class 2A
School, record Points Last Week
1. Reidsville (13) 5-0 139 1
2. Jacksonville Northside 4-0 115 2
3. Newton-Conover 4-0 108 3
4. Tarboro (1) 5-0 98 6
5. SW Onslow 4-0 82 5
6. Lenoir Hibriten 4-0 61 6
7. Lincolnton 4-1 58 8
8. Bunn 4-1 35 9
9. Eastern Guilford 4-0 19 —
10. South Columbus 3-1 10
Others receiving votes: Shelby 10, Salisbury 7, Canton Pisgah 6, East Duplin 4, East Lincoln 2, Monroe 2, Ashe County 1, Burnsville Mountain Heritage 1, Southern Guilford 1, Kill Devil Hills First Flight 1.
Class 1A
School, record Points Last Week
1. Warsaw Kenan (8) 5-0 124 1
2. Mt. Airy (3) 5-0 123 2
3. Thomasville (3) 5-0 122 3
4. Murphy 5-0 95 4
5. Albemarle 3-1 72 6
6. Siler City Jordan-Matthews 4-1 49 10
7. Plymouth 2-1 31 9
8. East Bladen 4-1 29 5
T9. Cherokee 5-0 22 —
T9. Dunn Midway 4-0 22 —
Others receiving votes: Topsail 19, Hendersonville 18, Wallace-Rose Hill 12, Jones Senior 11, Robbinsville 9, East Surry 5, Louisburg 4, South Stanly 3.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

3 points in 3 games, but Knotts not happy

Three points allowed in three games would make most football coaches giddy.

Independence’s Tom Knotts isn’t most coaches.

The Patriots leader didn’t should pleased with his defense after a 42-0 victory at Vance last Friday. You’re probably saying “Whaaaat?”

Sometimes numbers aren’t the whole story.

Here’s a sampling of Knotts comments, to Observer correspondent Jay Edwards:

“It’s not just about the wins, but how you play the game,” Knotts said. “We are not playing up to my standards. Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I shouldn't even be out here if my standards are so high."

"We set our standards higher than what it says on the scoreboard."

The defense isn’t the lone culprit. Knotts wants every phase to excel. At Independence, success is measured by state championships. The Patriots won seven straight (a North Carolina record) before losing in last year’s final.

This season began splendidly, if you just go by the scoreboard – 47-0 against Olympic, 49-3 against West Charlotte and 42-0 against Vance.

But there have been enough mistakes to irritate Knotts.

Asked if his team wasn't motivated to play in non-conference game:

“Each game should be like the Super Bowl for these guys,” he said. “We've got a young team overall, but we've also got some (older) guys who know how they should be playing.”

“The whole game we were inconsistent. We need to learn to play the game the right way no matter who we are playing.”

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Where does NFL talent come from?

Which high schools and states produce the most NFL talent?
Two high schools on opposite coasts -- Dillard in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and Tustin in Tustin, California -- top the list of high schools with the most 2008 NFL players with six each, USA Football announced Tuesday.
The totals are based on the 1,693 players on NFL opening-week rosters.
NFL players hail from 1,393 high schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia, four foreign
countries and one U.S. territory (American Samoa).

High schools with the most NFL players (six apiece)

Dillard, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. - Isaac Bruce, SF; Chris Gamble, CAR; Jovan Haye,
TB; Stanley McClover, HOU; Josh Shaw, DEN; Pat Sims, CIN.

Tustin, Tustin, California - Sam Baker, ATL; Beau Bell, CLV; Chris Chester,
BLT; DeShaun Foster, SF; Matt McCoy, TB; Frostee Rucker, CIN.

Four high schools have five players each:
Catholic, Baton Rouge, Louisiana - Warrick Dunn, TB; Brandon Harrison, HOU; Donnie
Jones, STL; Travis Minor, STL; Chris Williams, CHI.
De La Salle, Concord, California - Maurice Jones-Drew, JAX; Derek Landri, JAX; Amani
Toomer, NYG; Demetrius Williams, BLT; D.J. Williams, DEN.
Evangel Christian, Shreveport, Louisiana - Brock Berlin, STL; John David Booty, MIN; Keyunta Dawson, IND; Jacob Hester, SD; Jonathan Wade, STL.
Glenville, Cleveland, Ohio - Ted Ginn, MIA; Antwaun Molden, HOU; Troy Smith, BLT; Donte Whitner, BUF; Pierre Woods, NE.
Thirteen high schools have four players each in the NFL this year. Thirty-two schools boast three NFLers, while 167 have two players apiece:

Number of high schools with 3 NFL players: 32
Number of high schools with 2 NFL players: 167
Number of high schools with 1 NFL player: 1,175

California 214
Florida 185
Texas 170
Ohio 90
Georgia 83
Louisiana 73
Virginia 61
Michigan 57
South Carolina 51
Alabama 48
Pennsylvania 47
North Carolina 41
Mississippi 39
Illinois 38

Miami 34
Houston 27
Detroit 16
Atlanta 12
Ft. Lauderdale 12
San Diego 12
Cleveland 11
Los Angeles 11
Baton Rouge 10
Chicago 10
Cincinnati 10
Jacksonville 10
New Orleans 9
Dallas 8

AMERICAN SAMOA: The United States territory of American Samoa has five NFL players, including two with the Cincinnati Bengals -- DE Jonathan Fanene and DT Domata Peko. Chicago has DT Matt Toeaina, Miami DT Paul Soliai and San Francisco DT Isaac Sopoaga.
FOREIGN COUNTRIES: Canada (10) led the list of foreign countries with NFL players who attended
high schools in the country, followed by Australia (3), Great Britain (1) and Panama (1):

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Wertz answers your questions

Langston Wertz Jr. answers your sports-related questions. To ask one, go to the bottom of this blog or email

Q. Do you really think Knotts could thrive at a private school? If he went to one of the non-traditional private powers (Country Day and Latin) and won off the bat, then once again the whole private school recruiting athletes would come up. On top of that, if he went to a school, could he really attract talent from outside with such barriers as cost and limited size classes?

Yes, I think Knotts would do phenomenally well at a private school. I think his presence would attract more athletes to visit and would raise the profile of the school he’s at. Eventually I think kids would come early and get into what would become his middle school program. Think of it. If you’re a quarterback or a receiver, you could learn from Knotts from fourth or fifth grade potentially, instead of just 9-12. Cost would certainly be an issue for some families, but most privates have financial aid programs that mirror colleges. And if he went to certain privates, the costs are one-third of those at the more well known ones.

Q. Dude, don’t take this wrong but you overdid greatly some funeral. The way it was made out we thought it was a player but it was a player’s mother. OK, that’s real life and sad things happen but this is not a reason to make a big deal about it and mention it on TV, unless it was a player and we are glad it wasn’t. There are other players and coaches who lose parents or siblings all the time.

