Charlotte Catholic’s reign as 4A state champion ended Friday night in a series of second-half turnovers, including one error that many Cougars followers believe didn’t happen.
The Cougars fell to visiting Greensboro Dudley 21-10 in the state semifinals, allowing Dudley to avenge a loss to Catholic in the same round a year ago.
The key play in the game happened with a bit more than six minutes left to play. Catholic was trailing 13-10 but had driven to the Dudley 18. Cougars running back Milan Howard dashed around left end and lost the ball. It was picked up by Dudley defender Awstyn Williams, who raced 84 yards for a touchdown. Williams is among the state’s leaders in sacks this season.
Catholic coaches, players and fans protested loudly, saying Howard’s knee appeared to touch the ground before he lost the ball. One of the game officials pointed to the spot, as if the ball was down. But he was overruled, and the touchdown counted.
“Dudley has a great program and did a fine job of stopping us, but it’s tough to see a game decided on a call like that,” Catholic coach Mike Brodowicz said.
The Cougars drove to the Dudley 10 on their next drive, but that ended in an interception. Catholic also lost a fumble in Dudley territory late in the third quarter, and the Panthers responded by driving nearly 60 yards for a touchdown that put them ahead 13-10.
Catholic also had a scoring drive snuffed out in the first half on an interception deep in Panthers territory.
Much of the teams’ first-half yardage came in back-to-back possessions in the first quarter.
Catholic took possession early in the first quarter at its 28 after a Dudley punt. The Cougars’ ground game was stifled by Dudley, so Catholic went to the air. Brady Berger completed three passes of 17 yards or more, including a 19-yard touchdown toss to Michael Neel.
Dudley kick returner Zareik Rush took the ensuing kickoff 54 yards to the Catholic 26. Five players later, Hendon Hooker, the Panthers’ 6-foot-5 quarterback, ran 1 yard into the end zone. The conversion kick tied the game.
The Cougars drove to Dudley’s 31 early in the second quarter, but the Panthers picked off a Catholic halfback pass.
Catholic’s only other first-half score was set up by a Dudley miscue, when the Panthers fumbled a punt at their 21. The Cougars weren’t able to move the ball, but Drew Morais kicked a 39-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
Quote: “You’ve got to give Dudley credit for shutting us down for a good portion of the game.” – Brodowicz.
Records: Greensboro Dudley improves to 14-1; Charlotte Catholic finishes 13-2.
Worth mentioning: All four Guilford County teams playing in state semifinals won Friday night – Greensboro Page in 4AA, Dudley in 4A, Eastern Guilford in 3AA, and Reidsville in 3A. … In last year’s Catholic state semifinal victory over Dudley, the Cougars picked off two of Hooker’s passes in the fourth quarter and won 17-8. … Catholic’s Berger completed three of his first 40 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. Dudley adjusted, and Berger was 0-for-6 the rest of the first half. … Berger finished 9-of-19 passing for 120 yards and one interception. … Dudley did a good job of shutting down Catholic’s standout running back, Jack Brigham, who finished with 73 yards on 24 carries.
What’s next: Dudley will play for the 4A state title at 7:05 p.m. next Saturday against Fayetteville Cape Fear.
Greensboro Dudley 7 0 0 14 – 21
Charlotte Catholic 7 3 0 0 – 10
CC – Michael Neel 19 pass from Brady Berger (Drew Morais kick)
GD – Hendon Hooker 1 run (Kenji Patterson kick)
CC – FG Morais 39
GD – Nigel Fitzgerald 32 pass from Hooker (kick blocked)
GD – Awstyn Williams 85 fumble return (Thomas
Young pass from Hooker)