At the start of the season, Ardrey Kell first-year football coach Joe Evans spoke to his team about his goals. One involved winning the school’s first SoMeck 8 conference championship.
To accomplish that, Evans figured Ardrey Kell would have to get past one of the premier football programs in Mecklenburg County history: Charlotte Catholic.
The Cougars (8-0, 5-0), No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll, have won 42 straight conference games and haven’t lost one since September 2009.
Since the start of the 2002 season, Charlotte Catholic’s record is 83-2 in conference games. Friday, Evans’ team will host the Cougars in the biggest game of its season – and one of the two or three biggest in any season at Ardrey Kell.
Win, and the Knights are in position to claim the title (they would likely need to beat South Mecklenburg next week, too). Lose, and the dream ends.
“They’re fundamentally sound and physical and fast and a great team,” Evans said of Catholic. “They don’t beat themselves, for sure.”
Catholic is known for its powerful running game, and star Jaret Anderson is having a strong season with 1,084 yards and 13 touchdowns. He averages 7 yards per carry. But this Catholic team is led by the state’s stingiest defense, which has shut out four teams and allowed 41 points in eight games.
Ardrey Kell will try to dent that defense with an offense that has scored more than 40 points in half its games and averages nearly 33. In a 44-42 win against Berry last week, when the Knights were without six injured starters, tight end Cameron Tully caught eight passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns.
For the season, Tully has 26 catches for 407 yards and seven scores, second behind Jaylen Erwin (23-436, 3). Quarterback Bryce Maginley has rushed 104 times for 900 yards and 12 scores, and he’s thrown for 1,402 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was the conference’s offensive player of the year last season.
He’ll need a big night for the Knights to pull off one of the season’s biggest upsets.
“All we can ask is that we control our own destiny,” said Evans, who expects to return some of his missing starters this week, “and that’s where we are. If we can get by Catholic and win a conference championship, that’s great. We’ll either make it or break it ourselves. And that’s what we wanted.”
▪ There are 19 undefeated football teams in North Carolina entering the final two weeks of regular-season play. One of them is in Mooresville.
Pine Lake Prep is 9-0 and ranked No. 14 in MaxPreps’ 1A state rankings. The Pride has the state’s No. 2 defense, in terms of points allowed (47). Pine Lake Prep is at Thomas Jefferson in Mooresboro Friday.
▪ There’s another unbeaten team in Indian Trail: Metrolina Christian is 7-0 heading into Friday’s game at Hickory Grove. Quarterback Rud Yearick, who committed to Liberty, is his school’s first Division I athlete. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior has passed for 1,051 yards and 14 touchdowns in his school’s first six games. He has run for 726 yards and 11 scores.
▪ Q Foundation forfeited to unbeaten Davidson Day. It’s the Patriots’ second forfeit win this season and third in two seasons.
▪ Mallard Creek’s Mike Palmieri is the Carolina Panthers coach of the week. The Panthers will donate $1,000 to his school’s athletic department. Charlotte Christian’s Jason Estep won the award last week. The Panthers will honor all 10 weekly winners during an on-field presentation Dec. 13 when the Panthers host Atlanta. Also, the overall coach of the year for 2015 will be named and will receive a $2,500 grant for his school’s athletic department.
▪ Three area players were named to the S.C. Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Bowl, formerly the North-South All-Star game Dec. 12 in Myrtle Beach: Fort Mill Nation Ford tight end Hank Tuipulotu, Rock Hill South Pointe defensive back Nick McCloud and South Pointe quarterback Greg Ruff
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr