Harding Highs football team ended a 12-game losing streak Friday, and Rams athletics director Michael McRae said that it felt really, really good.
Harding beat Garinger 20-6. It was the schools first win since beating East Gaston 27-20 on Sept. 30, 2011.
It was long overdue, McRae said Saturday. The kids were excited about this week. They knew they had a chance. And its important for our program to get a win. Were trying to boost morale at school so its important. Its so big for our athletes.
McRae said a lack of athletes has hurt Harding, a 3A school that plays a 4A-caliber schedule. Harding (1-8) has played six 4A teams this season. Due to a small roster, McRae said the Rams have a high number of players that rarely come off the field.
The numbers we have, at a typical school our size is like a JV team, McRae said. Thats kind of tough for us right now. You go to our games and were right into games until we get tired.
McRae said many potential athletes are not eligible academically and some of the incoming potential players from middle school are arriving on campus ineligible. To combat that, McRae has started a program called Check In and Check Out, where he and his staff monitor academic progress of current and potential athletes in school to make sure theyre doing the things they need to do in the classroom.
Were in the rebuilding stage of our program, McRae said. Im confident that the coaches are preparing our athletes to compete and Im definitely confident in the direction that our football program is going, even though we didnt win as many games wed like to have.
• After missing six weeks with a broken hand, Butler All-American senior quarterback Riley Ferguson plans to play in Fridays Southwestern 4A championship game against Independence.
Ferguson has not played since September, when he injured his right (throwing) hand. His mother, Diana, told the Observer that her son will play at Memorial Stadium this week.
He is SO looking forward to it! Diana Ferguson said in a text message. Hes back.
Riley Ferguson passed for more than 700 yards in about three games this season. Hell return one week before the start of the N.C. 4AA playoffs, where Butler will try to win its third state title in four years.
Butler won the state title with Ferguson starting under center two years ago. Last season, Butler was upset in the quarterfinals by eventual state champ Greensboro Page.
Ferguson has committed to Tennessee.
• Watching Duke-North Carolina (or actually listening to it while I wrote this article), I couldnt help but think how much different those teams rosters would be (as well as Wake Forest and N.C. State) if more of the top in-state talent didnt leave. Watching all the former area stars in the Florida-South Carolina game, it was hard to not wonder: What if?
• Raleigh Wakefields Connor Mitch set a new state record with nine touchdown passes in Fridays 70-42 win over Raleigh Broughton. The old mark of eight was shared by former Independence stars Chris Leak and Joe Cox and Davidson Days Will Grier.