When Butler High struggled — really struggled — to beat Rocky River and Indian Trail Porter Ridge in its last two games, there were probably some high school football fans ready to move on from the thought that, at least this year, the Bulldogs were not a serious state championship contender.
Butler had a team full of seniors, and a coach who has won state titles saying his group was ready to win another. But state championship contending teams don’t need two fourth quarter scores to beat Rocky River and state championship contending teams don’t need a score with 10 seconds left to beat Porter Ridge.
But as it turns out, that stuff may have been the best things that could have happened to Butler this season. Those games were fuel for the Bulldogs in Friday’s 39-22 win over previously unbeaten Myers Park.
Not only did the Bulldogs beat a Myers Park team for the third straight season, the Bulldogs now have the inside track to the Southwestern 4A championship and the conference No. 1 playoff seed.
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“Playing those close games the last two weeks, it started to give these guys confidence,” Butler coach Brian Hales said. “To come out (Friday) and play a team like (Myers Park) and do that to them, man, this team is rolling now.”
The Mustangs came in with nine players whose fathers played NFL football. Myers Park (6-1) is as talented as anyone in the state and had the No. 1 scoring offense among 4A teams as well as the No. 1 scoring defense.
But what the Mustangs didn’t have was something Butler had in abundance: big game and big moment experience.
Myers Park hadn’t played a team with a winning record before Friday. Besides its close calls the past two weeks, Butler had played state powers Scotland County, Mallard Creek and Richmond Senior to start the season.
“One of the the big things we preached to the kids this week was (Myers Park) hadn’t really been in any tight games,” Hales said, “and they hadn’t had to play their starters much in the second half or fourth quarter, and forcing them to play four quarters would play into our hands, No. 1 from a conditioning standpoint, plus the confidence we had from being in these tight games the last two weeks.”
Butler gave up 301 yards passing to Myers Park sophomore quarterback Drake Maye, but the Bulldogs intercepted Maye three times (he came into the game with 18 touchdowns and one interception). Overall, the Bulldogs forced five turnovers.
On offense, Bulldogs quarterback Christian Peters threw for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Tailback Jamal Worthy ran for 75 of his 100 yards in the second half.
After Myers Park upset Butler 28-24 on Butler’s home field in the playoffs last year, coupled with the Mustangs’ star-powered roster and hot start this year, Friday’s game had the feeling of a changing of the guard in the conference. Kind of how it felt when Butler took the conference from Independence nine years ago after the Patriots had run roughshod through the league for years.
But with a decisive win, Butler announced two things: the Bulldogs are back in the state title race, and at least for now, the Southwestern 4A title still goes through Butler’s black and red.
“We’re still here, man,” Hales said. “Our kids knew it would be a big game and our kids were ready to play. You look at the playoff game last year and the great start they got off to. Our kids really wanted to play them tonight, and it showed.”
▪ Gastonia Huss hadn’t given up a point since early September before Friday’s game at 5-1 Kings Mountain. I knew Kings Mountain would score, but I didn’t expect Huss to win by a decisive 38-21. At 7-0, this is the Huskies’ best start in more than 40 years and Huss looks like a serious threat for a 3AA or 3A state title.
▪ Myers Park can still do what it wants to do, win the school’s first state title this season. The Mustangs’ 22 offensive and defensive starters are as talented as any team in the state. Finally playing an elite team like Butler will only help. Moving forward, though, Myers Park must bulk up its non-conference schedule, so its first real test isn’t halfway through the season. How about Myers Park-Mallard Creek, Myers Park-Charlotte Christian or Myers Park-Rock Hill South Pointe in early 2019?
▪ I’ve been saying this for a few weeks, but this Charlotte Christian team is historically good. The Knights held Charlotte Country Day to 140 total yards on 56 plays, an average of 2.5 yards Friday. Country Day had minus-7 yards passing.
Christian had the ball for 16 minutes, 32 seconds of a 48-minute game, had 442 total yards and won 42-0. The Knights got their third straight shutout and have outscored opponents 289-7. But other than a 6-0 win over Charlotte Catholic to start the season, we may not see the Knights forced to break a sweat. Coach Jason Estep tried to schedule some tough non-conference games but couldn’t find a taker.
