Friday, August 29, 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 email to lwertz@charlotteobserver.com


Q. Who are the top 10 teams in the Carolinas right now?
I have been wanting to do a statewide top 10 for some time that is inclusive of everyone, but a Carolinas top 10? I have to be honest, I don't know enough about all of South Carolina to really give you one, but I'll try:
1 Duncan Byrnes (S.C.); 2. Independence; 3. Rock Hill South Pointe; 4. Wilmington Hoggard; 5. Crestwood (S.C.); 6. Northwestern, S.C.; 7. Rocky Mount; 8. Dorman, S.C.; 9. Raleigh Millbrook; 10. Daniel, S.C.

Q. Langston, you used to always talk about CMS needing a city championship. Any progress towards it? I'd like to see it.

A. I'd like to see it, too. At one point there were two organizations backing a game, but talk has died down. I think it would be great for this city/county. I know players and parents always ask me about it. I think with the big four private schools adopting the eight semester rule, a big road block has been bypassed. I know a lot of CMS schools are wary of Victory Christian because Victory doesn't have an eight-semester rule.

My suggestion would be to try a city championship, over Christmas holiday -- since so many are struggling with the idea of eliminating conference tournaments - and have the big four privates (Latin, Country Day, Providence Day and Charlotte Christian) plus the CMS teams. I loved the idea of the regional events in different quadrants and bringing a Final Four to somewhere uptown (Bobcats, Cricket). If you do it right and get TV involved and radio involved, it would be the best thing to happen to high schools in my career here, I think.

Q. Langston, your thoughts on Richmond and Dudley Friday and who is the best team in Charlotte? Folks seem stupified by that one right now.

A. I think Richmond Senior has a wicked schedule, playing 4AA champ New Bern, 3AA champ Dudley and a good-looking Anson County team three straight games. They should really be playoff tested in November. (And I hope the Anson fans saw their shout out on this week's Insiders video blog: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/420/index.html?media_id=2121365)

As for Richmond-Dudley, the Raiders always get a boost from the home crowd and in the case of two pretty evenly matched teams, I'd say Richmond 20-14.

Q. Langston, you keep saying Crest is coming. What about Shelby? We're here.

A. No question, Shelby is here and I think, despite some starters graduating, the Golden Lions have a shot at a fifth straight state title appearance. Crest is young but very talented. I would expect we'll hear a little from them this year, more in '09 and a heckuva lot in 2010.

Q. Great previews on soccer and the other non-football sports. I hope you plan to do better w/covering those sports this year. You always seem to wait until late in the year.

A. Thanks, that was a lot of work done right in the middle of getting ready for football. Glad you liked our efforts. With Brett Honeycutt not with us anymore, Cliff Mehrtens and I really have to keep our pedal to the metal so to speak. As far as coverage, we've already done a few soccer games and we'll hit some other sports, too, with live coverage. We also launched our Prep Page on Thursday that is devoted to non-football sports.

Q. Langston, how far can this young Butler team go? Who do you expect to win the Butler-Independence game?

A. I saw Butler in preseason workouts and they were the best-looking team I saw along with South Pointe of Rock Hill. I think it may take a few weeks, but when Butler figures out how to match its talent with a little experience, watch out. My preseason Sweet 16 No. 1 for 2009, if I had to choose now, would be the Bulldogs. I'm going to watch them tonight play North Meck, so check back with me tonight or tomorrow and I'll give you more impressions.

Q. Aw-right Langston. You got us this morning in Greensboro with "Aggie Slide." We cant' hide from that. I have two questions. You think Smith will beat us and do you think any Greensboro prep teams have a shot at states?

A. I can't take full credit for the "Aggie Slide" line. A friend gave me that one. I just asked to "borrow" it for print. A&T sports are hurting. Football down. Men's basketball way down. Do I think Smith beats A&T? No. A&T has or should have a huge talent advantage. I think A&T brass signed this game to end the streak. If you lose to Smith, well, that would not be a good thing.

Q. LW, glad you brought the Q&A back. I wanted to know about the new QB at Butler. I heard he has skills. What do you think?

A. Christian LeMay is a 6-3 sophomore with a big arm. Coach Mike Newsome feels he's better than Jacob Charest at the same age and all Charest is -- is stastically one of the top five passers ever from Meck County. Again, I'm seeing Butler tonight. Check back with questions later for more impressions....As for the Q&A, it never left. I was on vacation some this summer and then swamped with football. Ask away now. I enjoy the banter.

