Charlotte Christian and Charlotte Latin are back in the N.C. Independent Schools state championship football game thanks, in large part, to the play of their quarterbacks.
Charlotte Latin 6-foot-8 senior Bates Jones has passed for 2,110 yards and 30 touchdowns. Jones, who has rushed for 239 yards and seven touchdowns, has thrown just four interceptions all season.
Charlotte Christian 6-5 sophomore Garrett Shrader has thrown for 2,358 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has rushed for 565 yards and five touchdowns. The two quarterbacks and their teams will meet for a championship Friday night at 7 at Charlotte Latin. Charlotte Latin (11-0) is unbeaten. Charlotte Christian (10-1) lost only to Latin (35-10 on Oct. 21).
It’s the fourth straight season Latin has reached the final. In that run, the Hawks have lost to Charlotte Christian twice and to Davidson Day last season.
“This group of seniors has done a great job with us,” Latin coach Larry McNulty said. “They’ve done all we have asked them to do and they’ve been great seniors. Christian is a fine team. We had a great night the first time we played them and we will have to have another one. It’s doable, but we’ve got to show up and play.”
Jones, who has committed to play basketball at Davidson, is questionable for the game. He has a shoulder injury, suffered in last week’s 28-7 win against Charlotte Country Day.
“We won’t know his status until Friday morning,” McNulty said. “It’s about how he feels. He’s having a tough time. He’s certainly not going to be 100 percent.”
McNulty marvels at the improvements Jones has made this season. Jones’ brother, Daniel, is the quarterback at Duke.
“Bates is a basketball guy,” McNulty said. “That’s his first love, but ever since ninth grade, he always had a great arm and he’s become more athletic by playing basketball and with all the training he’s done for it. He’s developed better foot speed. And this being his second year starting, he’s gotten better and better and he’s not trying to force things. And he’s become a very capable runner.”
Running has also become a strength for Christian’s Shrader.
“That’s added a different dimension to his game,” Christian coach Jason Estep said. “He’s used his running ability to break games open. And these aren’t runs that start with a breakdown in protection. They’re designed QB runs.”
Christian tailback Justus Woods has battled injuries all season. Woods has 145 carries for 796 yards and 10 touchdowns, but hasn’t been at full strength much. Shrader’s new running ability has helped make up the gap.
“The way football is evolving, and with the type offense both teams run, the quarterback ends up being another running back,” Estep said. “Garrett’s made a nice adjustment with that and had a good year.”
Estep’s team, led by his quarterback, now hunts its fourth state title in five years. Latin is trying to win its first state title since 2009.
Estep expects a classic game.
“For the 10 years I’ve been head coach here, every time I look up, there he (McNulty) is again,” Estep said. “I have a lot of respect for their program and we’ve continued to bust our tails over here to get back to this game. They’re a much older team than we are and that showed the first game, so we’ve got to clean up some things. But it comes down to execution. They out-executed us the first game and allowed us to make mistakes.
“I don’t know how healthy Bates is, but we expect him to play. And you have got be able to stop Bates and (running back) DeMarkes (Stradford) and receiver Melvin Rouse. But that’s easier said than done, unfortunately.”
Langston Wertz Jr.: 704-358-5133; @langstonwertzjr
Charlotte Latin’s Bates Jones and Charlotte Christian’s Garrett Shrader have had strong seasons, helping their teams reach Saturday’s N.C. Independent Schools Division I state final.