Garinger High finally got the win it needed Friday night in Union County.
The Wildcats beat an undermanned Central Academy team 42-0 to end a 55-game losing streak that spanned six seasons. Garinger’s losing streak was just four short of the N.C. record, set by Gumberry High from 1972-78.
Before Friday night, Garinger had scored 24 points total in its last 11 games, dating to the 2016 season.
But Friday, the Wildcats didn’t have problems scoring and the game wasn’t close. Garinger passed the ball twice, and the Wildcats got their first shutout since 2010, when they beat Lake Norman Charter 46-0.
When it was over, the players celebrated wildly, the way you might expect, but the one thing first-year coach Jeff Caldwell noticed was that his players’ parents were celebrating more than the players.
“You need great parental support,” he said. “And this win gives our kids and our parents a lot of confidence. And there’s definitely a buzz around the school, and we’ll be able to build a (junior varsity team) and get some ninth and 10th graders out there. (The freshmen and sophomores) been trickling in for weeks.”
Part of what Garinger needs, Caldwell believes, is the junior varsity program it hasn’t had for three years. Too often, he said, Garinger is forced to play ninth graders on varsity because of low numbers. Those players aren’t allowed to develop properly and don’t enjoy much success. The cycle continues each year as the losses mount.
But perhaps, Caldwell believes, this was the beginning of the cycle ending.
“We want to get better each week,” Caldwell said. “This will help. We want to get back to having a real program, where you have a jayvee and a varsity and you’re building on both, and it’s something the kids can be proud of and feel good about.
“We’ll have senior leadership and freshmen coming in, learning from (the seniors), instead of just throwing freshmen on the varsity team.”
Ifthat happens, Caldwell might be able to trace it back to Friday night. He gave the game ball to principal Kelly Gwaltney and his team doused athletics director Tony Huggins with the obligatory Gatorade bath, not the coach.
“(Huggins) had to get it,” Caldwell said. “He’s suffered from all those losses for awhile. Man, it was good to see everybody smile. The kids handled it really well. We could’ve scored more points, but we downed it at the end. We had to take in consideration who we were playing and not try to make a mockery out of them to get our win.
“We were respectful. We threw the ball twice. We even ran on third-and-long and punted. Their best player was out and I explained to our team that they’re just like us, they’re struggling, too. So just because we had the upper hand doesn’t mean we had to use it.”
▪ Here’s something you probably rarely see. The nation’s top junior and senior running backs will both be playing in Charlotte next week. At Harding, national power Mallard Creek visits and will face Rams junior star Quavaris Crouch.
Not too far away from Harding’s west Charlotte campus, Scotland County visits West Mecklenburg. Scotland County’s Zamir White, who committed to Georgia, is the nation’s top running back in the class of 2018.
West Meck coaches might want to call Mallard Creek for notes. The Mavericks -- who beat Berry 52-12 Friday -- beat Scotland County to start the season.
▪ One team and one player that have really caught my attention this season: Providence High and tailback Julian Boddie. The Panthers beat previously unbeaten Pinecrest 24-20 Friday after Boddie scored a touchdown with less than a minute to play.
Providence is 3-1 and took Sweet 16 No. 7 Myers Park to overtime before losing 41-38 Monday. The Panthers beat Pinecrest on just three days rest and Pinecrest had played last Thursday, so it had an one extra day’s rest than normal.
In his third season, Providence coach Brad Bowles appears to have the Panthers headed in the right direction. Providence was 5-7 and 3-8 in his first two seasons, but the Panthers have a huge non-conference game with state power Butler Friday and could send a signal to North Carolina that they are a serious contender in 2017.
▪ Another team that’s been a big surprise has been North Mecklenburg. Under first-year coach Eric Morman, a former Richmond Senior star, the Vikings are 3-0 after a 16-14 win over Rocky River Friday. Dantevian Byrd provided the game-winning points with a fourth-quarter safety.
North Meck won three games in 2016 and hasn’t started 3-0 since 2004.