Q. Langston, break down that East Meck and West Charlotte game Friday. Looks like best in town. You agree?

A. I don't know about it being the best. I kind of like North-Butler a little more. West Charlotte has five kids who played last year and went up to what I think is a playoff bound Ashbrook team and handled them. And the Lions top player, tailback Scoot Simmons, didn't have a big game. East gave up 16 yards to Waddell but Waddell only has 21 players. Tonight is a much tougher test for East and another test for the Dub.

Q. Langston, I couldn't believe the girls you left out of the volleyball preview. My daughter was one. Did you do ANY research? You should be ashamed of yourself.

A. I'm not sure what school your daughter goes to or what her name is, but think about this. I sit down to do a preview that encompasses 127 schools. I can't hit everyone if I tried. We send out questionnaires to coaches. Annually, we get about 25 percent back for our non-revenue sports. I can't know every good player and in today's climate, just because you were all-state at Bandys last year as a junior doesn't mean you're at Bandys as a senior. In the old days, we used to go through last year's teams and automatically list players on this year's lists. Can't do that anymore. I'm sorry I missed her, but e-mail with her name and stats during the year. There's time to write about her.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

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

Observer staff writer Langston Wertz Jr. answers your sports-related questions. E-mail questions to lwertz@charlotteobserver.com or post them at the bottom of this blog

Why is Shelby ranked so high in the Sweet 16?
I know Shelby lost some kids, but they have a lot of kids back. And you have to look at them relative to the field, not relative to Shelby 2007. I think last year the state was particularly strong, maybe not as much this year, so you don't have to be quite as good - at least in our area - to rank high. But I think the poll will work itself out. It always does.

What do you make of Independence this season?
Not quite sure yet. They looked pretty good in a scrimmage against Charlotte Catholic, though they couldn't score much when they got close. They looked better than the 31-14 final indicated against Byrnes, pretty much down seven when the benches cleared, and I hear they beat Northwestern easily. I've never seen this many Independence kids have to go both ways, so injuries will be key. I think they have enough core talent to go to a ninth straight final, but there isn't a lot of depth. A few injuries could hurt. And Independence isn't as big as usual.

Rumor is this is Tom Knotts' last year. You buy that?
Last year coaching? No. He loves it too much. Last year at Independence? Let's see what happens, if anything, in December.

Your high school section was pretty good, but why don't you do team-by-team stories like the Weekly did?
I saw that section. I thought Jemal Horton and his staff did a wonderful job. Our missions are a little different in that they go after a much more concentrated area than we do. I think maybe we could do more with our regional publications in Charlotte to address some of your concerns.

What is up with the mass transfers right now?
I think kids, or their parents, just want to get to winning teams. About the same as always.

Butler girls or West Charlotte girls now?
Well don't forget about East Mecklenburg. They've got an impressive freshmen class in and a wealth of players back. But if I were doing a Sweet 16, my personal Sweet 16, right now, I'd probably go Butler, Concord, West Charlotte. On paper, Butler may have the most talented girls' basketball team ever from Mecklenburg County. They have five legit Division I prospects, and lots of size. The target will be big on their jerseys this year.

Did Reggie Price leave Garinger?
Yes. He's at Lake Norman High now.

What is up at Waddell? We got 21 players. Our new coach didn't come from D.C. for this, did he?
It's an uphill climb there, that's for sure. I think they'll find more kids to come out and play once school gets started this week. Staff writer Cliff Mehrtens went to their practice and talked about how hard the kids worked and played. Said the same thing after their game Friday with East Mecklenburg. You have to admire their spunk.

Will you print your personal Sweet 16 votes here like last year?
Sure just remind me each week.

N.C. Girls' Tennis polls

Week One Regular Season

Class 4A
Team Points
1) Greensboro Page 69
2) East Chapel Hill 63
3) Raleigh Broughton 56
4) Wilmington Hoggard 47
5) Charlotte Myers Park 42
6) Raleigh Athens Drive 27
7) Charlotte Providence 20
8) Ashbrook 17
Green Hope 17
10) Chapel Hill 9
Others receiving votes: Weddington (8), J.H. Rose (7), Greensboro Grimsley (2), Terry Sanford (1).

