Friday night, the region’s Big Four football teams flexed their muscle.
With the playoffs beginning for private schools next week and for public schools the week after, the top four teams in the Charlotte Observer’s Sweet 16 poll looked ready to make legitimate state championship runs.
▪ No. 1 Rock Hill South Pointe, ranked as high as No. 5 nationally, won its 24th game in a row, beating York 41-27. The Stallions have won 15 straight playoff games and three state championships, and it would take the biggest upset in the Carolinas this season - or a devasting injury - to prevent them from extending all those streaks, down to a fourth title. York’s eight-game win streak, which was snapped, was tied for the longest in the state. Bottom line? The Stallions are ready for a run.
▪ No. 2 Mallard Creek was all business Friday night against I-MECK 4A rival Hough. Hough had a seven-game win streak and was tied with the Mavericks for first place with two weeks left.
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Mallard Creek took any drama out of what was a de-facto championship game early, running out to a 28-0 lead and clinching a share of the conference championship. After a subpar, for them, 9-3 record last season, the Mavericks have reached double-digit wins for the eighth time in nine years under coach Mike Palmieri.
And Mallard Creek’s defense, which is Palmieri’s specialty, is impressive. The Mavericks have allowed 28 points total in the past five weeks. Friday, linebacker Kalen Allen led the charge with a forced fumble and an interception that set up touchdowns.
With a rigorous non-conference schedule and several ranked opponents in conference, Mallard Creek seems ready to make a run at a fourth state title in five years.
▪ No. 3 Charlotte Catholic beat Cuthbertson 49-10 to improve to 10-0. No team has scored more than 14 points against Catholic all season. The Cougars, a 4A power in recent years, dropped this season into the 3A class, where the competition isn’t as deep. Expect a long playoff run from the Cougars, who reached double-digits wins for the eighth straight season.
In his fourth season, coach Mike Brodowicz has lost two regular-season games -- to state powers Mallard Creek and Charlotte Christian. Brodowicz is 52-4 overall.
▪ And, finally, No. 4 Charlotte Christian blitzed No. 16 Providence Day 52-14, ending the Chargers’ seven-game win streak, at least temporarily halting the Chargers’ bid to tie a school-record ninth win -- and the Knights served notice that in the playoffs that begin next week, it will take a herculean effort to stop them from winning a fourth state championship in six years.
What’s more, the Knights are young, with an unbeaten junior varsity and junior quarterback Garrett Shrader, who already holds a scholarship offer from Alabama . Their best may be yet to come.
↑Jayveon Love, West Charlotte football: Love was named homecoming king in Friday’s game with Mooresville. West Charlotte won 35-7. Love scored three times, and the Lions ended a four-game losing streak.
↑Bryson Daughtry, Berry: Entering Friday’s games, Daughtry led the state in receiving with 1,141 yards. He ranked No. 44 nationally.
↑Rocky River: Ravens beat Mint Hill rival Independence 28-13 to give first-year coach Orlando Gray his first win. Rocky River ended a 12-game losing streak.
↑Stuart Cramer: Won 21-14 over Hunter Huss, beating the Huskies for the first time in school history.
↑Glen Padgett, Concord: Longtime N.C. coach is planning to retire after the season . Friday, he led Concord to a 41-20 win over Northwest Cabarrus.
McNulty’s last regular-season game
Legendary Charlotte Latin coach Larry McNulty coached his last regular-season game Friday. He’s retiring after the season after 32 seasons and 11 state championships. But he didn’t want to talk about that after a 48-30 win over rival Charlotte Country Day.
“I’m excited, man,” he said, “to win this game and I can’t think about anything else but the next one. I’m pumped our kids played so well tonight.”
McNulty’s team, which was hit hard by graduation after winning the 2016 Division I state championship, isn’t as talented this year. It’s a testament to McNulty’s will and coaching ability that the Hawks are 6-4. In most years, Latin would be heading to the Division I playoffs, where it’s hopes to win would be slim. But the NCISAA changed its playoff format, so the Hawks likely will go to Division II when the pairings are announced Sunday -- and be a title favorite.
