First-year Charlotte Catholic football coach Mike Brodowicz set a goal for his football staff and team: Keep the Cougars relevant in the state.
The season may have ended with a 23-15 loss to New Bern in the N.C. 4A state championship game Friday at Wake Forest University’s BB&T field, but Brodowicz thinks his team accomplished that goal.
“With the absence of (North Carolina freshman running back) Elijah Hood, who dominated Charlotte Catholic news, and with coach (Jim) Oddo retiring and the success he had for 40 years, (there was) a lot of pressure on our football staff and a lot of pressure on our team,” Brodowicz said. “We surprised a lot of teams. Our team had no names and just played good team football. And hopefully with the team coming back we can again make a deep run in the playoffs next year.”
The Cougars (14-2) have now lost in four straight state championship games since winning the title in 2005.
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The final 2 minutes and 35 seconds of the second quarter was the difference in the game.
After nearly two quarters of scoreless football, New Bern (16-0) scored 16 unanswered points to take a 16-0 halftime lead.
The Bears (16-0) scored first on a 1-yard direct-snap run by DJ Howard. New Bern got a safety on the ensuing Charlotte Catholic possession when quarterback John Walton was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.
The Bears then took the free kick and scored two plays later on a 37-yard pass from Mike Hughes to Brennen Soileau.
“I’m thinking to myself worse-case scenario we’re going to be down seven. ... And suddenly it snowballed on us real quick,” Brodowicz said about the end of the first half. “We get down 16-0 against a good football team that plays very good defense, that’s a hard thing to do.”
The New Bern defense, which came into Friday allowing less than eight points per game, limited Charlotte Catholic to just 174 total yards and 147 yards rushing. The Cougars only had 26 yards in the first half.
The quick Bears defense wouldn’t allow Catholic running backs to turn the corner and get outside.
“The game plan was to just try and keep it simple,” said New Bern coach Bobby Curlings. “They do a great job of mixing up formations and getting good mismatches and getting leverage against your defense.”
But the Cougars’ defense and two second half Jaret Anderson (15 carries for 84 yards) touchdown runs of 35 and 2 yards kept Charlotte Catholic in the game.
The Catholic defense allowed just one second-half score, when Hughes shrugged off a sack and hit Rasheed McCoy for a 60-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter.
Hughes, the game’s MVP, finished 5-for-11 passing for 133 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, and had 106 rushing yards on 22 carries.
“You have to play disciplined,” Brodowicz said. “They run a lot of option and a lot of misdirection. ... We were trying to take the ball out of Mike Hughes’ hands and I thought we did a pretty good job.”
After Anderson’s second touchdown run and a successful two-point conversion early the fourth quarter, Charlotte Catholic got a defensive stop and had a chance to tie. The Cougars got the ball on their own 22 down eight points with 4:14 left.
Catholic got past midfield, but a 4th-and-10 Walton (2-for-10, 27 yards) pass was intercepted by Sha’mond Squires and New Bern was able to run out the clock.
NB - 1 run DJ Howard (Juan Martinez kick)
NB - Safety (intentional grounding in end zone)
NB - 37 pass Brennan Soileau from Mike Hughes (Martinez kick)
CC - 35 run Jaret Anderson (Marco Baeza kick)
NB - 60 pass Rasheed McCoy from Hughes (Martinez kick)
CC - 2 run Anderson (pass Anderson from Walton)