Class 3A
Team Points
1) Charlotte Catholic 86
2) T.C. Roberson 84
3) Wilson Fike 69
4) Lake Norman 56
5) Rocky Mount 48
6) Southeast Guilford 34
7) Burlington Williams 31
8) Union Pines 28
9) Eastern Wayne 25
Ragsdale 25
Others Receiving Votes: Hickory (13), Marvin Ridge (1), Western Guilford (1).



Class 2A
Team Points
1) Cardinal Gibbons 67
2) Salisbury 66
3) Greene Central 47
4) Edenton Holmes 45
5) North Stanly 43
6) Newton-Conover 33
7) Ashe County 21
8) Tarboro 19
9) Surry Central 10
10)East Lincoln 8
Others Receiving Votes: McMichael (5), Lexington (4), Southern Vance (4), East Duplin (3), East Henderson (3), Patton (3), Shelby (2), Carrboro (1), Cedar Ridge (1).

Class 1A
Team Points
1) N.C. School of Math and Science 37
2) Mt. Airy 35
3) Topsail 30
4) East Wilkes 29
5) Jordan-Matthews 22
6) North Stokes 15
7) Bishop McGuinness 13
8) Spring Creek 11
9) Gray Stone Day 10
10)East Montgomery 7
Others Receiving Votes: East Surry (5), Hendersonville (2), Williamston (2), Gates County (1), Wallace Rose

- Cliff Mehrtens

Monday, August 25, 2008

Friday's football gems, clunkers

So, what jumped out at me the first week of high school football?

Here’s a half dozen of the good and the bad.

Let’s start with “Top Three Gems”:

1. Mallard Creek
Last season’s one-victory total was matched in a 46-17 pounding against Ardrey Kell. Second-year Mallard Creek might open more eyes, especially if sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams (four touchdown passes) gets room to operate.

2. Dual at Mooresville
As 1-on-1 battles go, this was a dilly. Catawba Bandys’ Kyle Houser threw for a school-record 452 yards and four touchdowns. Mooresville’s Jishaun Pinkston ran for five touchdowns, and 255 yards on 31 carries. He also had a 75-yard kickoff return. Final: Bandys won 40-35.

3. Record run
Hickory Ridge’s Brett Lilly tied a record that can’t be broken, scoring on a 99-yard run in a 34-6 victory against Mount Pleasant.

Here are my “Top Three Clunkers”:

1. Charlotte Catholic allowing 30 points in a loss at South Mecklenburg.

2. Providence throwing four interceptions in a loss to Olympic.

3. Waddell’s two punts of less than six yards.


- Cliff Mehrtens

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Before Berens struck gold, I was his media 'mob'

Ricky Berens, mobbed by 500 journalists in Beijing?

I remember when I was the “mob”, usually with an Observer photographer, not-so-crowding Berens as a standout swimmer at South Mecklenburg High.

Berens won an Olympic gold medal in the men's’ 4 x 200 freestyle relay yesterday, with his famous relay pal Michael Phelps. Got some encouraging words from President Bush. Watched the NBA guys playing basketball in the Olympics.

And, he sparked I-know-that-guy pride all around Charlotte.

Berens, 20, was the state’s best when he was in high school. He’d often win races by 10 or 12 seconds. Now he swims in an elite college program (Texas) and is being targeted as a hot swimmer for the 2012 Olympics.

As a high schooler, Berens was confident, but not braggy. I remember he’d often talk about the importance of how the team would fare, not just rambling on about his races.

Leslie Berens, his mom, coached at South Meck before Ricky arrived there. She often (and still does) urged me to write about South Meck swimming, but never once said “Do a story on Ricky.”

It was always about South Meck’s chances, or the girls’ team, or some up-and-coming crop that was going to make the Sabres a contender.

Today – on an international stage – it’s about Ricky.

And it should be.


- Cliff Mehrtens

Monday, August 11, 2008

N.C. champ Randolph off to Legion regional

Randolph County won its first American Legion N.C. baseball championship since 1978 with a 7-4 victory against Cherryville on Saturday at Sims Legion Park in Gastonia.

Outfielder Ethan Marsh was named the tournament Most Valuable Player.

Randolph County (40-12) advanced to the Legion Southeast Regional, which will begin Thursday at Keeter Stadium on Shelby High’s campus. The double-elimination tournament includes eight state champions, and will continue through Monday.

