A year ago, Charlotte Catholic outscored opponents by an average of 40-9 en route to winning the 2017 N.C. 3A state championship.
With 18 starters returning from that team, the Cougars were a well-deserved favorite to repeat. But so far, Catholic doesn’t resemble the team coach Mike Brodowicz expected it to be.
Right now, he’s not sure the Cougars have that championship stuff.
“No,” Brodowicz said after Friday’s 20-0 win over previously unbeaten Weddington. “Not right now, not at this time. We’re making too many mistakes. Defensively, we have one of the best teams we’ve had. Our defense has that sense. They know what it takes. They’ve found their mojo and are playing off each other, while our offense right now is still struggling a little bit with self doubt.
“I think we have the talent to win state. But are we there now? No.”
So let’s unpack all that.
Catholic is 5-1, with a season-opening 6-0 loss to Charlotte Christian on the road. Charlotte Christian is ranked among the top 50 in some national polls and is looking, potentially, like the best private school team ever from North Carolina.
Catholic’s defense has allowed 23 points all season, the fewest among all 3A teams in the state. On Friday, Nick King had three passes batted down, two fumble recoveries and two tackles for a loss. Kevin Coss had three sacks.
In all, the Cougars have three shutouts in six weeks. How good is the Cougars’ D? After scoring just six points at home against Catholic, Charlotte Christian has averaged 60 on everybody else.
Bonus points for the Cougars.
On offense, Catholic threw for just 48 yards Friday but is averaging 25 points per game. The problem, Brodowicz said, is his team is making the types of mistakes past Catholic powerhouses didn’t: an off-sides call that turns second-and-4 into second-and-9; or a missed blocking assignment that gets a field goal blocked.
The Cougars are not the type of team to overwhelm you with their run-heavy offense. They need to be efficient.
So far, 2018 Catholic just isn’t.
“We take two steps forward and we stub ourselves in the foot,” Brodowicz said. “We’ve never been a team to be able to handle that. We’re playing a lot of different people in different positions and we’re pressing a little bit on offense.”
I think Catholic is also learning to deal with something the mega-powerhouses like Mallard Creek and Wake Forest deal with every week: being everybody’s Super Bowl. Catholic has climbed very close to that level, trying to win its fifth state title in 14 seasons.
Teams, even more than they used to, circle “Charlotte Catholic” on the schedule.
“It’s going to be a grind,” Brodowicz said. “We know that. We’re playing our butts off and coaching our butts off, and so are the teams we’re playing....I think we have a shot to win (state), but we have to keep getting better. And if we do, it’ll be a rewarding year. It hasn’t been easy for our kids or our staff.”
↑Mecklenburg County defense: We told you about Catholic’s defense, which is the best in 3A, in terms of points allowed. In 4A, Myers Park (34 points allowed total) is No. 1 , followed by No. 2 Hough (35) and No. 3 Mallard Creek (42). Vance ranks fifth (61).
↑Charlotte Christian: The Knights have shut out four of their five opponents and thrashed a previously unbeaten High Point Christian team 62-0 Friday. It’s time to start thinking historically with this bunch, provided they win state. And if they do, could the Knights one day join the list of the best Mecklenburg County teams ever? Currently, no private school team sits on the list.
↑Cam Lewis, Hough: Kicked a school-record 52-yard field goal in a 12-7 win over Mooresville Friday. Lewis owned the old mark of 51, set last year. The 52-yarder is the fourth-longest in Mecklenburg County history. Country Day’s JD Dellinger and Charlotte Latin’s Paul Griggs share the 57-yard record.
↑ Charlotte Catholic alternate uniforms: We’re fans of the all-black look. Mallard Creek rocked it last week. This week, “Big Red” became Big Black.
↑Great catches: Mecklenburg County has two of the nation’s best receivers in Hough senior Nolan Groulx, a Wake Forest commit, and Providence Day junior Porter Rooks. Both are top 100 recruits in their respective classes. Both showed why Friday night.
▪ I really liked the decision by the I-MECK conference to move the final week of regular-season games back from Nov. 2 to Nov. 9. All teams in the league will be off Nov. 2.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association added a week to the season to allow teams to make up games missed by Hurricane Florence. But CMS schools didn’t miss any games and would simply have a bye week on Nov. 9. So if a CMS team earned a first-round playoff bye for the first round Nov. 16, it would be off two weeks.
My opinion? The other two CMS conferences - the Southwestern 4A and the SoMeck - should do the same thing the I-MECK did.
