Dutch Fork coach Tom Knotts promised he would not hold back playing his former team at Independence High Friday.
The Silver Foxes, the reigning S.C. 5A state champs, beat the Patriots 51-8 on the field at Independence, where Knotts once built a dynasty.
At Dutch Fork, Knotts is doing the same thing. He’s led the Silver Foxes to the state finals in four of the past five seasons and his team entered this season No. 1 in the S.C. 5A preseason poll.
Knotts is beginning his eighth season. At each of his past three stops -- Independence, West Charlotte and Harding -- he lasted about 10. At 61, does he have another job change left in him, and would he return to Charlotte, where he spent the bulk of his adult life?
“Yeah, this will be eight,” Knotts said this week. “Coaching 10 is hard and success is a double-edged sword. It makes people complacent in a lot of ways. It’s good to get that confidence, but the complacency that goes with it is hard to fight. But I don’t think that is the case here. We’ve only got three or four starters back. They’re still a little wide-eyed. We’re really a glorified jayvee team, age wise.
“But is this my last job? I don’t know. I’m year to year. It could be my last job, and I could retire next year. It’s how I feel and how much fun I have. It’s a young man’s game now. Look in the NFL with coordinators and head coaches. They’re getting younger and younger, and us old-school guys, it’s harder to relate. And when you can’t hire younger guys who can help you bridge the gap, it gets tough.”
Knotts said it’s harder than ever to hire football assistants in schools, so that bridge he talked about is sure to grow. But he definitely still has the desire to coach, even possibly back in Mecklenburg County.
“Ten years is kind of my rule of thumb,” he said. “I am still in good shape mentally and physically. Somebody said 60 is the new 40. I’m trying to hang on that ideal, although I’m walking now and my knees hurt. But as long as players are responsive and meet our demands I’ll do it. I might come to a private school in Charlotte if some headmaster called and said I want to build this Don Bosco-type, Oak Hill Academy for basketball-type program. I might consider doing that.”
▪ I asked Knotts, who has coached big-time football in North Carolina and South Carolina, was there a difference between the two states.
“It’s about the same,” he said. “You can spend a little bit more time on football (in South Carolina), but that doesn’t necessarily make us better. Mallard Creek’s got a great draw of kids, and Vance has great athletes. Bigger schools, I’ve always had this theory, bigger schools ought to always be good. You can always find a QB, always find one running back and a couple of wide receivers - a couple of DBs, a linebacker. You can always find players.”
↑7 p.m. kickoff times: We’re reminded every year how much we enjoy Mecklenburg County games starting 30 minutes earlier than most area schools. Here’s wishing other counties in the area will join CMS.
↓Weather: How’s it going to be postcard pretty weather all day and then it get all rainy, stormy and messy right before kickoff? A number of games were pushed back as much an hour because of the storms. Some, like South Point-Crest, were delayed after kickoff.
↑Emmanuel Wilson, North Mecklenburg: He took the opening handoff 80 yards for a score against Durham Jordan. He later had a 96-yard run for a score. North Meck beat Durham Jordan 31-29. Wilson helped Vikings first-year coach Eric Morman win in his first game.
↑Dylan Bryan, Independence: A bright spot in a 51-8 loss to Dutch Fork, Bryan caught 11 passes for 141 yards and a 69-yard touchdown from quarterback Wes Cook (13-for-27, 152 yards)
↑Seth Fredrick, Christ The King: Playing his first-ever football game, at any age, Frederick made several tackles against Highland Tech, had a successful onside kick and made his first field goal and PAT.
Friday’s Top Performers
Julian Boddie, Providence: In 23-7 win over East Mecklenburg, Boddie ran 25 times for 109 yards and a score. He had 23 yards receiving.
Ishod Finger, Myles Saxton, Metrolina Christian: Finger had six touchdowns in 64-26 win over Concord First Assembly. He rushed 13 times for 93 yards and four scores. He caught three passes for 39 yards and two more. Saxton had 179 yards passing and three touchdowns, plus 117 yards rushing and another.
Derion Kendrick, Rock Hill South Pointe: Clemson recruit completed 20-of-27 passes for 200 yards and a score in a 39-7 win over Rock Hill Northwestern. He rushed nine times for 97 yards.
Nick Lyerly, Jordan Medley, AL Brown: In a 56-0 win over Hopewell, Lyerly ran 14 times for 160 yards and two scores. Medley, the quarterback, ran 16 times for 150 yards and a touchdown; and he completed 8-of-12 passes for 112 yards and a score.
Lamagea McDowell, Charlotte Catholic: 23 carries, 131 yards in a 19-14 win over Charlotte Christian.
