Almost a year ago, Garinger High School beat Monroe’s Central Academy 42-0 to end a 55-game losing streak that spanned six seasons.
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It didn’t take the Wildcats near that long to win another game.
Garinger upset Harding High 41-21 Friday night, snapping an eight-game losing streak. And I’m not sure anyone outside of the Wildcats’ locker room saw this coming. Harding was nationally ranked in preseason and was ranked in the Observer’s preseason Sweet 16 poll.
Harding was also coming off a 56-6 season-opening loss to No. 1 Hough last week, looking to get its season back on track.
So this, honestly, just came out of nowhere. It’s absolutely Garinger’s best win since at least 1995, when the Wildcats were 6-4, posting the school’s most recent winning season.
Since the ‘95 season, Garinger has gone through 11 seasons without a W.
So this, folks, was big.
“It feels good,” second-year coach Jeff Caldwell said. “The kids celebrated hard and they know they worked hard. Everybody worked hard. The principal worked hard. The (athletics director) worked hard. The teachers. Everybody’s just encouraging the kids and it was on a whole ‘nother level tonight.”
Harding has at least nine Division I college recruits, including senior running back/linebacker Quavaris Crouch, who may be the best high school football player in America. Harding won the N.C. 4A state championship last season.
Caldwell said he spoke with first-year Harding coach Robert Cross last Saturday and Cross told him that Crouch suffered an ankle injury in the Rams’ season-opening loss to Sweet 16 No. 1 Hough.
Crouch didn’t play Friday and that surely made a difference, but the Rams -- who have allowed 97 points in two weeks -- were thoroughly outplayed by a Garinger team that had been shut out five times in its past eight games.
Garinger wide receiver Malcolm Bailey caught two touchdown passes. Quarterback Antonio Smith, who started at running back last week, was moved to his new position after Garinger athletics director Tony Huggins made a mid-week suggestion to his head caoch.
Smith threw for two touchdown passes and ran for another. On defense, linebackers Elijah Richardson and Jamon Sanders led the Wildcats, and Teddy Swukollie, who is from Liberia, showed he’s more than just an all-conference punter.
Swukollie played wide receiver and started at cornerback. He caught a touchdown pass Friday.
“Yeah,” Caldwell said, “I know there will be some people who are surprised. We’re surprised. Harding has a lot of D1 athletes on their team. But our kids stuck together and practiced hard and did the things we asked them to do. We thought we had a shot and it was about going in and playing solid football.”
Caldwell said his job is to give players belief, something that’s always been in short supply at Garinger. Everybody always seems to be waiting for something to go wrong. But Caldwell has hired some additional coaches -- something Garinger hasn’t always had -- like new offensive coordinator Duncan Anderson from Dundalk High School in Baltimore, Md., and new offensive line coach Eddie McCullom, who played at West Charlotte.
Slowly, Caldwell said, he thinks Garinger is making progress. A win like this one could help accelerate that greatly.
“Man,” he said. “This was really big for us. I can’t lie. It’s something for us to build on.”
▪ If I’m a 2A team, I’m keeping an eye on Maiden, which beat East Burke 68-0 Friday and has outscored its first two opponents 89-6. Maiden was 11-0 last season and gearing up for a state title run. That was blown up by a shocking 16-0 first-round playoff loss to Newton Foard.
Maiden is determined to right that wrong, and Maiden has plenty of firepower, like QB Bain Sipe, who threw for 233 yards and four touchdowns Friday.
▪ Butler and Mallard Creek proved that both teams are bona fide state championship contenders Friday, but both teams have to clean up their play to get there. The teams combined for 25 penalties in Mallard Creek’s 36-28 win, including multiple personal fouls.
▪ The Matthews SportsPlex, where Butler and Mallard Creek played, is a 4,000-seat beauty of a facility and more high school football games - including the annual season-opening kickoff now at Memorial Stadium - should move there.
By The Numbers
1: First-year Charlotte Latin coach Justin Hardin got his first win Friday as the Hawks beat Timberland 16-0.
7: Country Day had seven interceptions in a 54-14 win over Carolina Pride. Quintin Cooper ran for 152 yards and a score to lead the Bucs. Tim Newman ran for two scores.
54: Asheville Reynolds scored on a 54-yard fourth-quarter pass to beat Shelby 17-14.
210: Alexander Central had 210 more yards total offense (314-104) than Wilkes Central in a 50-7 win. Steven Montgomery ran nine times for 117 yards and two scores for the winners.
↑North Mecklenburg, West Mecklenburg: North Meck beat Olympic 55-26 to improve to 2-0 and is averaging 44 points per game under second-year coach Eric Morman. ...West Meck bounced back from a close loss to Vance last week, getting some key players back from injury in a 53-24 win over West Charlotte.
↓Providence Day: The Chargers started the season with state championship dreams on a team with at least five high major college recruits. It’s not too late to rebound, but after Friday’s 33-7 loss to Columbia Ridge View, the Chargers are 0-2 and have been outscored 74-27.
↑Independence and Hopewell: The Patriots beat Hopewell 54-19 Friday, just a day before starting quarterback Davyne Simpson will be buried after passing away last Sunday. The teams honored Simpson, nicknamed “Flash,” after the game.
Friday’s Top Performers
Kennique Bonner-Steward, Hough: Senior quarterback, who has committed to Temple, completed 14-of-20 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-10 win over Providence. Nolan Groulx, a Wake Forest recruit, caught three passes for 106 yards and a score.
Charles Mincey Jr. , Mallard Creek: Senior playing his first game for Mallard Creek ran 14 times for 164 yards in a 36-28 win over Butler. He had a 65-yard TD run.
Muhsin Muhammad, Myers Park: Junior wide receiver had 153 total yards in a 50-7 win over Ardrey Kell. That included a 55-yard fake punt score, a 55-yard punt return and a 43-yard catch. Sophomore QB Drake Maye threw for 283 yards and two scores.
Michael Neel, Charlotte Catholic: In a 37-0 win over South Meck, Neel ran for 216 yards and three touchdowns, including 134 yards in the first half on 11 carries.
Antonio Smith, Garinger: Smith threw for two touchdown passes and ran for another in a 41-21 win over Harding.
Wake Forest 49, Richmond Senior 28: Richmond (1-1) had a few leads early, but Wake Forest, the two-time N.C. 4AA state champion, ran its winning streak to 33 games. Wake Forest held Richmond to 62 yards rushing. Richmond sophomore QB Caleb Hood was 13-for-24 for 265 yards and three scores.
Metrolina Christian 46, Union Academy 0: Myles Saxton was 13-for-22 for 195 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Saxton added a rushing touchdown.
Northside Christian 38, Statesville Christian 0: Northside led 32-0 at halftime and outgained Statesville 337 to negative 36. Malachi Rennix ran for 142 yards and three touchdowns on five carries.
Northwest Cabarrus 35, Mount Pleasant 12: Nick Wild’Lawing completed 15-of-18 passes for 200 yards and a score, and he ran five times for 35 yards and another touchdown in the win. Teammate Tyrese Blake ran 20 times for 92 yards and three scores.
SouthLake Christian 38, Hickory Grove 6: Beau Bullderdick ran for 169 yards in the win.
South Point 42, Lincolnton 7: Naseem Jones ran for three touchdowns and 89 yards in an easy win.