You’re right, we all lose people all the time. It’s a terribly sad fact of life. But I thought the Independence piece was a unique story: a teenager suddenly became an orphan and some neighbors had taken him in and the school community was lining up to support him. That, to me, made this a special story. And I don’t think I overdid anything and I don’t think I led anyone to believe anything other than what it was: a young man who had lost his mother. I’m sorry if somehow you thought it was the kid who passed.

Q. I have to disagree. I thought both Hodges pieces were about the best things in the paper in a long way. I feel for the kid and I made a donation to his fund. I was happy and sad to read that. Good work Mr. Wertz Kudos.

Thanks. To me, those are the kinds of stories that matter.

Q. What are your thoughts on Aaron Brand and Jalen Simmons after Friday?

I think West Charlotte’s schedule – Butler and Indy on back-to-back weeks – is quite the gauntlet. I would not judge the Lions by that, and they basically played Butler even for a half. I think Brand is about the best choice they could make. I worry the guy may burn himself out. He’s got a young child at home and is pushing it hard at work, but I love his passion and his personality. The kids there really seem smitten with him. Scoot Simmons? I think he’s a stud. He’s fighting some ankle problems, but I think you’re looking at a top 100 national guy in two years.

Q. What do you think of the private school state title race? You talk alot about public schools so we need equal time right?

Sure, you do. Hmm, to me it looks like Charlotte Christian and Country Day are your favorites. Christian beat Country Day twice last year and returns a lot of that team, so right now I’d lean towards the Knights.

Q. Again the main underlying reason for CMS 1990s weakness except for WCs only state championship in 1995 under TK was dilution with the opening of new schools. The same scenario is occurring now as did then when 3 new schools opened with Providence, Butler and Vance. PHS opened in 1989 as the first CMS since Olympic in 1968, grad its 1st class in 1990. Butler and Vance opened in 1997. Recent dilution hurting PHS and SM was Kell and VHS & NMHS with MCreek. There is absolutely no doubt that CMS football will and is suffering a thinning of the talent pool from what will be 4 new schools after 2010. The true dilution effect wont be known until the decade of the 2010s.

I have to disagree a little. Back in the ‘90s, we weren’t opening schools like we are now. Charlotte football was simply behind everyone else because we weren’t working the way others were. Knotts learned a lot of the offseason work from Richmond Senior coach Daryl Barnes, but that came after he won the state in ’95. Knotts was always a little ahead of many people and could’ve easily won the state in ’91 as well (his teams were blown out in ’87 and ’93).

Today we’re seeing schools opening at rapid rates but the population here is growing rapidly, too. Schools today are bigger than schools 13 years ago and the talent pool is deeper. I think we’ll see an initial dropoff in talent at some schools as they are broken up to create new ones, but in the past eight years we’ve seen CMS football explode to levels it has never reached – and this was seen during an era of explosive school building, too.

Q. Langston. I thought Taylor Caldwell was going to be Indy's main running back this year. However, it looks like he is just playing defense. Your thoughts?

Well, I did, too, but Taylor has bulked up quite a bit. He looks like a real LB now and he’s pretty good, too. Given Indy’s troubles running the ball and Knotts relaxing his standards a little bit (guys going both ways), I think we’ll see “TC,” as they call him, at running back before the season is done. Butler does it some with their stud LB, Hawatha Bell. But if I were Indy, I would be practicing with TC at RB, but I might not be showing it in games (and to other coaches on film) until I had to.

Q. Hey LW - there is a nice private Christian school in Charlotte who is doing pretty well in football. Why does the CO refuse to give them their due? NO mention in the Sweet Sixteen this year, no mention of their talented players, no mention of their outstanding defense. What gives? I know they have never been a school you like, but do you hate Christian that much?

Hate the Knights? Naw. It’s early in the year and I haven’t seen them yet, but I’m sure I will. Christian appears to have a special team. Their schedule has been a little easier than some of the other privates, so it’s been a little hard to gauge them. I’ve voted for them in the Sweet 16 for the past two weeks though and to me, I’d look at the Knights as the NCISAA favorite.

Q. I think the reason people don't take Christian seriously is because in their first 3 games they played schools that their middle school team probably could have beaten. If you match up CD and CC, look who they play out of conference. Christian plays Augusta Christian, Westminster Catawba, a home school team and Asheville HS who has 0 wins. Country Day plays Catholic, who is a top 3A team, McCallie (TN), Crest and Bluefield (WV), who are WV 2-A State Champs. Even when CCDS loses, like they did to McCallie, it probably looks better than if they were to go play some random private school in Rock Hill and blow them out. I'm sure Christian will be ranked this week, so relax

Christian, if it continues to win, will only move up in the polls, both ranking and opinion.

Q. We are well aware the despot running this forum will disagree because he is one of the perceived guilty but the fair and equitable way to have handled CMS is a lottery system like the NFL. We believe CMS needs to consider implementing a lottery taking the best 100 players and divy them up behind closed doors with the coaches based on the schools individual records so true equality and fairness and the way even most youth organizations operate including the pros. It is always so hilarious to watch these hypocrites, including these at the CO, demand equality in the classroom but turn their heads to equality on the football field.

To quote one of my favorite athletes of all time, Mr. John McEnroe, ‘Sir, you cannot be serious.’ You want a sports-only lottery? How would you get those students to and from school, and practice? And equality in the classroom is needed here. Football is an extracurricular activity. Education is not.

Q. Yes, Asheville is now 0-2 since AC Reynolds (#6 in 4A poll) beat them 17-10 and Christian beat them 31-3 this year. They were 11-3 last year and lost in the state semifinal. They would probably beat Catholic and CCDS this year. Augusta Christian has played in the last 3 SC Region 1 3A state championship games, was 10-3 last year, is 3-1 this year and is ranked #3 in the SC state 3A poll. Their only loss was to Christian, 28-0. They would probably beat CCDS and Catholic this year as well. But don't let the facts influence your perception. Or your prejudices.

OK, but the good news is we don’t have to play the they beat him and we beat him so we’d beat you game. Christian will play the CISAA teams and probably move to the playoffs. If they’re good enough, they’ll win it all.

Q. Yeah, everyone knows Langston is certainly impartial . . .and nothing about how bad the Asheville football team is every year? You're proving my point . . . Christian is still ignored and their talented athletes ignored . . . every year. But a non-partisan publication like the Charlotte Weekly picked Christian third in this area. But the CO pretends they don't exist.

The Charlotte Weekly does its own thing. We do ours. Our ranking is a regional ranking of 122 teams, theirs is a county ranking of 30. I wouldn’t compare the two. Am I impartial? Yes, I think so. I just want the best story. If you have a good story I’ll tell it. I told Willis Hall’s story last year when he was a junior at Christian, and we splashed it all over the front page. We had a huge photo of Luke Bard in our football Friday morning preview a few weeks back. We have covered Christian this year. I guess I don’t get all this Langston-hates-Christian talk, but you see what you want, right?

Q. The real Ardrey Kell has arrived? The real Mallard Creek has arrived? Lets just say the real Providence and South Meck have arrived and the real Vance North Meck has arrived because we know these other teams are now suffering because of these two "new" schools stealing all their players but life goes on ...

