Dutch Fork (S.C.) football coach Tom Knotts used to be the coach at Independence High. He led the Patriots for nine seasons, had a 132-6 record and won six state championships.
Before that, he won a state championship and built a powerhouse at West Charlotte and took Harding, then the state’s smallest 4A school, to a state final in 1987. He’s the best football coach in Mecklenburg County history, and probably N.C. history, too. And one week after firing coach Scott Young, Independence must travel to Irmo Friday to face Knotts and his Silver Foxes.
Dutch Fork is 62-19 in six seasons under Knotts. The Silver Foxes have reached three of the past four state championship games in South Carolina.
“I never would’ve scheduled this game if I could’ve found another one,” said Knotts, whose team will play at Independence in 2017. “We couldn’t find another game, except a 1A school down here that was dying to play us. I don’t want to play them, and now Hal Brown is the interim coach. That makes it even worse.”
This will be the third consecutive year Independence has opened a season with a new coach. Knotts and Brown, both from Albemarle, are good friends. Brown was a longtime assistant under Knotts.
“Had I known it was Hal coaching, I would’ve canceled,” Knotts said. “I don’t like to play my friends. I could count on that guy for anything. Every year, I beg him to come down here to coach.”
▪ High school football season starts too early. It’s too hot and official practice just started three weeks ago. Teams just started scrimmaging - or some of them - last week. Now it’s for real? In the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, noted Chris Hughes of CarolinaPreps, a website that tracks high school football statewide, the season didn’t start until September. As recently as 1992, the season started the last week of August.
In 1993, the N.C. High School Athletic Association allowed teams to play an extra game - called an “endowment game” - to help generate revenue. Currently, 25 percent of gross revenue returns to the NCHSAA and teams split the rest. Like Hughes, I think the start of the season should be pushed back a week and let schools decide to play 11 straight weeks with an endowment or lose the extra game altogether.
“I wish schools had that option,” Hughes said. “With heat and limited practice times, it’s tough.”
▪ MaxPreps recently released the 50 all-time winningest high school football programs. Summerville, S.C. is 14th (791 wins); Shelby (769), which has won three straight N.C. 2A state titles, is tied for 26th; Gaffney, S.C. (744) is 43rd.
▪ In Boiling Springs, Crest hasn’t missed the playoffs since 1992 and has won two straight state championships. The Chargers have a 32-game win streak and haven’t lost since Dec. 14, 2013. Crest opens the season Friday at rival South Point. The Red Raiders are No. 4 in the N.C. Preps’ preseason 3A poll and the favorite to win the Big South 2A/3A conference. Crest’s win streak is the ninth-longest in the nation, according to national high school website MaxPreps.
▪ Dillon (S.C.), which hosts Mallard Creek Friday night, has a 37-game win streak. That’s No. 7 nationally. Dillon has not lost since Sept. 27, 2013. During the streak, it has outscored teams 48-8 and shut out 13 opponents.
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr