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 lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

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 lwertz@charlotteobserver.com, 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.”

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

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. There wouldn't be space to add 10 news kids to a class unless 10 kids left. If he wanted to get his kind of players into the system, he'd basically have to start bringing them in for kindergaden. On top of that, how do you think Knotts could deal with not only the new faculty who have their own egos, but a bunch of parents with big checkbooks. Parents who would be irrate if a new coach brought in new players, relegating their kid, who used to start, to being a bench warmer, when they've paid $100,000+ on tuition over the years. I think it would get ugly and could potentially affect a school in a negative way.

Anonymous said...

dude dont 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 players mother. ok thats 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 wasnt. there are other players and coaches who lose parents or siblings all the time.

Anonymous said...

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.

DubC1968 said...

L-Dub, what are your thoughts on Aaron Brand and Jalen Simmons after Friday?

Anonymous said...

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

Anonymous said...

Again the main underlying reason for CMS 1990s weakness except for WCs only state championship in 1995under TK was dilution with the opening of new schools. The same scenario is occuring 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.

Anonymous said...

LW, don't listen to the idiot who is critisizing the article on Zach Hodges. This wasn't an ordinary death of a parent. This death made an orphan of the kid, a kid who has a GPA of 4.2. Unbelievably selfish. Hopefully, the person is reading this and will recant such nonsense.

Anonymous said...

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

Anonymous said...

Hey LW - there is a nice private Christian school in Charlotte who is doing pretty well in football. In four games they have allowed only three points - that to a team who barely lost to powerhouse AC Reynolds their first week. They have scored between 28 and 56 points every game. They have a QB with a big arm and fast feet. They have a 6'6 WR with a bunch of TD receptions and a 55 yard TD interception return and who has been offered by GA Tech and Duke (but no mention in the CO). They have two of the best and fastest RBs in the city - both juniors - who are getting heavy D1 interest. They beat your sixth ranked team (CCDS) twice last year - and will again this year. They lost in the state championship game last year and are much better this year. Now . . . 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?

Anonymous said...

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

Anonymous said...

We are well aware the despot running this forum will disagree because he is one of the percieved guilty but the fair and equitable way to have handled CMS is a lottery system like the NFL. Technically the past way of allowing students to enroll in any district was basically nothing but an unregulated lottery anyway since it allowed all the best players to go to a certain unnamed school to keep the dynasty intact.
This mentality however displays great hypocrisy since the equality and fairness doctrine is demanded in the classroom but not on the football field. Why didnt CMS force good players to weaker schools? We wont belittle and name these schools as they are embarrassed enough as it is in a one sided biased reverse discriminatory system anyway. CMS could have even forced coaches to change schools the way they have forced teachers to switch for equalization purposes for the past decade or more.

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.

CMS is long overdue to display equality and fairness not only in the classroom but just as importantly on the football field. No exceptions.

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. This is the epitomy of hypocrisy. We feel the classroom and the football field are both essential for equality and training and the past system reeks with double standards defying all logic.
If a lottery system is good enough for youth and the pros it should be good enough for CMS.
Obv the college recruitment way is illegal for high schools so the lottery makes sense to create equality in the classroom with teacher and on the football field with coaches and players.

Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...

You do realize that private school footabll in South Carolina is vastly different than private school football in North Carolina. Several of those teams were at one point in the CISAA (Hammond and Heathwood) and had to drop out, not because they were so far away, but because they couldn't compete in football. The only time one of them would win in coference games is when they would beat each other. I have no allegiance to Country Day, I'm looking at this totally objectively. I do think that you are a fool if you think Augusta Christian could beat Country Day or Catholic. They have more kids who weigh 130lbs than over 200. Hey Langston, who would win if Augusta Chrisitan played Country Day and Catholic?

Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte Christian is ranked 10th in this weeks Sweet Sixteen. Happy now?

Anonymous said...

Augusta Christian is a private school. By calling them 3A doesn't make them sound any better. The teams Country Day plays that are a WV 2A, NC 3A and NC 4A

Anonymous said...

Yep - Christian is ranked 10th in the sweet Sixteen . . . . and CCDS is ranked 13th. It's about time somebody got it right.

CCDS - Who beat you twice last year?
Who beat you in 7-on-7 this summer?
Who's going to beat you again this year?
Who's your daddy?

'nuff said . . . .

Anonymous said...

Too bad CPCC doesn't have a football team. They would be pretty good with all of that talent they get from Christian every year.

Anonymous said...

Here's a preseason story on Christian. Copy and paste if it doesn't link.

http://www.charlotteobserver.com/277/story/130348.html

Anonymous said...

The real Audrey Kell has arrived? The real Mallard Creek has arrived? The real real of all real has arrived .. yada yada yada ...

Lets just say the real Providence South Meck has 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 ...
We know the SOS response that it will all come out in the wash and everybody will live happily ever after ... yada yada yada ...

Thankfully Independence and Butler will finally have to cough up many of their good players come 2010 with the new school too to even things up a bit but thats still 2 yrs off. Better late than never though. We wont even mention the disaster with the 2nd new school in Cornelius. Maybe they will steal Mallard Creek players? yea rite.

Also we may have spoken to quick on West Charlotte who may be quickly becoming another Garinger Harding or West Meck the way it is going lately. Dont laugh. Its looking grim for the Lions who are "easy" prey these days to everyone since CMS sucked the life out last yr & did nuttin to Indy.
Indy and Butler better enjoy it while they can...
Changin of the guard? Kell, Creek and Truelight, Bailey?


The times they are a changin ...

Anonymous said...

lw,i dont hear you say much about anthony carrothers,when you do its something negative before something good,in three games he has 950 plus yards passing a total of 13 tds 8 passing 5 rushing and almost 200 yds rushing,you where talking good about a kid that had 11 tds in 3 games last week ,but no press about AC.For the record AC is 5'8 170pds. I know im a friend of the family,how about a little press he has earned it dont you think? he is a good kid.

Anonymous said...

LW talks about AC, listen,,i know the kid is a nice ATH, but at that height,,he is not going to be a D1 QB, no matter what kind of numbers he puts up, and he is only 5'7", and thats with his shoes on, but he is good for HS, but he will never be a D1 QB,

Anonymous said...

plus going to summer school every year does not get the grade,,remember you must have a 2.5 and get a 1000 on the SAT to even get a look from the D1's, and by being that short,,going to be a hard sell, even for TK