Stealing? It’s just growth, dude. What do you want? 500 trailers on campus; lunch rooms so overcrowded you cannot move? Wait, that happened at North Meck last year. We NEED more schools here. It’s just what happens when your city adds what amounts to a small city’s population annually. Get used to it. In 10 years, there’ll be 8-10 more new schools here, I’d say.

Q. Love the Q&A. You need to answer more frequently.

I promise to do better. Thanks for the love though. We have fun with this.

Q. l don’t hear you say much about Anthony Carrothers, when you do its something negative before something good. How about a little press? He has earned it dont you think? He is a good kid.

What did I say negative about Anthony? He’s having a good season and if Indy wants to win a state title (and they’d better watch out for Fayetteville Britt if they get there; Britt runs a pretty cool spread offense), they’ll need AC to play well to help get them there. This kid has had plenty of press, some of it unwanted because he was a central figure in the eligibility investigations. We’ve written about him this year (he was one of my Little Big Men in the preseason preview) and we’ll write about him some more. He plays the glamour position for a glamour team.

Latin's Chadwick commits to Washington St.

Charlotte Latin's David Chadwick, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, has committed to Washington State, according to Hawks coach Lane Odom.

Chadwick, who has struggled with injuries in high school, averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds last year for the Hawks.

He is the son of David Chadwick Sr., who played for Dean Smith at North Carolina from 1969-71. David Sr. is a local pastor who performed the wedding for current Washington State coach Tony Bennett when Bennett was playing for the old Charlotte Hornets NBA team.

-- Langston Wertz Jr.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Knee injury ends season for Sun Valley star

Indian Trail Sun Valley High receiver Vincent “Ray Ray” Davis, who committed to North Carolina, will miss the rest of the season because of a torn knee ligament.

Davis, a senior who had five touchdown catches in four games, was injured in the first quarter of a 34-31 loss to Kannapolis Brown on Friday. He will have surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament on Oct. 17, Sun Valley coach Scott Stein said.

“It is devastating for him,” Stein said. “He was looking forward to having a great senior year. He’d gotten his body into great shape, and took the pressure off by committing early. As a coach, we don’t make our game plans around one player. We’ll keep going, continue preparing and try to make him proud.”

Davis, 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, caught 76 passes for 1,134 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior. He was all-state as a sophomore. ranks Davis 75th nationally among high school receivers.

- Cliff Mehrtens

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Q&A with the Observer's Langston Wertz Jr.

Observer sportswriter Langston Wertz Jr. answers your questions about sports. Ask them at the bottom of this blog or send email to

Q. Langston, wonderful story this morning on the Independence player who lost his mom. We want to help. How?

The school has set up a trust fund to help Zachary Hodges, who is a fine young man. He’s quite mature for his age. To help, call Independence coach Hal Brown at 980-343-6900. Brown has set up a trust fund and has all the information you need. And thanks for the kudos. That’s one story I was glad I got to tell.”

Q. Langston, you picked against us last night. You should know the Bucs are always in the mix. We're back, baby!

That was some game last week, when your Bucs from Country Day beat Charlotte Catholic 14-10. Catholic fumbled a would-be go-ahead TD late in the game and the Bucs stopped two more final Catholic drives that could’ve produced the win. Congratulations to what I feel is now the NCISAA 3A state title favorites, your Bucs.

Q. I really like your coverage and insight on local high school sports. I have never understood why Charlotte Catholic is grouped with local public schools in sports. They are not restricted as to who they may recruit (yes, it's true), and because of that, I think they have an unfair advantage. Why don't they play in the private school conferences like Country Day, Providence Day, Latin, and others?

This question comes up every year. Catholic is a non-boarding parochial school, of which the public school N.C. High School Athletic Association has several members. Catholic has been in the NCHSAA for more than four decades and the NCHSAA has strict rules about kids who transfer in or out of Catholic. Basically you sit out a year. The majority of the kids who attend there come up through the Catholic feeder schools. I think the difference between Catholic and the other private schools is that Catholic is usually attractive to those of the Catholic faith, so there’s a much smaller window for enrollment than at Concord Cannon or Hickory Grove or Country Day.”

Q. The reason for Catholic being allowed to participate with public schools is this: They applied for and were granted entry into the NCHSAA many years ago. They must follow all of the rules that public schools do regarding eligibility, and in addition there are restrictions on students transferring in. I don't know the specifics, but it is similar to the college transfer rule, when a student transfers in to Catholic (or Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons, or Winston-Salem Bishop McGuinness, two other private schools in the public school league), they must sit out a year before being allowed to play. This additional restriction is designed to offset the advantage they have by drawing from a wider population base.

That’s mostly true. Think of it this way: If Catholic had a geographic zone, say the same as South Meck’s, their school would be tiny. They need to draw from a wide base to attract enough of those interested in the Catholic education and faith. I’ve never seen a great number of the area’s best athletes collect themselves at Catholic.”

Q. You wrote about Tommy Knotts thinking of leaving Independence. Where next? Retirement?

No, Knotts is not going to retire. He’s young for his age and he loves the game too much. I think he’ll have one more year after this one to get full retirement. That may lure him back to the Big I. Maybe not. I think his dream job is a private school, like Providence Day, where he talked with officials last spring. He could build a heckuva program there with a feeder system. I think Charlotte Catholic would be interesting if Jim Oddo ever steps down. They have the kind of football fever that Knotts would thrive in. I have heard it suggested he might go to South Carolina. Maybe, but not too far. I wouldn’t see him much past Rock Hill. He likes Charlotte and I think he enjoys the media spotlight he receives here, to some degree. He won’t get that anywhere else. But I tell you what intrigues me? If Frank Crockett ever left Victory Christian, I could see Knotts winning big there.”

Q. Your new format is really nice, but why isn't the Scoreboard posted anymore online? We have no way of seeing the soccer, volleyball, cross country, etc. scores. Could this please be returned to the site in the near future?

They’ve made an effort to post the Scoreboard online in the prep section. It does appear, but just in general sports section. We’re trying to make a better effort to also locate it in the prep section. Please bear with us.

Q. Langston, I love the new site redesign and the blogs and the Internet TV show you all do. It's more informative than the Friday night shows because you all actually know what is going on. Why, though, did you take away the Blitz separate section? It was the best thing about your coverage all together.

We had a number of desk editors leave the sports department in late summer. It takes a ton of people to produce the Blitz. I wanted it. I think all of us did, but the question was could we really pull it off. This year, I have to agree with my boss, probably not.”

Q. Langston, let's say you get one school's home games to cover from now to when you retire, who are you picking?

Hard to pick just one, but I enjoy the spirit and atmosphere at Catholic. It’s just small-town special. It’s funny, I included this question and my answer in my observations in last Sunday’s printed Observer. I went to Catholic at Olympic soccer Tuesday and a few fans gave me a hard time about always covering my favorite school (Catholic). One guy goes, “I thought it was West Charlotte.”