In the first round, Randolph County will play Leesburg (the Georgia champion) at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Cherryville, the N.C. champion last year, finished 43-8.

-Cliff Mehrtens

Sunday, August 10, 2008

DAY 5: N.C. Legion baseball tournament

-- Saturday’s schedule in the double-elimination American Legion N.C. baseball tournament at Sims Legion Park in Gastonia:

1 p.m. – Championship game: Cherryville (42-7) vs. Randolph County (39-11).
Cherryville must win twice Saturday, since Randolph hasn’t lost in the tournament. If Cherryville wins the 1 p.m. game, a second game will follow at about 4 p.m.

-- Friday’s fourth-round results and highlights:

Cherryville 6, Rowan County 3 – Drew Reynolds, making just his second start of the season on the mound, pitched 6 2/3 strong innings as Cherryville advanced to Saturday’s championship round. Aaron Haynes pitched the final 2 1/3 innings to pick up the save for Cherryville, which is the reigning state champion.
Cherryville’s Tripp McSwain and Jake Watts had two hits apiece. Rowan County (34-16) was eliminated.

Randolph County 13, Clayton 2 – Randolph County pounded 17 hits in a game that was shortened to six innings by the 10-run mercy rule. Randolph County, seeking its first state title since 1978, was led by Steven Davis, whose four hits included a home run and two doubles. Josh Hohn and Cameron Cockman had three hits apiece for Randolph County, and Nolan Seawell hit a three-run home run. Clayton (21-13) was eliminated.


-- Cliff Mehrtens

Friday, August 8, 2008

Watauga has 2 scrimmages next week

Watauga will participate in two preseason football scrimmages: Wednesday, Aug. 13 at Newton-Conover at 6 p.m.; and Saturday, Aug. 16 at Hibriten High at 6 p.m.

The Pioneers open the regular season at Davie County Aug. 22 at 7:30.

Watauga's first home game is on Friday, Sept. 5 against Avery County at 7:30.

Note: Earlier schedules may have had the first scrimmage vs. Newton-Conover listed for Thursday, Aug. 14. The correct date is Wednesday, Aug. 13.

Day 4: N.C. Legion baseball tournament

Friday’s schedule in the double-elimination American Legion N.C. baseball tournament at Sims Legion Park in Gastonia:

3 p.m.: Cherryville (41-7) vs. Rowan County (34-15)…Loser is eliminated.
7 p.m.: Clayton (21-12) vs. Randolph County (38-11)…If Clayton loses, it is eliminated. Randolph County has no losses in the tournament.
NOTE: Saturday’s championship game will be at 1 p.m. If a second game is necessary, it will be about 45 minutes after the first game is completed.


Thursday’s third-round results and highlights:

Randolph County 7, Rowan County 1: Tyler McSwain and Austin Moyer hit a home run for the second consecutive game, leading Randolph County to a winners’ bracket victory. Teammate Hunter Ridge had three hits and Nolan Seawell added two hits. Noah Holmes had an RBI-single for Rowan County.

Cherryville 12, Gastonia 1: Cherryville eliminated Gastonia in a game shortened to seven innings by the 10-run mercy rule. Drew Reynolds and Tyler Buff had three hits apiece for Cherryville. Gastonia scored on Adam Reynolds’ home run with two outs in the seventh inning.

Clayton 11, Hope Mills 8: Clayton’s Brian Mills and Blake Murray had three hits apiece, and Hope Mills was eliminated.

- Cliff Mehrtens

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Charlotte schools rally to help Providence

Providence High’s football team, as athletics director Phillip Schundlemire said, could have “been in a world of hurt.”

Instead, the generosity of other schools and some timely maneuvering by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ athletics department made the start of practice as smooth as possible.

Two days before practice began, an early-morning fire leveled two storage buildings and destroyed about $20,000 worth of equipment, not the kind of distraction a team ever needs.

“A good many schools volunteered to lend us equipment right away,” Schundlemire said. “Ardrey Kell, Independence, Mallard Creek, just about everyone. But (CMS athletics director) Vicki Hamilton has to be credited for stepping up and expediting matters for us to be able to get new stuff right away.”

Providence was able to obtain almost everything it needed, and even watched some of it being put together at Fisher Athletic Equipment (in Salisbury), Schundlemire said.

When practice began Friday, Providence was in good shape.

