West Charlotte High football coach Josh Harris said from the moment he and his coaching staff got a good look at freshman quarterback Josh Mahatha, they knew they had a special player.
They just didn’t know he was going to be starting this soon.
“He’s a great kid, very competitive,” Harris said. “He loves the game and you can tell he’s been coached well before he got here. He almost has that — and not to make too big a comparison here — but he’s got the personality of a Cam Newton. His teammates love him. They look at him like a little brother. And he can read the defense. He doesn’t get rattled. That’s a big thing for a freshman.”
This is how strongly Harris and his staff felt about Mahatha: After beating Garinger 27-6 to start the season, West Charlotte was blitzed 46-18 by West Mecklenburg in Week 2. In the days leading up to a rivalry game with a Harding team that had won the 2017 N.C. 4A state championship, Harris decided to install a kid who turned 14 in April to play QB.
Mahatha led the Lions to a 27-10 victory over Harding and backed that up with three more Ws, including Friday’s 20-14 victory over a North Mecklenburg team that is 4-2 and not too long ago was ranked in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll.
In four games, Mahatha has thrown for 400 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s run for another score. All of a sudden, West Charlotte (5-1, 2-0) is tied for first place with state powers Hough (6-0, 2-0) and Mallard Creek (5-0, 2-0) in an I-MECK 4A conference generally regarded as the toughest in North Carolina.
West Charlotte plays Mallard Creek at home Friday.
This is a big deal for a school, like West Charlotte, that has not had a winning season since 2010.
“I had to step up and be a leader for the team,” Mahatha said. “I was nervous. (The switch to starter) happened during practice. My offensive line helped me take control, me being the little brother, and we had to come together and make it work.”
Mahatha said he had troubling sleeping for several days before his first start, but he doesn’t think the Lions success should surprise anybody.
He said West Charlotte is talented and well-coached. Receiver Devontez Walker, a 6-3 senior, has committed to East Carolina. Linebacker Bacari McFadgion has more than 60 tackles and three interceptions. Tailback Iwun Jackson is approaching 1,000 yards rushing for the season, after carrying 25 times for 206 yards and the game-winning touchdown in the North Meck win.
“To be a freshman going 5-1,” Mahatha said, “it feels great. I feel like we could’ve done this in the past if we had put our work in.”
The Lions have a rough schedule ahead with four straight games against Mallard Creek, Hough, Vance and Mooresville — four teams that have been ranked among the top 10 4A teams in the state by one poll or another.
But West Charlotte has a real shot at its first winning season in eight years, and with its promising young quarterback, the Lions are feeling really good about the years to come.
“Going into the season, we didn’t want to rush his,” Harris said. “(Mahatha) was in middle school not five months ago, but his progression in practice was so good. He was getting the concepts we were throwing at him. He was nailing the board work. We saw the players respond to him in summer 7-on-7s, and we knew if we wanted our program to get to the next level, we had to give him a shot. And it’s been a blessing.”