Q. Good story on Mallard Friday. How about one on our kids at Hickory Ridge up in Cabarrus County.

I wrote a little about Hickory Ridge in my observations in last Sunday’s printed Observer. Hope you saw it. But if there’s a good story to tell there, sure, I’ll write it. E-mail me at, I welcome all suggestions on all schools.

Q. Based on your stories, it seems as though Knotts has one or maybe two years at Independence left. Any chance you think he comes to South Carolina after that, like maybe Rock Hill?“

I’d say two at most. Come to S.C.? Possibly. I’d see him staying in town before that, though.”

Q. Nice pick, Forsyth over Providence Day. What were you smoking? With that pick, anyone who knew anything about high school football would question your knowledge. But then again, is that really news?

Yeah, I was trying to get one that no one else would pick and maybe sneak a 'W' in there. I know you don’t pick against Mecklenburg private schools when they play non-Meck private schools. . Used to be that way. No more. Question my knowledge? That’s fine. All I can do is try my best.

Q. Your thoughts on Lake Norman soccer. Will they get to 66?

Lake Norman soccer obviously lost its match against Mooresville Monday, ending its win streak at 61. Had they won, and they were thoroughly outplayed, I think the streak would’ve continued. It was interesting talking to the players afterward. They weren’t too dejected. Coach Jon Mertes talked about getting the monster off their backs. In some ways, I thought, they were happy that the streak was over and they could get back to playing as normal. And they still have a more important streak going: two straight 3A state titles.”

Q. Langston, I was at the Butler-Vance game this past Friday night. Vance came in thinking they had a chance to win that ball game when the coach made a bad call on their 7-yard line. Question: What do you think about Vance's coaching staff?

I think the Vance folks do a good job. I don’t think any coach in this city or anywhere doesn’t try. Every team is not going to win like Butler and Independence. Your opinion of a call is subjective and maybe it was a good call and it was executed properly? Who knows?

Q. So I guess if Shelby was in Florida, then the Golden Lions would have the national recognition that Madison County has. I doubt Madison has accomplished more in the last 40 years than Shelby has. No, but their media have. Until two years ago, you guys did a great job of keeping the Golden Lions "the area's best kept secret." We were here long before Independence, and we will be here long after Knotts leaves and their success slows. The True NC High School Football Dynasty.

We certainly have not ignored Shelby. We’ve done tons of big features about the Golden Lions. National rankings are funny things. It usually takes a quirk to get one (a big win streak, an upset win over a ‘nationally ranked’ team) and when you get on the ‘radar’ you tend to stay there. It’s like ranking the best in this state every year. Everyone starts out with old favorites like Richmond and West Charlotte and Independence because they’ve been good for awhile. We think they’ll always be.

Q. This comment is regarding the comment about the West Charlotte-Independence game being on campus and not being in Memorial Stadium. It is absolutely a cost issue. Considering that it costs a school about $7,500 to rent Memorial Stadium and that WC had to return about $17,000 in playoff revenue from last year, it makes it kind of hard to take the game uptown. You're also correct that WC folks went to Mint Hill last year and that it's only fair for the Independence folks return the trip. The WC and Indy stadium sizes are similar.

We had a meeting with our sports staff a few weeks back and Cliff Mehrtens was talking about writing a story about the true ins-and-outs of renting Memorial. Kids love to play there, it’s easier to get in and out of and it’s generally safer for everyone involved. No way, in my mind, should Independence-West Charlotte, Independence-Butler or even North Meck-Vance and North Meck-Hopewell be played on campus. Those games are tailor made for Memorial. What I really wish is that the city would retrofit Memorial and make it a 10,000-seat stadium. I’ve heard ADs speak of creating 8,000-seat regional stadiums here, too. That would work as well. We need spaces like that.”

Q. What do you think about Vance football? Believe me, I think its a big joke! The coaches there do not and will not care about winning. Which is bad for those kids, I know they lost some kids to a new school a few years back, but that does not mean drop every game you play in.

I think Vance has a lot of athletes. Most coaches in the area will tell you there are more there than anywhere else, but Vance has been hit with Mallard Creek opening and it usually takes 2-3 years to recover. Look at how Providence has been hit with Ardrey Kell. Independence and Butler will take a hit when new Mint Hill opens in 2010. Vance’s talent line will return, though. The area the school sits in kind of dictates that.

Q. Somebody tell Vance they are not alone having problems with talent dilution due new schools. West Charlotte never has to worry about this because they are too deep inner city. The two new high schools opening in 2010 in Matthews and Cornelius will take from Butler and Independence, but also take more from North Mecklenburg and Vance. Vance and North are in long-term trouble. Good football talent in CMS is limited. CMS football will be getting weaker.

I disagree. I see CMS football, as a whole, getting stronger. There’s more talented kids than ever before and a group of younger kids in Pee Wee leagues now that are just going to be special. I saw South Meck’s Larry Kennedy’s little brother, Chance, playing in the CYFL last week. Watch out in a few years. I think some of the balance of power may shift, but there will be some power teams, maybe like you’ve never or rarely seen before, coming out of the QC in the next 3-5 years.”

Q. Langston, I enjoy your columns, and look forward to your picks for the Sweet 16 every week. I am a longtime Lancaster Bruins fan, alum, and former player. Lancaster had a strong tradition in the late 80's early 90's that has since declined. I remember the stands being full, now they are lucky to draw any crowd at all. My question is this past week Lancaster brought the wood to Fort Mill. They had a very strong running game with 7a stable full of backs. They are in a very tough conference with perennial powers Rock Hill and Northwestern along with the recent dominance of South Pointe as well. Do you believe the whipping of Fort Mill was because of a weak Fort Mill team, or is there a chance this a sign of better things to come for Lancaster?

Lancaster not drawing crowds? I remember the Johnny Roscoe days. That surprises me. I don’t know if you can tell too much from the Fort Mill game, but Northwestern is one of the five best teams in the state this year. That’ll be a better gauge of where you are, I think. But come back and let me know how the team is doing.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Latin volleyball hosting 'Serve for the Cure'

On Saturday, Charlotte Latin will host the Serve For The Cure volleyball tournament, which will begin at 9 a.m. at the high school, 7702 Pineville-Matthews Rd.

Proceeds will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The organization supports education, screening and treatment programs.

Participants will be Ardrey Kell, Butler, Charlotte Christian, Charlotte Country Day, Charlotte Latin (varsity and junior varsity), Concord, Concord Cannon, Concord Robinson, Hickory Grove, Kings Mountain, Mallard Creek, North Mecklenburg, Roxboro Person (varsity and junior varsity), Providence High (varsity and junior varsity), South Mecklenburg and Weddington (varisity and junior varsity).

Last year’s tournament raised more than $31,000, and has topped $84,000 in the seven years since Latin volleyball coach Suzie Pignetti organized the event.

Players raise money through pledges and by selling raffle tickets.