Keygan Mayfield, Maiden: 21-of-27 for 186 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-14 win over Maiden. Mayfield ran eight times for 104 yards and two touchdowns. He had an interception on defense.
Tyler Stinson, Shamar Baker, Newton-Conover: Nine carries for 128 yards, two scores in a 51-0 win over Bunker Hill. QB Baker threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another.
Justus Woods, Garrett Shrader, Charlotte Christian: Woods, a Stanford recruit, had 23 carries for 142 yards and a score against Charlotte Catholic. Shrader, a major-college recruit at quarterback, was 15-of-23 for 143 yards.
NO. 1 ROCK HILL SOUTH POINTE 39, NO. 12 ROCK HILL NORTHWESTERN 7: South Pointe, the three-time reigning S.C. state champion, dominated its crosstown rival in the season opener for both schools. South Pointe had 356 yards rushing compared to 108 for Northwestern and had 543 yards total offense. Northwestern had 264. After taking a 10-0 lead, South Pointe gave up a 2-yard pass from Dustin Noller to Jamario Holley that cut the lead to 3. South Pointe then scored 29 straight points.
Joe Ervin ran 11 times for 110 yards for South Pointe, and Scott Robinson had six catches for 77 yards. Noller completed 23-of-37 passes for Northwestern for 177 yards and that score.
HARDING 24, NO. 9 HOUGH 22: Harding got one of the biggest regular-season wins in recent school history, stopping Hough on a 2-point conversion attempt with less than 30 seconds remaining.
Dating to last season, Harding has won four of its past five regular-season games. After winning just two games in 2014 and 2015, Harding was 5-7 last season. That was the most wins for the school since 2007 and Harding made the playoffs for the first time since 2010. With 15 starters back, Harding wanted to keep building in 2017. An upset of a top 10 Sweet 16 team was a good way to start.
NO. 11 SHELBY 14, MORGANTON FREEDOM 7: Down 7-0 at halftime on the road, Shelby (1-0) rallied in the second half to avoid the upset. Tavon Corpening had a 32-yard interception return for Freedom in the first half, but the four-time defending state champion got a 2-yard run from Xavier Brooks to tie the game near the end of the third quarter and a game-winning 23-yard run from QB Malik Surratt with 3:03 to play. Brooks ran 26 times for 143 yards in the win.
ALEXANDER CENTRAL 28, BURNS 23: Gunnar Anderson scored from 1 yard with 4:40 left to lift his team to a come-from-behind win. Anderson rushed 12 times for 53 yards. Bryson Godfrey ran 11 times for 93 yards for Alexander. CJ Hopper led Burns with 112 yards rushing and a score on 25 carries.
CANNON SCHOOL 47, NORTH RALEIGH CHRISTIAN 7: Gabe Ortiz rushed 15 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns in an easy win for Cannon (1-0).
CENTRAL CABARRUS 22, PIEDMONT 9: Keyshawn Harvey had scoring runs of 30-, 18- and 36-yards to lift his team to an opening day win.
CHARLOTTE LATIN 46, COLLETON PREP 9: Martin Sumichrast had 260 yards total offense and Demarkes Stradford had three rushing touchdowns in an easy win for the reigning N.C. Independent Schools state champion. Sumichrast had two touchdown passes and ran for a third score.
PINE LAKE PREP 14, NORTHSIDE CHRISTIAN 12: Pine Lake Prep (1-0) won the game by putting together two long scoring drives in the second and fourth quarters. Both drives ended with touchdowns from sophomore Kris Petroski. Pine Lake, which faces rival Lake Norman Charter next week, won its fourth straight season opener.
Links to additional coverage from Friday’s opening night
SATURDAY'S KEY MATCHUPS
Vance vs. West Mecklenburg, at Memorial Stadium, 2 p.m.: Vance, No. 8 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll, is reloading after last year’s 13-2 season, and the Cougars open the Charlotte Kickoff Classic against a loaded Warriors team led by brothers Dyami and Khafre Brown. West Meck is 16th in the poll.
Olympic vs. Providence Day, at Memorial Stadium, 5 p.m.: Two teams on the rise meet in the Kickoff Classic’s second game. Former Rocky River coach Jason Fowler makes his debut with Olympic, and he has 10 returning starters. But the Chargers have 18 returning starters, including all-state receiver Porter Rooks.
Charlotte Country Day vs. Myers Park, at Memorial Stadium, 8 p.m.: Neighborhood rivals square off in the Kickoff Classic nightcap. Myers Park, No. 7 in the Sweet 16, is loaded and is a state 4A power. Country Day, led by running Tim Newman, hopes to reap the rewards of playing many freshmen and sophomores last year.