Friday night, North Mecklenburg High's football team hosts Berry Academy to start the 2008 season. Vikings coach Glen Padgett isn't exactly sure what he'll see.
Padgett has 10 seniors on his team and only two starters returning. And he's changed everything. North Meck rushed for more than 7,000 yards the past two years. This season, with most of his former offensive line gone, Padgett plans to pass a lot out of spread formations.
“Lots of times when you hear stories about new schools opening up, people tend to forget how that really impacts the (older) schools that feed them,” Padgett said. “We lost 50 would-be jayvee and varsity players and rising ninth graders to Mallard Creek. Vance is in the same boat.”
Normally, Padgett might expect 180 kids to show up for tryouts. This year, he had 80. So he's devised what he thinks is the best plan with resources. It's one of the beauties of high school sports: you adapt to what you have.
North Meck has a solid junior cornerback in Donshae Joyce, who had six interceptions last year. He'll move to free safety in a brand new defensive scheme. Seniors Blake Hart and Tyler Kratz, who split time starting on the offensive line last year, each get a starting spot this season. Junior Xavier Joplin, who rushed for 1,000 yards as a reserve last year, will be the feature back, although he may miss Friday's game with a strained thumb.
Padgett is high on quarterback Bradley Clay, a transfer from Concord Robinson who moved to Huntersville last January and played baseball for the Vikings in the spring. With junior Chris Moon leading a solid corps of receivers, Padgett is convinced North Meck can quickly morph from grind-it-out to air-it-out.
“We're a work in progress,” Padgett said. “The good thing is the kids are enthused about the changes and have bought into the philosophy of it.”
Sorry, I can't buy that Michael Phelps is the greatest athlete or Olympian of all-time. He's a heckuva swimmer, and clearly the story of these Games, but who was claiming Mark Spitz was better than Jesse Owens 35 years ago?
This argument that Redeem Team is better than Dream Team '92 may carry a little more weight. Dream Team was older with less to prove. But I think '92 beats '08 because of more overall talent and the greatest ever, Michael Jordan.
Usain Bolt's 100-meter dash, when he slowed down, beat his chest, looked back at the field – and still set a world record – is the most amazing single event from these Games.
The best high school football game in the area Friday is Charlotte Catholic at South Mecklenburg. Both teams should make deep playoff runs.
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; email@example.com
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