Schundlemire has worked at various CMS schools the past 19 years, and wasn’t surprised that others offered immediate help.

“The ADs are a great bunch of guys and gals,” he said. “We don’t like to see each other suffer. We’ve all had problems in some fashion or another and know what it’s like.”

Coach Randy Long didn’t let the fire dampen players’ spirits, Schundlemire said. The Panthers didn’t long for much, and practices beckoned, so there weren’t lengthy periods of angst or remorse.

“It’s just good to know the people I work with have our backs when something like this happened,” Schundlemire said. “It all worked out well.”

- Cliff Mehrtens

Day 3: N.C. Legion baseball tournament

Thursday’s schedule in the double-elimination American Legion N.C. baseball tournament at Sims Legion Park in Gastonia:

12:30 p.m.: Gastonia (9-22) vs. Cherryville (40-7)…Loser is eliminated.
4:30 p.m.: Clayton (20-12) vs. Hope Mills (20-9)…Loser is eliminated.
7:30 p.m.: Rowan County (34-14) vs. Randolph County (37-11)…Winners’ bracket game; both teams are 2-0 in the tournament.

Wednesday’s second-round results and highlights:

Randolph County 12, Cherryville 2: The game was shortened to eight innings by the 10-run mercy rule. Randolph’s Tyler McSwain and Austin Moyer each hit a three-run home run. Cherryville scored on home runs by Jake Watts and Seth Freeman.

Gastonia 9, Wayne County 8: Host Gastonia staved off elimination by rallying from a 7-2 deficit, and snapped a seven-game losing streak. Trey Ferry had three hits and Brandon Harris hit a two-run home run for Gastonia. Wayne County was eliminated.

Rowan County 7, Hope Mills 4: Micah Jarrett had three hits and two RBIs for Rowan, which advanced to the winners’ bracket final. Noah Holmes, Trey Holmes and D.C. Cranford had two hits apiece for Rowan.

Clayton 6, Wilmington 5: Clayton rallied from a 5-1 deficit behind Brad Fletcher, who hit two home runs and had five RBIs. Wilmington was eliminated.

- Cliff Mehrtens

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Day 2: N.C. Legion baseball tournament

Wednesday’s schedule in the double-elimination American Legion N.C. baseball tournament at Sims Legion Park in Gastonia:

9:30 a.m. – Wilmington (18-13) vs. Clayton (19-12)…Loser is eliminated
12:30 p.m. – Gastonia (8-22) vs. Wayne County (24-7)…Loser is eliminated
4:30 p.m. – Randolph County (36-11) vs. Cherryville (40-6)….Winners bracket game
7:30 p.m. - Rowan County (33-14) vs. Hope Mills (20-8)…Winners bracket game

Tuesday’s first-round results and highlights:

Rowan County 9, Wayne County 1: Rowan banged out 19 hits, including four apiece by leadoff hitter Justin Roland and Austin Shull. Noah Holmes hit a home run and had four RBIs. Winning pitcher Tanner Brown also hit a home run, and allowed one run in seven innings.

Cherryville 12, Wilmington 1: The game was shortened to seven innings by the 10-run mercy rule. Winning pitcher Jake Watts improved to 11-0, and Cherryville scored nine runs in the sixth inning. Nate Wright hit a three-run home run, and Tyler Buff and Korey Martin each had a home run.

Hope Mills 7, Gastonia 2: Host team Gastonia jumped to a 2-0 lead, but couldn’t hold on. Preston Lyon had three hits for Gastonia.

Randolph County 7, Clayton 3: Steven Davis was the winning pitcher, and went 3-for-3 with three RBIs at the plate.

- Cliff Mehrtens

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Legion tournament underway today in Gastonia

The American Legion N.C. baseball tournament begins today at Sims Legion Park in Gastonia.

The double-elimination event will continue through Saturday. Tickets are $30 for a tournament pass, or $10 daily.

Tuesday’s schedule:

9:30 a.m. – Randolph County (35-11) vs. Clayton (19-11)
12:30 p.m. – Rowan County (32-14) vs. Wayne County (24-6)
4:30 p.m. – Cherryville (39-6) vs. Wilmington (18-12)
7:30 p.m. – Gastonia (8-21) vs. Hope Mills (19-8)

Cherryville Post 100 is the reigning state champion.

The winner won’t have to travel far.