For information, or to donate, call (704) 846-1100.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

N.C. girls tennis poll released

The N.C. Girls’ Tennis Polls, by the N.C. High School Tennis Coaches Association

Class 4A

Team Points

1) Raleigh Broughton 68

2) Greensboro Page 55

3) East Chapel Hill 52

4) Wilmington Hoggard 49

5) Myers Park 40

6) Charlotte Providence 27

Greensboro Grimsley 27

8) Raleigh Athens Drive 19

9) Green Hope 11

10) Chapel Hill 10

Others receiving votes: Ashbrook (9), Greenville J.H. Rose (8), Weddington (8), Jack Britt (1), Watauga (1).

Class 3A

Team Points

1) T.C. Roberson 89

2) Charlotte Catholic 79

3) Wilson Fike 70

4) Lake Norman 58

5) Rocky Mount 49

6) Southeast Guilford 44

7) Union Pines 34

8) Ragsdale 24

9) Burlington Williams 23

10) Eastern Wayne 11

Others receiving votes: Hickory (5), Southwest Guilford (4), Western Guilford (4), Marvin Ridge (1).

Class 2A

Team Points

1) Cardinal Gibbons 57

2) Salisbury 57

3) Greene Central 47

4) John A. Holmes 43

5) North Stanly 32

6) Tarboro 19

7) Ashe County 19

8) Northwood 19

9) McMichael 14

10) East Lincoln 8

Others receiving votes: Surry Central (5), North Lincoln (4), East Duplin (2), First Flight (2), Durham School of the Arts (1) Newton-Conover (1).

Class 1A

Team Points

1) NC School of Science & Math 46

2) East Wilkes 44

3) Topsail 38

4) Mount Airy 33

5) North Stokes 32

6) Jordan-Matthews 22

7) Elkin 13

Spring Creek 13

9) East Montgomery 11

10) Bishop McGuiness 10

Others receiving votes: Gray Stone Day (4), South Stokes (4), Williamston (4), East Surry (1).

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

N.C. high school football polls released

N.C. Associated Press High School Football poll
First-place votes in parentheses
Class 4A
School Record Total points
1. Independence (11) 1-0 145
2. Butler (2) 2-0 129
3. Fayetteville Britt (2) 3-0 114
4. Raleigh Millbrook 2-0 93
5. Winston-Salem Mt. Tabor 3-0 86
6. Asheville Reynolds 2-0 65
7. Davie County 2-1 44
8. Wilmington Hoggard 1-1 36
9. Greenville Rose 2-0 20
10. Greensboro Page 3-0 18
Others receiving votes: Raleigh Leesville Road 11, Wake Forest-Rolesville 11, Boiling Springs Crest 9, East Mecklenburg 8, South Mecklenburg 7, West Charlotte 7, Fayetteville Seventy-First 4, Fayetteville Westover 4, Southern Durham 3, Richmond County 3, New Bern 3, Greensboro Grimsley 2, High Point Central 1, Gastonia Ashbrook 1, East Forsyth 1.
Class 3A
School Record Total points
T1. Greensboro Dudley (7) 3-0 142
T1. Rocky Mount (8) 2-0 142
3. Hertford County 3-0 105
4. Eastern Alamance 2-0 101
5. Oxford Webb 3-0 56
T6. Belmont South Point 2-1 50
T6. Asheville Roberson 2-0 50
8. Winston-Salem Carver 2-1 41
9. Jamestown Ragsdale 3-0 39
10. Kannapolis Brown 2-1 20
Others receiving votes: Harnett Central 17, West Craven 15, Monroe Sun Valley 14, West Rowan 8, Waynesville Tuscola 6, Asheville 6, Kinston 4, Mooresville 3, NW Cabarrus 3, SW Edgecombe 1, Statesville 1, High Point Andrews 1.
Class 2A
School Record Total points
1. Reidsville (14) 2-0 149
2. Jacksonville Northside (1) 3-0 119
3. Newton-Conover 2-0 104
4. Bunn 3-0 92
5. South Columbus 2-0 89
6. Tarboro 3-0 72
7. SW Onslow 3-0 50
8. Lenoir Hibriten 3-0 47
9. Shelby 1-1 43
10. Lincolnton 2-1 17
Others receiving votes: Eastern Guilford 13, Southern Guilford 8, Salisbury 8, East Duplin 6, Canton Pisgah 4, Ashe County 2, Monroe 1, East Lincoln 1.
Class 1A
School Record Total points
1. Warsaw Kenan (6) 3-0 132
2. Mt. Airy (6) 3-0 131
3. Thomasville (3) 3-0 130
4. Albemarle 2-0 100
5. Murphy 3-0 80
6. Wallace-Rose Hill 2-0 74
7. Siler City Jordan-Matthews 3-0 54
8. Plymouth 2-1 30
9. East Bladen 3-0 19
10. Hendersonville 3-0 15
Others receiving votes: South Stanly 13, Dunn Midway 12, Ayden-Grifton 5, Cherokee 6, Jones Senior 5, Robbinsville 4, Elkin 4, Polk County 3, North Duplin 2, Topsail 2, West Montgomery 1, East Surry 1, Kernersville McGuiness 1.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ex-Panthers tackle new careers

The XFL football player formerly known as "He Hate Me" is now working at West Mecklenburg High.

Rod Smart, who once wore that nickname on the back of his jersey in the now-defunct XFL, played for the Panthers from 2002-05. He and former Panther Dee Brown, who played for Carolina in 2001, are coaching and working at the westside high school.

Smart oversees the behavior management program and assists teachers with behavior-intervention strategies. Brown is West Meck's school climate coordinator. He's responsible for the school's discipline plan and also manages disciplinary programs and monitors truant and tardy students.

“Our background is very similar to the kids here,” Smart said.

Both former Panthers are assistant coaches on the Hawks' football team. Principal Charity Bell said they are also committed to lowering West Meck’s suspension rate, weapons at school and truancy.

“The students will notice them because of their background,” Bell said. "But they will get an opportunity to learn valuable lessons from Mr. Brown and Mr. Smart.”

The former players say they take their new roles very seriously.

“You have to know how to reach the students and relate to them,” said Brown, who is also a former substitute teacher. “We have the chance to affect the lives of nearly 2,000 students.”

- Langston Wertz Jr.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Victory Christian's football opponent changes

Charlotte Victory Christian’s football opponent for Friday has changed.

The Kings will host Jireh Prep at 7:30 p.m. The original opponent – Florida Christian – had to cancel because of a death of a team family member.

Victory Christian is 0-2, with losses to Northern Guilford (21-7) and Providence Day (27-12).

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Monroe, Forest Hills face fast-food challenge

Before Monroe High and Marshville Forest Hills meet in their annual rivalry game Nov. 7, fans will have a chance to vote for which school they think is best.

Two Monroe area Chick-fil-A restaurants are offering a $1,000 prize to the school that gets the most "votes" from fans. The runner-up will get $500.

The contest runs Sept. 29-Oct. 31 and fans can "vote" by putting their receipts into a "ballot box" inside the restaurants. Each will be marked for Monroe or Forest Hills.