↓Gaffney penalties: The team got off to a slow start at Harding Friday, picking up seven penalties in nine plays during the first quarter.
↑Samantha Piccirillo, Marvin Ridge Middle School: Sang national anthem before Friday’s Marvin Ridge home game with Winston-Salem Parkland.
↓Schedule, Sweet 16: Five Charlotte Observer Sweet 16 teams are scheduled to have an off week next Friday.
↑Belmont South Point: 2A South Point (4-0) shut out previously unbeaten 5A Clover (3-1) 28-0, ending Clover’s seven-game win streak against N.C. teams.
↑Harding: The Rams are 4-0 for the first time since 2007. Harding has won more than four games in a season once since going 8-4 in 2007.
Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers
Quavaris Crouch, Harding: 19 carries for 201 yards, touchdown in a 35-28 win over S.C. power Gaffney. Harding cornerback Malik Dunlap’s interception at his 5-yard line with less than a minute left preserved the win.
Ishod Finger, Metrolina Christian: 27 carries, 304 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-24 win against SouthLake Christian. Angel Gonzalez completed 15-of-20 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns.
Chris Nelson, Gabe Ortiz, Cannon School: Ortiz ran 10 times for 141 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-0 win over Pine Lake Prep. Nelson was 12-for-19 passing for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
J’Mari Taylor, Dyami Brown, West Mecklenburg: Sophomore quarterback was 12-for-15 for 238 yards and three touchdowns in a 59-28 win over Independence. Taylor ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Dyami Brown had five catches, 125 yards and two touchdowns plus a 93-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Milan Howard, Charlotte Catholic: 18 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-14 win over Ardrey Kell.
No. 9 Shelby 21, Crest 14: Down 14-12 to start the fourth quarter, the four-time reigning state champion rallied to beat its Cleveland County rival. Shelby got a safety to tie the game and a 1-yard run from Malik Surratt to win it.
Charlotte Country Day 19, Wake Christian 9: Country Day quarterback John Hosmer had a big night to lead the Bucs to their first win of the season. Hosmer was 14-for-26 passing for 123 yards and two touchdowns. His 49-yard hookup with Rylan McLaurin got the scoring started. A second scoring pass to McLaurin in the fourth quarter gave the Bucs a 16-9 lead and proved to be the winning points. John Demas and Stephen Lostetter each had an interception for the Bucs.
Hickory Grove 28, Camden Military 14: Running back Caleb Small ran 18 times for 116 yards and a score in Hickory Grove’s win. Quarterback Jaylyn Hargett-Boyce ran 12 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. He completed a pass for 45 yards. On defense, Christian Little (eight tackles, three for loss) and Paris Taylor (seven tackles, three for loss) led the Lions.
Olympic 54, Hopewell 8: Olympic won its second game in a row under first-year coach Jason Fowler. During the streak, Olympic has outscored Hopewell and Independence 102-14. Olympic plays at Sun Valley next week.
Statesville Christian 21, Charlotte Latin 3: The game matched the reigning N.C. Independent Schools Division III champions from Statesville against the Division I champs from Charlotte. Both teams were undefeated. Statesville Christian grabbed a 7-3 halftime lead and the Lions run game was too much for Latin.
Alexander Central 40, North Lincoln 36: Gunnar Anderson rushed 16 times for 175 yards and a score and teammate Steven Montgomery ran 12 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns to lead Alexander. North Lincoln led 15-8 early after Caleb Holley caught a 26-yard pass from Reed McRorie. Alexander rallied to take a 40-29 lead on Devon Weiss’ 16-yard run. Those were the put-away points with five minutes, 13 seconds left. North Lincoln’s Reed McRorie threw for 262 yards and four scores.
Duncan Byrnes 48, Rock Hill Northwestern 14: Brynes led 26-0 at halftime and won in a game between traditional S.C. powers. Northwestern quarterback Dustin Noller threw for 269 yards and a score, but the Trojans rushed 35 times for just 29 yards. Byrnes rushed for 263 yards, led by Rahjai Harris, who ran nine times for 83 yards and a score.