The American Legion Southeast Regional tournament will be Aug. 13-18 at Shelby’s Hoyt Keeter Stadium, followed by the American Legion World Series (Aug. 21-26), also in Shelby.

- Cliff Mehrtens

Monday, August 4, 2008

Indy missing from preseason national poll

KANSAS CITY, Mo. --
After being a fixture in the national polls from 2000 until early in the 2007 season, Independence is unranked in at least one national preseason poll.
The Patriots finished 13-3 last season, losing in the state championship game to New Bern, ending a bid to become the state's first champion to win eight titles in a row. The Patriots best player, senior safety DeVonte Holloman, transferred to Rock Hill South Pointe.
Independence remains a regional favorite for a N.C. state title, but the National Prep Poll doesn't include Indy in its top 25. Rival Duncan Byrnes (SC) is ranked No. 2 behind Euless Trinity (TX).
The Patriots are No. 6 in the East Coast rankings, where Byrnes is No. 1. Rock Hill Northwestern is ranked No. 7 in the East Coast region and Dorman Roebuck (SC) is No. 10.
-- Langston Wertz Jr.
---------------------------------------------
The National Prep Football Poll is compiled by high school sports journalist Jamie DeMoney with input from sportswriters, experts, and coaches. The national Top 25 and regional Top 10's follow with 2007 won-loss-tie records:

