Harding Highs football team is 3-0. This is big news. The Rams, who will play at South Mecklenburg on Friday night, won one game in 2012, three games in 2011 and three games in 2010.
Rams senior Brittain King-McKay was a freshman in 2010 and found himself crying uncontrollably as a junior varsity defensive back. Harding was playing South Mecklenburg and King-McKay, playing his first game, got beat deep twice. South Mecklenburg scored both times.
I was embarrassed, he said. I let my feelings get in the way.
Interim coach Walter Aikens was coaching defensive backs then. Aikens had coached King-McKays older brother, Badarrian, who is now 21 and attending N.C. Central. Aikens remembers Brittain coming to a lot of Rams practices and games starting in sixth grade. He never stopped coming. King-McKay, now 17, said he was amazed at the speed of the game.
I always thought I would come to Harding, he said. I would watch my brother play and see how everyone acted. Man, I just wanted to be out there.
When he finally got his chance, King-McKay got burned. Twice.
Aikens walked over to him on the sideline and tried to console him. He failed.
He didnt understand, Aikens said. He got beat and couldnt accept it. He cried like a baby. And we said hell have to sit because theres nothing we could do. He wouldnt snap out of it.
After the game, King-McKay said everyone counseled him friends, parents, coaches. Everyones message was the same: move on to the next play. Theres nothing you can do about the last one.
It took a few days, but the message set in.
In practice the next week and in subsequent games Aikens said he saw a different player.
From that moment, Aikens said, he grew up. Hes matured and hes become a leader. Hes now an excellent kid with great character.
This season, King-McKay has been one of Aikens most important players. Despite being only 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds, King-McKay is the starter at slot receiver and cornerback. He returns punts and kickoffs and hes the backup quarterback, too.
He stays on the field the entire game, Aikens said. Hes been huge in every aspect. Hes contributing. If its making a big catch, which hes done several times, or making a big turnover, hes been involved in it. Hes been really consistent, and youve got to have your key players be consistent.
And he finds ways to do it despite his size. Hes really undersized for what hes showing us.
For the season, King-McKay has 21 rushes for 295 yards and a score, averaging a healthy 14.04 yards per attempt. Hes got five catches for 105 yards and another score. On defense, he has 24 tackles and an interception return for a score. On special teams, King-McKay averages 50 yards per kick return and 23.3 yards per punt return.
He had his biggest game against East Mecklenburg two weeks ago. He scored three touchdowns and had 224 yards total offense in a 48-28 win. He scored on a 6-yard run, a 40-yard run and a 56-yard interception.
He stepped it up that game, Aikens said. We knew were 2 and 0 going in and we knew what it meant. It was our first home game, too. The heart he showed on the field, breaking tackles was amazing. A lot of times, he shouldve taken the play outside and he cuts it up into the heart of the defense. At his size, thats suicidal for him.
But hes able to withstand the pounding. It seems the more they hit him, the more he wants the ball. The kid got in and took over the game basically.
Aikens said King-McKay has come a long way from the kid who got burned on JV four years ago.
King-McKay, who favors musicians Rick Ross and Gucci Mane and loves the old-school TV sitcom Martin, said it was important that he changed his point of view.
I learned to put my emotions aside, he said. I learned that plays are going to happen and youve got to put it aside and move on to the next play. A lot of people talked to me and I realized that things are going to happen, its part of the game. Its how you react thats most important.
Yes, Im better because of what happened to me in ninth grade. I used to try to get mad and play harder, but when you do, your performance goes down. Now what I do is simple: I just stay in the game and keep playing.
Wertz: 704-612-9716; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr; Facebook.com/queencitypreps
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