The winning school will be announced at halftime of the Nov. 7 game.

"With the presidential election approaching, we thought it would be fun to have two local high schools compete in their own ballot box competition,” said David Rowland, franchise Operator of the Monroe locations. "We are excited the schools are having fun with this challenge and look forward to presenting checks to both schools during the big game.”

-- Langston Wertz Jr.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Q&A with the Observer's Langston Wertz Jr.

Observer staff writer Langston Wertz Jr. answers your sports-related questions. To ask a question, reply at the bottom of this blog or send questions to

Q. Victory Christian started 0-2 for the first time. We had four or five kids transfer this week to Northside. What is going on at Vcitory?

There appears to be a group of kids who didn’t like their playing time at Victory. I have talked to a few of the players and their parents and they just didn’t feel like Victory was working out anymore and wanted to play for their former position coaches, many of whom followed former Victory assistant coach Brentson Buckner to Northside. I honestly don’t like the message it sends that you can leave a school on Wednesday and be on the field for another on Friday. I love the CMS rule that prevents you from playing at two schools in the same season. Perhaps the local private schools, which includes Northside and VCC, might look into a similar rule.

Q. Keep an eye on the Butler volleyball team. The girls are 6-0 having beat rival powerhouses Ardrey Kell, Providence and Myers Park handily already. We should be 8-0 after this week.

I’ve been following the Lady Dawgs. They’re 8-0 right now. Definitely a team to watch in the Southwestern 4A with the usual suspects from Myers Park, Weddington and Providence. And you can add Ardrey Kell to the mix with former Providence coach Zoe Bell setting up shop over there. Zoe is one of the best coaches, in any sport, to ever work in this county.

Q. Is Independence going to reschedule their game with that team from Florida?

You probably know by now the game was canceled. It’s a tricky thing. The Independence principal and former Independence principal, who now supervises the east district, made the call to cancel on Tuesday when it looked like Hurricane Hanna was going to turn into the U.S. eastern seaboard a lot more harshly.

Q. Langston, thank you for being a voice of reason here regarding the hurricane and football games. My question: As a West Charlotte parent, why are so many Independence folks wanting to move the game to Memorial Stadium. After all, we came to the Big I last year. Shouldnt' they come to us now?

West Charlotte did go to Mint Hill last year. So I guess it’s only fair that Independence return the favor. Personally, I think any Independence-West Charlotte game or Independence-Butler game should always be played at Memorial. So I’d say after this year, the schools should just schedule it that way. That way everyone who wants to see the game can.

Q. Is CMS crazy? Why is Independence-West Charlotte being played on campus? Too many people for that.

I agree that the crowd is too big for a high school, but the school makes more money playing at home. I’m not sure what the exact numbers are for CMS to hold games at Memorial, but the deal could be a little more amenable to the schools.

Q. Hate to tell y'all down at the Observer, but those videoblogs totally suck. The Sweet 16 especially needs to be typed out. High tech sometimes ain't all its cracked up to be.

Sorry you don’t like the videoblogs. I think they’ll get better as we get more pictures to work in there with them. The Sweet 16 does appear typed out on the website Tuesday morning, when it hits the printed paper. The video version comes out ahead of the online or printed versions, on Monday night at 9. It was a little gadget we added to let interested folks get the poll early. Judging by the hits it gets each week, plenty of people seem to like it.

Q. Northside is going to be a powerhouse with all that talent from Victory.

Could certainly happen. Be interesting to see a Northside in the playoffs, huh?

Q. Could you please give year by year won-loss records by school of Tom Knotts' high school head coaching career? I've looked on the web, but I can't find a place to get that information.

You know I did that a few years back when the Observer's Ron Green Jr. did a really cool, in-depth look at the program when Chris Leak was there. Knotts was 3-7 for two years at Harding to start his career and took off after that. He’s averaged about 12-1 since then. Since 2000, he’s 124-4. Not too bad, huh?

Q. How will Northside be a powerhouse when Victory wasn't even good with all those players plus more talent? Northside has gone from being a CISAA punching bag to a lower level punching bag

Northside has the type talent that a 4A team would love to have. The Knights could certainly be special by October.

Q. Want to wish the best to the second-year Mallard Creek High football coach who moved here from Miami last year. We are honored and very fortunate to finally have someone with such greatness and superior knowledge. Guess he'll be the next 4A state champ. Lets see. He was 1-10 last year?

The Mallard Creek coach, Mike Palmieri, has done a good job with his kids. Why pooh-pooh on that?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Region's athletic officials to meet in Wilmington

The N.C. High School Athletic Association will host an annual gathering of state association officials from across the Southeast starting Saturday and running through Tuesday.

The meeting of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Section 3 will be headquartered at the Hilton Wilmington Riverside.

States that are included in Section 3 are the two Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

The impending arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna in the area has caused some cancellations, but most of the participants will be on hand.

Attendees will participate in workshops on Saturday and Sunday and then will hear from an array of speakers on Monday and Tuesday.

Speakers on Monday will include N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler; East Carolina athletics director Terry Holland; ACC Commissioner John Swofford; and N.C. Board of Education chairman Howard Lee.

Tuesday morning's speakers are scheduled to be North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams and Dave Odom, the former basketball coach at Wake Forest and South Carolina.

Williams and Odom coached at NCHSAA high schools before starting careers in college.

The sessions will address issues or topics specific to state high school associations and their working with various organizations.

Bob Kanaby, executive director of the National Federation, and Jim Tenopir, president of the NFHS this year and executive director of the Nebraska Schools Activities Association, will also address the gathering.

-Observer News Services

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

N.C. AP High School Football Poll

The N.C. Associated Press high school football polls:
(first-place votes in parentheses)