#1. Euless, Texas, Trinity (15-1-0), 40-3 with two state titles since ‘05
#2. Duncan, S.C., Byrnes (15-0-0), five 4A titles last six seasons
#3. Valdosta, Ga., Lowndes (14-1-0), led by Florida recruit RB/DB Greg Reid
#4. Batesville, Miss., South Panola (15-0-0), has nation’s longest active win streak (75)
#5. Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Aquinas (14-1-0), opens Aug. 30 at Ohio power Cincinnati Elder
#6. Concord, Calif., De La Salle (13-0-0), coach Bob Ladouceur is 332-20-3 in 29 years
#7. Monroeville, Pa., Gateway (11-2-0), LB Dorian Bell and DB/WR Corey Brown headed to Ohio St.
#8. Seffner, Fla., Armwood (13-1-0), back-to-back state champ in 2004-05
#9. Corona, Calif., Centennial (13-2-0), Division I state runner-up in ‘07
#10. Houston, North Shore (14-1-0), 70 consecutive regular-season wins
#11. Cleveland, St. Ignatius (8-3-0), two-time Prep Poll titlist (’93, ’95)
#12. Jenks, Okla. (13-1-0), sixth time in preseason Top 25 since 2000
#13. Bastrop, La. (15-0-0), owns three straight 4A state titles
#14. Chesapeake, Va., Oscar Smith (13-1-0), 14 starters returning from state semifinalist
#15. Louisville, Ky., Trinity (13-2-0), six large-school titles in seven years
#16. Orange, Calif., Lutheran (10-2-0), Division II state champion in ’06
#17. Sammamish, Wash., Skyline (14-0-0), led by standout junior QB Jake Heaps
#18. Cincinnati, St. Xavier (15-0-0), reigning Prep Poll champ has only four starters back
#19. Prattville, Ala. (15-0-0), back-to-back defending 6A titlist
#20. Ramsey, N.J., Don Bosco (12-0-0), win streak at 24
#21. Chicago, Mount Carmel (12-1-0), 10 state crowns since 1980
#22. Kansas City, Mo., Rockhurst (13-0-0), playing teams from four states
#23. Plano, Texas (13-2-0), Texas’ winningest team last 50 years
#24. Apopka, Fla., (12-2-0), led by Michigan-bound QB/RB Jeremy Gallon
#25. Phoenix, Desert Vista (9-5-0), DE Devon Kennard had 24 sacks last season
<
^Northeast=
#1. Monroeville, Pa., Gateway, 11-2-0
#2. Ramsey, N.J., Don Bosco, 12-0-0
#3. Jersey City, N.J., St. Peter’s, 11-1-0
#4. Wexford, Pa., North Allegheny, 11-1-0
#5. Allentown, Pa., Parkland, 15-1-0
#6. Langhorne, Pa., Neshaminy, 11-2-0
#7. Philadelphia, Saint Joseph’s Prep, 10-3-0
#8. Everett, Mass., 13-0-0
#9. Montvale, N.J., St. Joseph’s, 9-2-0
#10. Mastic Beach, N.Y., Floyd, 11-0-0
<
^East Coast=
#1. Duncan, S.C., Byrnes, 15-0-0
#2. Chesapeake, Va., Oscar Smith, 13-1-0
#3. Ashburn, Va., Stone Bridge, 14-1-0
#4. Hampton, Va., Phoebus, 13-1-0
#5. Gaithersburg, Md., Quince Orchard, 14-0-0
#6. Charlotte, N.C., Independence, 13-3-0
#7. Rock Hill, S.C., South Pointe, 9-4-0
#8. Hyattsville, Md., DeMatha, 10-2-0
#9. West Springfield, Va., 10-3-0
#10. Roebuck, S.C., Dorman, 10-3-0
<
^Southeast=
#1. Valdosta, Ga., Lowndes, 14-1-0
#2. Batesville, Miss., South Panola, 15-0-0
#3. Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Aquinas, 14-1-0
#4. Seffner, Fla., Armwood, 13-1-0
#5. Bastrop, La., 15-0-0
#6. Prattville, Ala., 15-0-0
#7. Apopka, Fla., 12-2-0
#8. Naples, Fla., 15-0-0
#9. Pahokee, Fla., 14-0-0
#10. West Monroe, La., 10-1-0
<
^Midwest=
#1. Cleveland, St. Ignatius, 8-3-0
#2. Louisville, Ky., Trinity, 13-2-0
#3. Cincinnati, St. Xavier, 15-0-0
#4. Chicago, Mount Carmel, 12-1-0
#5. Cleveland, Glenville, 10-3-0
#6. Park Ridge, Ill., Maine South, 10-2-0
#7. Greenwood, Ind., Center Grove, 9-2-0
#8. Hartland, Wis., Arrowhead, 14-0-0
#9. Louisville, Ky., St. Xavier, 14-1-0
#10. Carmel, Ind., 13-2-0
<
^Midlands=
#1. Kansas City, Mo., Rockhurst, 13-0-0
#2. Provo, Utah, Timpview, 13-0-0
#3. Aurora, Colo., Grandview, 12-2-0
#4. Lakewood, Colo., Bear Creek, 10-3-0
#5. Omaha, Neb., Creighton Prep, 7-4-0
#6. Blue Springs, Mo., South, 9-1-0
#7. Denver, Mullen, 12-1-0
#8. Hutchinson, Kan., 13-0-0
#9. Cedar Falls, Iowa, 11-1-0
#10. Eden Prairie, Minn., 14-0-0
<
^Southwest=
#1. Euless, Texas, Trinity, 15-1-0
#2. Houston, North Shore, 14-1-0
#3. Jenks, Okla., 13-1-0
#4. Plano, Texas, 13-2-0
#5. Phoenix, Desert Vista, 9-5-0
#6. Tulsa, Okla., Union, 13-1-0
#7. Allen, Texas, 10-1-0
#8. Southlake, Texas, Carroll, 11-2-0
#9. Lufkin, Texas, 9-2-0
#10. Arlington, Texas, Bowie, 12-2-0
<
^West Coast=
#1. Concord, Calif., De La Salle, 13-0-0
#2. Corona, Calif., Centennial, 13-2-0
#3. Orange, Calif., Lutheran, 10-2-0
#4. Sammamish, Wash., Skyline, 14-0-0
#5. Encino, Calif., Crespi, 11-3-0
#6. Mission Viejo, Calif., 6-4-1
#7. Honolulu, Punahou, 7-2-0
#8. Santa Ana, Calif., Mater Dei, 9-2-0
#9. Oceanside, Calif., 13-1-0
#10. Long Beach, Calif., Poly, 13-1-0
<
--------------------------------
FEATS OF THE WEEK: A team from Texas has won the National Prep Poll title twice this decade, but defending Class 5A/I champion Euless, Trinity is the first from the Lone Star State to be ranked No. 1 at the start of the season. The Trojans are 89-16 in eight years under coach Steve Lineweaver and are 40-3 since the start of the 2005 season. Trinity has 11 total returning starters and four are committed to Big 12 universities. Kansas-bound seniors Earnest Norman, a linebacker, and Prinz Kande, a safety, have started since their freshman year. Cornerback Eryon Barnett (Texas) is another key performer on a suffocating defense that gave up less than 10 points a game last season. Nebraska-bound tailback Tray Robinson will carry the load in the Trojans’ physical, ball-control offense. Four Texas teams have finished the season No. 1 since 1989, including back-to-back Prep Poll titles for Southlake, Carroll in 2004-05 . . . Past National Prep Poll champs, with records and coaches: 1987--Fontana, Calif. (14-0-0), Dick Bruich; 1988--Prichard, Ala., Vigor (13-0-0), Harold Clark; 1989--Odessa, Texas, Permian (16-0-0), Gary Gaines; 1990--Aldine, Texas (15-0-0), Bill Smith; 1991--Indianapolis, Ben Davis (14-0-0), Dick Dullaghan; 1992--Valdosta, Ga. (14-0-0), Nick Hyder; 1993--Cleveland, St. Ignatius (14-0-0), Chuck Kyle; 1994--Concord, Calif., De La Salle (13-0-0), Bob Ladouceur; 1995--Cleveland, St. Ignatius (14-0-0), Chuck Kyle; 1996--Hampton, Va. (14-0-0), Mike Smith; 1997--Hampton, Va. (13-0-0), Mike Smith; 1998--Concord, Calif., De La Salle (12-0-0), Bob Ladouceur; 1999--Shreveport, La., Evangel (15-0-0), Dennis Dunn; 2000--Concord, Calif., De La Salle (13-0-0), Bob Ladouceur; 2001--Concord, Calif., De La Salle (12-0-0), Bob Ladouceur; 2002--Concord, Calif., De La Salle (13-0-0), Bob Ladouceur; 2003--Concord, Calif., De La Salle (13-0-0), Bob Ladouceur; 2004--Southlake, Texas, Carroll (16-0-0), Todd Dodge; 2005--Southlake, Texas, Carroll (16-0-0), Todd Dodge; 2006--Lakeland, Fla. (15-0-0), Bill Castle; and 2007--Cincinnati, St. Xavier (15-0-0), Steve Specht.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Random thoughts on first day of practice

