Butler High football coach Brian Hales didn’t have much of a voice late Friday night. But he felt his team got the kind of win that can flip a season.
The Bulldogs, No. 10 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, staged a big fourth-quarter rally to win 31-30 at rival Rocky River and, even though it was their first conference game, the win was important for Butler’s Southwestern 4A championship hopes.
With Myers Park playing at a historically good level, the Bulldogs (3-2, 1-0) didn’t want to give away any ground to the Mustangs (5-0, 1-0), whom Butler will play in two weeks.
But the Bulldogs almost did. Rocky River very nearly got them.
“It’s like that every year we go over there (to Rocky River),” Hales said. “We’ve had to have a two-minute drill to score there to win. We had to kick a field goal there at the buzzer to win. Going over there is never easy. And those guys played so hard tonight.”
Rocky River (2-3, 0-1) lost its third straight game, but not before giving Butler a big scare. Heading into the fourth quarter, Rocky River led 30-15.
Butler faced a big uphill task, playing without starting left tackle Trey Richburg, a 6-foot-3 265-pound junior who was injured in last week’s 42-21 win over Providence. And the Bulldogs haven’t had 6-1, 325-pound senior defensive tackle Amaziah Bell since he suffered a concussion in the season opener against Scotland County.
“We moved our center to left tackle tonight,” Hales said, “and everybody on the offensive line played two different positions. We were scrambling. But in the fourth quarter, we got settled with a group there and we got things going. We had a sense of urgency, too.
“They realized that we had put ourselves in a pretty big hole, but they responded the way they’ve been responding all year.”
Hales challenged his team with a tough schedule that included games against Mallard Creek and Richmond Senior - two N.C. 4A top 10 teams - in a span of three weeks. Butler lost both, but Hales said his team learned from them.
“It’s the nature of our schedule,” Hales said. “You play good teams early. As much as you want to win them all, we also want to test ourselves. Sometimes you have to take an L to just improve and get everybody’s attention.”
Down 15 points Friday night, Rocky River got Butler’s attention. With 9:10 to play, Butler’s Jamal Worthy scored and Keyon Lesane, an N.C. State recruit, ran in a two-point conversion. Down 30-23 a little more than five minutes later, Lamont Brooks scored for Butler from 1 yard out.
Down 30-29 with 3:40 to play, Hales said he never thought about going for the tie. His starting kicker broke his leg in the Mallard Creek game and he’s had a few soccer players come out and try to kick. He didn’t want to put an inexperienced player in a tough position. So with the game on the line, Hales called a play that asked for quarterback Christian Peters to toss the ball to Worthy, who was running to his right. Meanwhile, Peters took off in the other direction.
Worthy stopped and threw the ball back across the field to his quarterback. The second two-point conversion gave Butler the win - and a whole lot of momentum.
“I really believe this is the kind of win that can flip a season,” Hales said. “We’re getting our two linemen back Monday and that gets everybody excited. And the kids were sky high tonight.”
Hales has said all along that he felt this senior-heavy team could win the school’s first state championship in six years. Getting healthy and now tested, the Bulldogs should be a tough out in the playoffs.
▪ It’s been a few years since I can remember this many blowout games in a season. We seem to have lost the middle class in high school football this year. In 2018, you’ve either got it, or you don’t.
▪ I think there’s going to be a monster crowd at UNC Charlotte for Sweet 16 No. 2 Mallard Creek (3-0) vs. No. 6 Vance (4-0) game Saturday night at 8, especially if the weather is good. There’s been a lot of talk about this matchup all season. Both teams are playing well, and there’s no one else in town playing and no real compelling college football TV game to keep folks at home. It would also be nice to see more games at UNC Charlotte on away weeks for the 49ers. Saturday night high school football matchups can be fun.
▪ It’s really time for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to abolish this rule about not playing private schools. Already, publics and privates can meet in neutral-site events put on by a third party, but it’s past time to just let the schools schedule each other. The gates would be good and the rivalries would be great.
Friday, for example, South Meck played at Winston-Salem Prep and won 44-0. Charlotte Christian played at Raleigh Ravenscroft and won 77-0. I think the game would have been much more competitive if South had played Christian. Both schools could save money on travel and I’m betting there would be a strong gate for the game, too.