Class 4A
1. Independence (8) 1-0 112 points
2. Wilmington Hoggard (1) 1-0 80 points
3. Butler 1-0 59
T4. Fayetteville Britt (1) 2-0 51
T4. Raleigh Millbrook 2-0 51
T6. Wake Forest-Rolesville (1) 2-0 39
T6. Winston-Salem Mount Tabor 2-0 39
T6. Davie County 2-0 39
9. Greensboro Grimsley 2-0 30
10. Asheville Reynolds 1-0 27
Others receiving votes: Greenville Rose 25, New Bern 24, Greensboro Page (1) 17, Richmond County 16, East Mecklenburg 9, NW Guilford 8, Raleigh Leesville Road 7, Boiling Springs Crest 6, South Mecklenburg 6, Scotland County 5, West Charlotte 4, West Forsyth 3, Watauga County 1, Myers Park 1, Fayetteville Westover 1.
Class 3A
1. Rocky Mount (6) 2-0 111 points
2. Greensboro Dudley (4) 2-0 102
3. Kannapolis Brown (1) 2-0 75
4. Eastern Alamance 1-0 52
5. Hertford County 2-0 51
6. Belmont South Point 1-1 38
7. Oxford Webb 2-0 28
8. Winston-Salem Carver 1-1 27
9. Charlotte Catholic (1) 1-1 20
T10. West Rowan 1-1 16
T10. Asheville Roberson 1-0 16
T10. Jamestown Ragsdale 2-0 16
Others receiving votes: Monroe Sun Valley 15, SW Edgecombe 13, Asheville 9, Anson County 9, Waynesville Tuscola 7, West Craven 7, North Gaston 6, R-S Central 6, NW Cabarrus 5, Asheboro 5, Hickory St. Stephens 5, NE Guilford 5, Western Alamance 4, Concord 3, High Point Andrews 3, Kinston 3, Nash Central 2, Bertie County 1.
Class 2A
1. Reidsville (8) 1-0 111 points
2. Shelby (2) 1-0 103
3. Jacksonville Northside 2-0 62
4. Newton-Conover 1-0 58
5. Bunn 2-0 52
6. South Columbus (1) 1-0 46
7. Tarboro 2-0 39
8. Canton Pisgah 2-0 26
9. Lenoir Hibriten 2-0 22
10. SW Onslow 2-0 20
Others receiving votes: Eastern Guilford 17, Lincolnton 17, Southern Guilford 11, Burlington Cummings (1) 10, Salisbury 10, Ashe County 9, East Lincoln 9, Maiden 7, Pittsboro Northwood 6, West Davidson 6, Graham 6, Mount Pleasant 5, Brevard 2, St. Pauls 2, North Lenoir 1, Catawba Bandys 1, East Duplin 1, Farmville Central 1.

Class 1A
1. Mt. Airy (5) 2-0 100 points
2. Warsaw Kenan (4) 2-0 93
3. Thomasville (2) 2-0 87
4. Albemarle 1-0 80
T5. Murphy 2-0 39
T5. South Stanly 2-0 39
7. Wallace-Rose Hill 1-0 37
8. Siler City Jordan-Matthews 2-0 34
9. Plymouth 1-1 27
10. Elkin (1) 2-0 19
Others receiving votes: Dunn Midway 17, West Montgomery 15, Louisburg 15, East Bladen 11, Cherokee 8, Jones Senior 5, Williamston 5, Chocowinity Southside 5, Pinetown Northside 5, SE Halifax 4, Gates County 4, East Surry 3, Hendersonville 3, North Duplin 2, Polk County 2, Manteo 1.

-- Cliff Mehrtens

Q&A with the Observer's Langston Wertz Jr.

The Observer’s Langston Wertz Jr. answers your sports-related questions here. Have a question? Reply at the bottom of this blog or email questions to

Q. Langston, I saw you on TV talking about how Butler will beat Independence next year. I can see where you might think that. You got excited off one game?

I think Butler has the potential to be really special next season and even this season. I think having the junior varsity team and the varsity team beat Independence within 24 hours of each other last season was a boost Butler needed. I think they believed they could do it before but to actually do it is special.

Beating any Tom Knotts team is hard. The man has lost four games in nine seasons. There have been some forfeit losses on his record, that were not of his own doing, but Butler was the first Mecklenburg County team to beat one of his teams since South Mecklenburg beat West Charlotte 14-13 in the 1992 second round playoffs. That’s an amazing run of dominance over local teams.

This year, I think Independence is the state championship favorite. I think last year’s final, with all respects to New Bern, deserves a bit of asterisk.

I’m not counting the Patriots losing their best player, TE Mario Carter, in preseason, but in the final month of the season, Independence deals with losing six players, having their coach suspended and all the fallout behind that, then losing the two regular season games. In the state final, the Patriots dropped a touchdown pass that would’ve given them a 21-0 lead and another that would’ve stretched a lead later on.

That’s football yes, but I’m not sure that was the real Independence we saw last season in December. This year’s team is not as talented but seems to be determined. They remind me of the first Chris Leak team in 2000.

We’ll see what happens.

Q. Langston, what did you think of North Mecklenburg quarterback Bradley Clay?

I really liked him. He was elusive and had a good arm. He avoided a legit Division I linebacker -- Butler’s Hawatha Bell -- a few times when it looked like Bell was just simply going to crunch him. He’s got a good receiving corp, too. North Mecklenburg is young and has a young offensive line. If they get it together and give him time, Clay will put up numbers – and the Vikings will make a real run in the ME-CA 7. That league looks wide open right now.

Q. Langston, did you see Wilmington Hoggard beat New Bern again? That's twice in a row. You still think Independence is the best team in the state?

I think in high school it’s important, moreso than in college, to remember every year is a new year. I don’t think any of the top 4A teams in the state (Independence, Hoggard, Butler, New Bern, Raleigh Millbrook) would have competed for last year’s state title. I’d say overall this year’s team talent is not as deep as last year’s or as top-heavy. But yes, I saw Hoggard's win.

Q. Langston, what do you see in the future for CMS football? I saw Independence struggle to beat Olympic 13-6 in junior varsity Thursday. I think a change is coming. You agree?

I think we’re about to enter a Golden Age of sports in Mecklenburg County. We’ve got a crop of young athletes, especially in football and basketball, that I’ve not seen before.

This year, in football, there’s a lot of young talent. In the next two years they’ll emerge. The opening of a new school in Mint Hill in two years will thin the deep talent pool that fuels Butler and Independence, but not too much.

I think Independence is feeling the after effects of new lines that have moved some kids into northern schools such as Mallard Creek, which is enjoying a spectacular sophomore season.

And Olympic junior varsity has given Independence fits before. That’s nothing new. If you’re asking if I think Independence’s dominance continues, I’d say until Tom Knotts leaves there they’ll always be among the top, for sure, but I think Independence will have some company – Butler’s really young and loaded with talent. And, unlike past years, these Bulldogs know what it’s like to beat Independence. But they still haven’t done it with Knotts on the sideline.

Q. What's up with Chad Johnson, and why is ACC football so bad?

If Chad Ocho Cinco wants that to be his name, well, so be it. Remember the former Lloyd Free? He became World B. Free in hoops. To each his own. Chad is entertaining and as long as he plays and practices hard and doesn’t cheat his teammates, it’s fine with me (him asking for more money or to be traded doesn’t diminish him in my opinion). The ACC did look bad last week, especially UNC. You don’t struggle with a former Division I-AA team at home. That won’t help top recruits go to Chapel Hill.

Q. Langston, East Mecklenburg is a hot team. But don't forget about us at Mallard Creek. We're also hot.

Yes, Mallard Creek is off to a 2-0 start. Keep reading the paper. You might get a surprise soon.

Q. Langston, why don't you give Independence's players any credit, as for players to watch?

I think we have talked a lot about Independence this season and in the summer. The Patriots' story has been told and we’ve got plenty of time to keep telling it. I think they’re the best team in the state, again, and I expect them to play deep into the postseason. Again.

Q. When the new Mint Hill school opens in 2010, Butler and Independence will lose 50 percent of their kids and Dr. Gorman watching districts this week like a hawk. North Meck will get hit again when the new high school in Cornelius opens as well in 2010, so its a lose-lose.