I am convinced that morning football practices are the way to go.

The earlier the better, too.

Waiting until 6 p.m. rarely means a drop in temperature. Some teams prefer mornings, but others go late for various reasons – tradition, easier for players to get rides if needed, volunteer coaches can arrive from day jobs, or just a coach’s preference.

But it’s much cooler from 7:30 to 9 a.m. than anytime in the afternoon. And you rarely have to worry about thunderstorms in the morning.

Friday’s opening practices didn’t get steamy until the sun had been out in full force about an hour.

--------

The two practices I attended – West Mecklenburg and Waddell – were a contrast in numbers.

West Mecklenburg had about 70 players (varsity and junior varsity) spread through five or six drill locations. Athletics director John Yewcic said it was the largest number in recent years. Might be a good sign for new coach Mark Harman, who takes over after Rocky White left for a coaching job in South Carolina.

Waddell, which has struggled the past few years, had 15 players on the field under new coach Quentin Hines. Several others were waiting to file paperwork to become eligible to practice. A few more might arrive once school opens. But the Raiders will battle depth problems.

Hines didn’t fret about the small roster, and had an enthusiastic quote about “coaching the ones we’ve got.”

The rebuilding process seems to be in good hands.

- Cliff Mehrtens

All-America game invites 3 area players

Three Observer-area football players have accepted invitations to play in the prestigious Under Armour All-America game on Jan. 4 in Orlando.

Gastonia Ashbrook receiver Jheranie Boyd, and Rock Hill South Pointe defensive backs DeVonte Holloman and Stephon Gilmore are among 70 of the nation’s top seniors who have committed to play.

The all-star game, in its second year, will switch to a Sunday primetime slot (8-11 p.m.) and be televised live on ESPN. Last year’s debut was televised in a two-hour window on a Saturday afternoon.

The game will be played at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium. Another 10 or so players will be extended invitations, and teams and coaches will be decided at a later date.

Boyd, 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, caught 47 passes for 1,051 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He is considering offers from Florida, Clemson, Southern California, North Carolina and N.C. State, among others.

Holloman (6-2, 213), who recently transferred from Independence High, has committed to Clemson.

Gilmore (6-1, 1800) is South Pointe’s quarterback, but plays occasionally at defensive back, where he’s projected to play in college. Last season, he passed for 1,679 yards and 13 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,145 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is considering South Carolina, Alabama, Clemson, Tennessee and Ohio State, among others.

- Cliff Mehrtens