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Harding’s Rams, with interim coach Walt Aikens at the helm, are 2-0 for first time since 2007

By Langston Wertz Jr.
lwertz@charlotteobserver.com

Harding named Walter Aikens interim football coach just a few days before the start of the 2013 high school season. Aikens, a successful head boys’ basketball coach, had been on the football staff for five seasons. The kids knew him and he knew the kids.

Rams coach Deveron Harper needed to finish course work to get his teacher’s certification. Harper has remained on staff, too. With Aikens leading the team, Harding is off to a 2-0 start, its best since 2007.

Harding opened the season Aug. 30 with a 27-8 win against Garinger. The Rams beat archrival West Charlotte 14-8 on Friday. They won the games in totally different ways.

Against Garinger, quarterback Xavier Caple completed 4-of-9 passes for 95 yards and led a rushing attack that gained 228 yards. Against West Charlotte, Harding’s defense took advantage of six West Charlotte turnovers, including linebacker Travis Brown’s interception with 37 seconds left that sealed the win.

West Charlotte was on Harding’s 19 before Brown made his potentially game-saving play.

In the next three weeks, Harding will play East Mecklenburg (0-3) at home Thursday and at South Meck (0-3) Sept. 27. The Rams are off Sept. 20. Each of the next two games are winnable, and Harding could arrive at its Oct. 4 home game with state power Charlotte Catholic unbeaten.

Not many people would have predicted that.

• Shelby looks like a serious state championship contender in 2A. The Golden Lions have given two strong 3A teams all they wanted in back-to-back weeks. Shelby lost 49-42 to Asheville Reynolds two weeks ago and had a 10-point lead at powerhouse South Point Friday before losing 35-24.

Shelby, long a power-run team, has a burgeoning star in junior R.J. George, who smashed the school’s single-game pass record against South Point with 323 yards passing. The old record was 279.

• West Rowan beat Salisbury 55-0 Friday without star tailback Daisean Reddick (ankle). Keyows Weeks ran for 158 yard and two scores and West Rowan handed Salisbury the worst loss in school history. West Rowan has won 13 straight in the series.

• South Caldwell received terrible news recently when it learned 3,000-yard rusher Zac Pollard is out indefinitely with torn ligaments in his knee. On Friday, the Spartans got good news – junior tailback Gavin Reed rushed for 94 yards and had 83 yards receiving in a 17-13 win over Alexander Central. South Caldwell, even without Pollard, is 3-0.

• Impressive bounce-back win for Butler, which smashed Greensboro Page 56-14 Friday. The Bulldogs lost 20-7 to Sweet 16 No. 1 Mallard Creek and looked listless on offense.

In 2011, Page ruined Butler’s hopes for a state championship three-peat when the Bulldogs melted in the second half of a late round playoff loss. Page (1-2) isn’t the power it’s been recently, but it’s still a solid win for a young Butler team (2-1).

On Friday, Butler scored on three of its first five plays and ran away. Bulldogs coach Brian Hales wants to use a tough schedule to get his team ready for the postseason, and this is the kind of response to a loss he was looking for. Next week, Butler faces a good Mount Tabor team (2-1) that has already beaten Porter Ridge. After that, on Sept. 20, Butler goes to Richmond Senior. If Butler comes out of that with two strong performances, and especially if it comes out with two wins, Hales’ team could be a strong factor in the race for a state title.

• Olympic allowed 34 points to Myers Park in its first game two weeks ago. Trojans coach Barry Shuford, one of the region’s most underrated coaches, had a bye week and made some good moves with a defense that only returned four starters, including North Carolina-bound defensive end Robert Jenkins. Olympic lost to Independence Friday, but the Patriots’ 21-8 win was totally unlike easy shutout wins against South Meck and North Meck to start the season. Independence led 14-8 at halftime.

Olympic has a pretty favorable schedule ahead and could be in the mix with West Meck and Charlotte Catholic for a potential SoMeck 8 conference championship. The bad news? The Trojans must play both teams on the road.

Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr; facebook.com/queencitypreps
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