That’s the flip side of opening new schools, at least as far as sports. But many of these schools need relief from overcrowding and after a few years, the sports teams come back. It’ll happen at North. It’ll happen at Butler and Independence, too.

Q. Will you please take notice of West Charlotte's Travis Crosby? He will be a star at strong safety.

OK, 10-4.

Q. Langston, I have been watching your previews and I haven't seen anything about Statesville High.

Promise I’ll keep an eye out on them. Sounds as if they’re doing good things.

Q. Since 2004, Butler has had more talent than Independence, and guess what, every year they lose to Independence. Last year, coach Newsome had 11 Division I players and good underclassmen and couldn't win any titles outright. What makes anyone with a brain think they will do better with less experience and lesser talent this year?

I think Tom Knotts has gotten much respect from everyone here. Newsome is doing a good job, too. What Knotts has done, which I’ve chronicled a gazillion times, is nothing short of amazing.

Q. Langston, I play football for Butler. We have a better team than last year, and it will take us a couple games to become a great team. I know we have the team to win a championship this year and we will do it.

Thanks for writing.

Q. As an observation, only the Observer uses town names in front of some schools but not others. What's up with Indian Trail Sun Valley? Is there another Sun Valley? Unionville Piedmont. Is there another Piedmont? Concord Robinson? Even using Charlotte Catholic is unneeded. How about just Catholic?

Charlotte is a very transient place and most people, trust me, do not know where these schools are. Adding the town name in front was a suggestion by David Scott, who helped originate the Sweet 16 24 years ago. I think it was a good call, though I was initially against it. You are a high school fan, you know where the schools are. Many casual fans do not.

Q. Who is the best team right now does not matter. It's who the best team is at the end of the year. Hoggard beat New Bern twice early in the regular season, but when they played New Bern in the playoffs when they had to play in the big boys' playoff, they got beat two years in a row.

A. I hear you.

Q. I hate that Independence isn't playing in Florida this week. As a relative of a player, I know they were really looking forward to the trip? Did CMS jump the gun here?

That’s a tough call. I’m not sure. As a parent, I wouldn't want my child driving a bus down to Florida with a hurricane anywhere near. No one really knows what Hanna is going to do. It could go right and hit the S.C. coast, or go left and slam into Florida. Right now, most folks think it’ll go right, but why take the chance on a guess? And it’s not as easy to play a N.C. vs. Fla game on a Monday when things will be clear, weather-wise.

Q. CMS stopped the game knowing what happened last September when Independence lost at Cincinnati Elder (Ohio) to end its 109-game winning streak.

CMS didn’t cancel a game because it is worried that Independence might lose. That’s just not it. This is about safety. I agree Independence losing last year hurt N.C. football, but N.C. football doesn’t enjoy a great rep nationwide – or even regionally – anyway. Independence helped put this state on the map a little, though, and at least the state’s better teams can get into some national ranking discussions a little more easily now.

Q. Hindsight is 20/20, but the stupidity of paying to travel 500 miles and lose to a small school was overwhelming to NCHSAA. Had Elder come to North Carolina, Independence may still have an unbeaten at 124 games plus eight state titles on their way to the 151-win record of Concord (Calif.) DeLasalle snapped in 2004 traveling to Seattle Wash in early Sept 2004.

A. Who really knows?

Q. In the article today, Knotts compared Madison County to Shelby. If he wants to play a team of that caliber, why the heck does he have to go all the way to Florida? He has a team right down the road in the Golden Lions. Why won't he schedule Shelby?

I wouldn’t say Knotts is afraid of playing anyone. I think he wanted to get a trip for his team, to play a nationally ranked program and to try to get back in the national rankings. I don’t see playing Shelby doing that for him.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New Hanover establishes code of ethics

New Hanover County schools has adopted a code of ethics that should be the model for every system in the state.

The document is three pages long but basically can be summed up in one word: Behave.

Every athlete, and every student involved in extra- or co-curricular activities in New Hanover County schools, is required to sign the agreement. So is a parent or custodian.

The code is straightforward:

* Students conduct themselves on and off the field in a way that brings credit to the team, the program and the system.

* There will be no hazing.

* Students are prohibited from using alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs.

* Students are not to perform criminal acts.

The code is in force year-round on and off the school premises.

The basic notion is that athletes and others involved in co-curricular activities are held to a higher standard than other students.

"We had some incidents last year, and our board of education and our athletics directors said, 'Enough is enough,' " said Joe Miller, the system's athletic director.

Student are held accountable for their actions from when they sign the code until graduation, even when school is not in session.

The code was discussed at parent meetings this fall and close to 3,000 students and their parents accepted it.

The code was tested quickly:

* Cheerleaders from one school drank alcohol after a preseason football scrimmage. One had to go to a hospital. Therefore, 11 cheerleaders were suspended from cheering at the first game.

* Eleven soccer players decided it was a great idea to shove two teammates' heads into a toilet and flush. It was an initiation, also known as the criminal offense of hazing. The offending soccer players were suspended.

The community as a whole probably appreciates the efforts, but part of the reaction was predictable.

Some cheerleaders' parents protested the suspensions because adults were supervising the drinking.

"We had adults giving children alcoholic drinks and thinking that was a good thing, a commendable thing," said an exasperated Miller, the New Hanover athletic director.

Some soccer parents protested that since the initiation took place before the start of school that the punishment was too harsh.

"Hazing is against the law," Miller said. "Hazing is a terrible thing. It has to be stopped. It will be stopped."

Miller knew establishing a code of ethics would be difficult.

"What is happening here is that we are making a stand for what is right. And that is not easy," Miller said. "Right now, there about 22 students who understand that we are going to enforce this policy.

"Hopefully, 3,000 children will look at this example and understand that we are very serious about this."

- Tim Stevens, Raleigh News and Observer

Storm could impact Friday night football

Tropical storm Hanna is likely to impact high school football somewhere in North Carolina on Friday.

The storm, downgraded from a hurricane early Tuesday, is on several computer-predicted paths to possibly hammer Charlotte and/or surrounding areas with rain and wind.

It has school systems scurrying to plan possible changes. That’s no small task for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which can’t easily shift Friday’s football games to Thursday.

That would interfere with junior-varsity football on Thursdays.

Move the JV to Wednesday? Well, soccer uses several of the fields that night.

Plus, it’s too early (Tuesday lunchtime as I type) to predict exactly where the storm will hit. But there’s a pretty good chance it’s going to get messy in Charlotte.

Hurricane predictions have improved tremendously the past 20 years. I know, I grew up in southern Louisiana. My back still hurts from hauling in both grandmothers’ potted plants and garbage cans a day or two before an arriving storm (then dragging them back out again).

Let’s say Charlotte and surrounding areas get pounded Friday. It’d be too difficult to reschedule the games for Saturday – the storm could be slow-moving, folks might need time to clean up damage and fields will need to dry.

The most likely scenario – assuming nothing disastrous happens – would be for many of the football games to be played Monday.

But, like the storm, that’s up in the air.

-- Cliff Mehrtens