▪ Former Florida Gator All-American Larry Kennedy, a longtime Charlotte youth and high school coach, believes that Hough freshman Curtis Neal will be very special. Neal, 6-foot-2 and 305 pounds, was double- and triple-teamed in Friday’s win over Mooresville.
Neal picked up a Wisconsin offer this week, and Kennedy gushed on Facebook: “He could be the best in the country before it’s over. And I normally don’t talk that way. He’s just 14 yrs old.”
▪ Early season candidate for Observer Coach of the Year? West Charlotte’s Josh Harris led his team to an upset win over a North Mecklenburg team that’s been ranked in the Sweet 16. The Lions had three interceptions.
West Charlotte (5-1) has won four games in a row and matched its win total from the entire 2017 season. Harris took over in the middle of the 2016 season and was the Lions’ fourth full-time head coach in three seasons.
From 2011 to when he took over in 2016, West Charlotte was 12-49. Since? The Lions are 12-12.
A big key has been installing freshman quarterback Josh Mahatha after a 1-1 start. Mahatha has four three-year starters on the offensive line, plus East Carolina commit Devontez Walker, a starting wide receiver. On defense, linebacker Bacari McFadgion has more than 60 tackles and three interceptions.
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Friday’s Top Performers
Toney Black, Harrisburg Hickory Ridge: Five sacks in a 35-7 win over Garinger.
Clayton Cribb, Jake Soorus, North Lincoln: Cribb ran 14 times for 202 yards in a 49-14 win over Lake Norman Charter. Soorus ran 11 times for 194 yards and four scores.
Quintin Cooper, Charlotte Country Day: 20 carries for 199 yards, three touchdowns in a 44-6 win over Rabun Gap (Ga.). Country Day (4-2) won its third straight game.
Jadus Davis, Metrolina Christian: Four carries for 137 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-6 win over Northside Christian. He caught one pass for 12 yards and a score.
Iwuan Jackson, West Charlotte: Ran 25 times for 206 yards and scored the game-winning 14-yard touchdown in a 20-14 win over North Mecklenburg. Fabian Duncan ran 16 times for 123 yards for North. For the season, Jackson has 870 yards rushing for the Lions.
Christian Peters, Keyon Lesane, Butler: Peters hit Lesane with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to win 34-28 at Porter Ridge. Butler, No. 10 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, led 28-7 late in the third quarter. Peters completed 16-of-30 passes for 163 yards and a score. Lesane had eight catches for 69 yards and the game-winner.
Porter Rooks, Providence Day: Seven catches, 128 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-17 win over Charlotte Latin.
Bryce Satterfield, Watauga: In a battle of unbeaten teams, Satterfield ran 19 times for 144 yards in a 35-0 win over Alexander Central. Watauga limited Alexander Central to 205 yards total offense on 47 plays.
ROUNDUP: Providence snaps losing streak, stops Harding
Providence 31, Harding 13: Providence (2-5, 1-1 SoMeck) snapped a five-game losing streak beating the reigning N.C. 4A state champions at home. Providence scored the most points its had since opening the season with a 45-13 win over East Meck last month. Harding fell to 0-7, 0-2.
No. 1 Hough 12, No. 15 Mooresville 7: The Huskies (6-0, 2-0 I-MECK) trailed 7-6 at halftime on Senior Night as Mooresville (5-1, 1-1) hunted a big upset. But Temple recruit Kennique Bonner-Steward had a 30-yard run with 1 second left in the third quarter to give Hough the lead. Mooresville blocked a fourth quarter field goal attempt and was driving for a potential go-ahead score, but Hough’s Tyus Fields, a Tennessee recruit, had a game-saving interception.
No. 2 Mallard Creek 63, Lake Norman 0: The Mavericks started 2017 quarterback Jayden Washington for Casey Kelly in the game. Washngton threw four touchdowns, two to Elijah Metcalf in an easy win. Kelly was not hurt and was not being disciplined. He will return next week, Mavericks coaches said, adding they wanted to get Washington some reps.
South Meck 56, Olympic 28: After an 0-4 start when they scored just 22 points combined, the Sabres have now won two straight by a combined 100-28.
East Lincoln 27, Lincolnton 6: Chase Jones completed 13-of-21 passes for 168 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Mustangs past their arch rivals.
Carolina Pride 62, Hickory Hawks 36: Wanyae Freeman had more than 300 yards passing and four touchdowns, and he ran for another. Tyreese Wilkes had 215 yards receiving, the 20th best single-game performance in Mecklenburg County history, and had four touchdowns receiving.