McNulty could have a real shot at riding off into retirement, literally on his players’ shoulders.
“I think when I get down to the end of these playoffs, it’ll finally hit me,” he said. “But right now, I’m focused on keeping this team moving in a positive direction. We’ve been close but couldn’t pull it off against (Providence Day) and (Charlotte) Christian. This group is working their fannies off for me. It’s not the most talented bunch, but they’re working their butts off. I just appreciate that.”
▪ Not sure how I feel about the private schools changing their playoff format, essentially putting teams into classifications based on regular-season performance and not size. Some teams with tiny enrollments and rosters could face teams that are much bigger. I always thought the class system was designed to prevent that. Pairings come out Sunday. Will be interesting to watch.
▪ Neat story up in Mooresboro. Thomas Jefferson High, with 347 students, is one of the state’s smallest schools. But in the past two weeks, Thomas Jefferson has beaten previously unbeaten Bessemer City and a strong Mountain Island Charter team to improve to 10-0 for the first time. Thomas Jefferson, which ended Mountain Island’s four-game win streak with Friday’s 34-16 win, has undergone an amazing turnaround under coach Jerry Cash. The school was 1-34 before Cash took over in 2012. It’s been 54-20 since, with no losing seasons.
▪ Never been a fan of college football teams playing on high school Fridays. Feels like the colleges are biting the hands that feed them, potentially siphoning much-needed dollars from schools that depend on gates from football and basketball games to support the program.
In Texas Friday night, SMU played a college game, and SMU is fighting for a bowl bid. It drew flies. A nearby high school was standing room only .
So here’s SMU
And here’s what it looked like at nearby Plano High.
Providence 56, Berry 26: Providence (7-3, 4-1 SoMeck) won its third straight game, and is averaging more than 46 points in the streak.
West Meck 42, South Meck 7: West Meck (7-3, 3-2 SoMeck) won for the third time in four weeks. UNC recruit Dyami Brown scored for the Hawks.
Vance 57, North Meck 18: Vance (8-2, 5-1 IMECK) won its fifth straight game in convincing fashion. The Cougars have topped 40 points in four of the past five weeks. After a 7-0 start, the Vikings (7-3, 3-3) have dropped three straight.
Marvin Ridge 28, Sun Valley 20: The Mavericks (10-0, 6-0 Southern Carolinas) tied the school record for wins, set in 2011, and set up a conference championship showdown with Charlotte Catholic next week.
Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers
Ishod Finger, Metrolina Christian: Ran 15 times for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 63-14 win over Hickory Grove. Finger broke the Union County career-rushing record set in 2014 by Sun Valley’s Albert Funderburke. Finger has 2,346 career yards.
Tyshaun Harris, Lincolnton: He had a Lincoln County-record 318 yards rushing in a 56-41 win over North Lincoln.
Jamario Holley, Rock Hill Northwestern: He caught a conference championship clinching touchdown pass in a 31-21 win over Rock Hill Northwestern with 25 seconds left. Northwestern -- which needed to win by at least seven points to avoid any conference tie-breaker scenarios -- beat Rock Hill for the eighth straight season, won the Region 4-5A championship and prevented Rock Hill from winning its first title in eight years. Holley finished with 13 catches for 116 yards and two scores. He ran twice for 50 yards.
Keygan Mayfield, Maiden: 19-for-26 passing for 283 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-27 win over Newton-Conover. He ran 20 times for 117 yards and another score.
DeMarkes Stradford, Charlotte Latin: Ran 24 times for 343 yards and six touchdowns in a 48-30 win over Charlotte Country Day. Stradford set a school record for single-game rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. That was the 11th best single-game rushing performance in Mecklenburg County history and represents the second-most rushing touchdowns in a game in county history. Stradford, who committed to Harvard, had 150 yards rushing and two scores called back due to penalty.