▪ Weddington coach Andy Capone sure is gutsy. Leading rival Indian Trail Sun Valley 28-21 with under six minutes to play, Capone had his team go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Weddington 24. Understand, Sun Valley has Florida State quarterback recruit Sam Howell, the early season leading candidate for N.C. Player of the Year. Giving Howell the ball that deep in Weddington territory that late in the game is a very dangerous thing. But so is punting to him.
Capone went for it, made it on a Will Shipley run. Weddington went onto win 31-21.
The flood and the NCHSAA
The N.C. High School Athletic Association plans to make a decision on extending the high school football season by Oct. 1. Many teams have unable to play for the past two weeks and the association has said that if teams miss five or more consecutive school days, they must have three straight days of practice, in equipment, before playing a game.
That rule is putting teams in a bind.
Take Richmond Senior, for example. The Raiders couldn’t play Friday’s game with Purnell Swett because Swett didn’t have school this week and likely won’t return until Monday. That means, with three required practice days, the teams could play Thursday.
Only Richmond is scheduled to play Pinecrest next Friday.
The guess here: The season will get extended one week, maybe two. A state championshp game on Saturday, Dec. 22 is not out of the question.
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Friday’s Top Performers
Khafre Brown, West Mecklenburg: Division I recruit scored three touchdowns in a 46-0 win over Harding, including a 90-plus yard score.
Javaris Bufford, Charlotte Latin: He ran for three touchdowns in a 51-0 win over Reynolds Mill Academy.
Jacolbe Cowan, Kedrick Bingley-Jones, Providence Day: Cowan, a major-college recruit, and Bingley-Jones, a Florida recruit, dominated defensively in a 67-0 win at Concord Cannon. Providence Day blocked two punts, returned a kickoff for a touchdown and had two safeties. The Chargers (2-3) have back-to-back shutouts.
Drake Maye, Myers Park: Sophomore QB was 10-for-16 for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the first half of the Mustangs’ 48-7 win at Garinger. Maye did not play in the second half. Virginia Tech recruit Elijah Bowick had four catches for 93 yards and a score.
Ryan Renshaw, Community School of Davidson: Had 314 total yards, two touchdowns, eight tackles and an interception in a 41-32 win over previously unbeaten Gastonia Highland Tech (3-1). Renshaw had 155 receiving yards and two scores, and 159 return yards.
Will Shipley, Weddington: Ran 17 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-21 upset over Union County rival Indian Trail Sun Valley. Sun Valley is No. 7 in the Sweet 16. Weddington is No. 11. Sun Valley QB Sam Howell threw for 245 yards, two touchdowns and ran for 89 yards and another score.
↑Ardrey Kell: Knights ended a six-game losing streak with a 17-10 win over rival Providence. Providence (1-5) lost its fifth straight game.
↑Metrolina Christian defense: Forced five turnovers in a 44-0 win over North Raleigh Christian. Jack Crump ran 12 times for 97 yards and a touchdown. Myles Saxton was 12-for-16 for 158 yards and two scores.
↑Gastonia Huss: beat North Gaston 45-0 to improve to 5-0 for the first time since 2011.
↓Indian Trail Sun Valley: 173 yards of penalties in a 31-21 loss to rival Weddington.
Charlotte Country Day 61, Hickory Hawks 16: Country Day (3-2) won for the third time in four weeks, getting four touchdowns from junior Twan Flip, who picked up a Charlotte 49ers offer this week. Flip had two carries for 106 yards and two scores. He had a touchdown catch and a punt return touchdown. Country Day led 35-8 at halftime.
No. 4 Charlotte Christian 77, Raleigh Ravenscroft 0: The Knights led 63-0 at halftime. Christian had 495 yards total offense on 49 plays, averaging more than 17 yards per snap. Mississippi State recruit Garrett Shrader completed 13-of-16 passes for 219 yards and five scores. Henry Rutledge ran three times for 128 yards, averaging 42.7 yards per carry. Rutledge also caught two passes for 114 yards, averaging 57 yards per catch.
West Charlotte 40, Lake Norman 21: The Lions won their third straight game and improved to 4-1 on the season (1-0 in I-MECK 4A). The Lions, who play traditional rival North Meck next week, are on pace for their first winning season since 2010. Lake Norman fell to 2-3 overall, 0-1 in the I-MECK.
Concord Robinson 20, Mount Pleasant 16: Chris Caldwell threw a 34-yard game-winning pass with 1:43 left to Bryson Mason for the win. Caldwell finished with 109 yards passing and 31 yards rushing.