There were not many surprises on the opening night of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.
In fact, there were a lot of running clocks and blowouts; a lot of reasons why many proponents think the playoffs are too bloated with eight classes for football and four for everything else. But in Rockingham, North Mecklenburg’s football team made a huge statement.
Led by a 271-yard rushing performance from Emanuel Wilson, the Vikings upset 4A power Richmond Senior 23-20. North Mecklenburg outscored the Raiders 14-7 in the fourth quarter and Wilson’s 19-yard run late in the game decided it.
North Meck got its first playoff win since 2006 and first-year coach Eric Morman beat his alma mater, where he once played. And as good as Wilson was, the Vikings’ defense should get a lot of the credit, too. Richmond, which was averaging 36 points per game, scored 47 last week against a Scotland Senior team that is ranked in the top three of many statewide 4A polls.
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Against Morman’s defense, however, Richmond managed eight first downs and 213 total yards Friday.
A few other things that caught my eye:
▪ Heard from more than a few Charlotte Country Day parents and supporters when a new playoff system dropped the Bucs to the Division II playoffs this year. They weren’t happy. But I don’t think the Bucs would’ve won a playoff game in Division I, where Providence Day and Charlotte Christian were clearly the two best teams.
Last week, Country Day beat Metrolina Christian on the road to grab its first playoff win in six years. Friday, the Bucs beat Cannon School 25-16 to advance to next week’s Division II state final at Charlotte Latin. Tyler Shearer threw for 105 yards and a score. Tim Newman ran for 81 yards and a score. And Stephen Payne had four tackles, a pass break-up, a fumble recovery and a blocked PAT.
Country Day, once a dominant private school state power, hasn’t played for a state title since 2011 and hasn’t won one since 2010. The Bucs get a chance next week. And third-year coach Drew Witman has led his team to a 6-5 record after going 3-7 in each of his first two seasons.
▪ Charlotte Latin coach Larry McNulty will get a chance to do something next week few people in sports get to do: leave as a champion.
McNulty, who has coached in parts of four decades, announced he would retire at the end of the season. Friday he led his team to a 27-16 win over previously unbeaten Fayetteville Trinity Christian. In 32 seasons, McNulty has coached three sons and won 11 state championships, including beating Charlotte Latin by a point in the 2016 Division I state finals.
His final game will be at home in front of his fans against a team he has often played in state finals before.
In other words, a big stage for a legendary coach.
▪ Charlotte Christian beat Providence Day 47-21 in the Division I state championship game Friday, polishing off one of the most dominant private school conference regular-season and playoff runs I’ve ever seen. This was the type domination that Independence laid on conference opponents during its run of seven straight championships about a decade ago. And Christian coach Jason Estep has told me that he really felt that next year would be his team’s year.
And I’d bet on another matchup with Providence Day in the finals. You’ve heard a lot about the Chargers’ two top 10 nationally ranked sophomores -- receiver Porter Rooks and defensive lineman Jacolbe Cowan. Well, freshman tailback Nickel Fields made first team all-conference this year and looks like the next great running back in the county. He toasted a very good Knights defense for 152 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown Friday.
↑Stuart Cramer: Upset regional 3A power Concord 21-20 Friday to win the first playoff game in school history. Concord fumbled two punts in the fourth quarter and suffered two safeties to lose a 20-17 lead.
↑Julian Boddie, Providence: 15 carries for 100 yards and three touchdowns in a 54-18 win over South Mecklenburg. Boddie now has 2,020 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. The touchdowns tie for 26th most in Mecklenburg County history in a single-season and is second in school history (Andrew Pearman had 32 in 2003). The single-season rushing yards rank 19th in county history.
↓Shelby at Belmont South Point: This second round playoff matchup is happening too early. It should be a regional final. This is an argument -- like all of those old second round Butler-Mallard Creek matchups -- why the playoff seeding process could use more of a human touch.
↑Newton Foard: Foard, a No. 12 seed, upset No. 5 Maiden 16-0 Friday. Maiden (11-1) was unbeaten. Foard (9-3) won its fourth straight game.
↓ CMS: On a night when UNC football coach Larry Fedora was flying to games to visit recruits via helicopter, CMS wouldn’t allow him to land at Myers Park for a game there.
Cuthbertson 35, Alexander Central 28: Alexander Central outgained Cuthbertson 486-394 as both teams ran 59 plays, but Cuthbertson scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to rally for the win. Alexander Central’s Bryson Godfrey ran 16 times for 223 yards and two scores. Cuthbertson got 120 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries from Myles Wallace.
North Mecklenburg 23, Richmond Senior 20: Emanuel Wilson ran 19 yards for a fourth-quarter score for the game-winning points and the Vikings’ defense forced a turnover on Richmond’s final possession to preserve the win. North Mecklenburg ran for 331 yards and earned its first playoff win since 2006.
SouthLake Christian 16, Concord First Assembly 9: SouthLake QB Bailey Jones threw for two touchdowns and Luke Binkley and Bailey Jones had seven tackles each. Hunter Smith had four tackles, a blocked field goal and a blocked pass that led to a safety. SouthLake advanced to next week’s NCISAA Division III state finals.
Shelby 49, Newton-Conover 20: Xavier Brooks ran for 115 yards and four touchdowns in an easy win. Shelby led 42-14 at halftime.
Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers
Garrett Shrader, Charlotte Christian: 15-of-21 passing for 241 yards and a score in a 47-21 win over Providence Day in the NCISAA Divison I state championship game. He ran 12 times for 112 yards and another score. Shrader, a 6-6 junior with 13 scholarship offers including from Alabama, finished the season with 2,302 yards and 24 touchdowns. He ran for 791 yards this season. For his career, Shrader -- fast becoming one of the best QBs in Mecklenburg County history -- has 5,922 career passing yards and 60 touchdowns.
The career touchdown passes are a school record and ranks 12th in county history. The career-passing yardage ranks 15th in county history and is another school record. Shrader also has more than 7,000 total yards and 75 touchdowns. And he has one year left.
DeMarkes Stradford, Charlotte Latin: 24 carries for 199 yards and two scores in a 27-16 win over Fayetteville Trinity Christian in the NCISAA Division II semifinals. He caught a pass for 36 yards
Emanuel Wilson, North Mecklenburg: 28 carries for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a 23-20 win over Richmond Senior.
Chris Walton, Michael Neel, Charlotte Catholic: Walton was 4-for-5 passing for 116 yards and three touchdowns in a 43-7 win over West Caldwell. Neel caught three passes for 116 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 24 yards rushing yards.
Justus Woods, Charlotte Christian: Stanford recruit had an excellent final game at his high school: 26 carries for 205 yards and three touchdowns in the state championship win over Providence Day. He had two catches for 50 yards.