Now we see why.
↑Mallard Creek: The Mavericks are beginning to separate from other Mecklenburg County teams the way Alabama is doing in college football. Mallard Creek whipped a 5-1 West Charlotte team 55-0 on the road Friday. Since beating Butler 36-28 to start the season, Mallard Creek’s defense has allowed 14 points in five weeks. The revamped offense? It’s averaging 53.4 points in those five weeks. With apologies to everyone else, the Mavericks are clearly the best team in the area.
↑ East Rutherford: Shutout rival R-S Central 48-0 Friday. That was the third straight season East won this game by shutout.
↑CMS vs. Cancer: Six CMS schools participated in a special cancer awareness promotion put on by the American Cancer Society and the NFL Friday, helping to raise money for disease research and prevention
↑Elijah Burris, Mountain Island Charter: Averaged 18.4 yards per carry in a 41-7 win over Cherryville: 15 carries, 276 yards and a touchdown. He caught two passes for 74 yards and another score.
Why did UNC coach Larry Fedora helicopter to Charlotte Catholic?
North Carolina football coach North Carolina coach Larry Fedora dropped in to see Sun Valley quarterback Sam Howell play at Charlotte Catholic Friday night.
Fedora landed in a helicopter on the Catholic campus Friday, just before the Cougars played Howell and Sun Valley. Catholic won 28-7.
Fedora is trying to get Howell to decommit from Florida State and stay home for school. Does he have a chance? This is what Howell’s father, Duke, told the Observer:
“Sam hasn’t mentioned anything about de-committing at this point,” Duke Howell said, “but there’s still some time before Dec. 19 (and the early signing period). It’s fair to him to weigh all of his options. He’s got to.”
▪ Howell and Charlotte Christian’s Garrett Shrader were added to the National Quarterbacks Club Mid-Season watch list for the top 28 quarterbacks in the nation. That makes them candidates for the national quarterback of the year. Both are from Union County.
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Myers Park has seven fathers (with 9 kids) on the team with NFL experience, including 3 former Panthers.
Friday’s featured players
Antonio Smith, Garinger: Four touchdowns for the sophomore in a 31-14 win over East Meck. Garinger is 2-5, the most wins its had in a season since 2009.
Jayden Birchfield, Morganton Freedom: 19-for-28 passing for 328 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-6 win over Alexander Central. Birchfield ran eight times for 28 yards and another score.
Jack Crump, Metrolina Christian: 15 carries, 130 yards and four touchdowns in a 55-14 win over Asheville Christian. Teammates Jadus Davis (four carries, 110 yards, two TDs) and Myles Saxton (8-for-10, 126 yards, TD) also had strong games.
Garrett Shrader, Charlotte Christian: Mississippi State commit completed 12-of-16 passes for 231 yards and two scores in a 42-0 win over Country Day. He ran 10 times for 62 yards and another score.
Carter Stockwell, Javaris Bufford, Charlotte Latin: Running backs had big nights in Friday’s win over Covenant Day. Stockwell ran 20 times for 169 yards and a touchdown, averaging 8.5 yards per carry. Bufford ran 20 times for 129 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
Nigel Summerville, Nyier Clark, Vance: Summerville threw six touchdown passes in a 47-21 win over Mooresville, ranked No. 16 in the Observer’s Sweet 16. Summerville completed 23-of-36 passes for 410 yards. Clark had seven catches for 198 yards and three scores.
Jamal Worthy, Christian Peters, Butler: Worthy had 75 of his team-high 100 yards on 12 second half carries in a 39-22 upset win over Butler. Peters completed 14-of-24 passes for 198 yards and two scores. Myers Park junior Muhsin Muhammad caught six passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
No. 1 Hough 55, Lake Norman 19: Hough started slow, leading 14-12 late in the second quarter, but ran away for an easy win. The Huskies, No. 1 in the Sweet 16, are 7-0.
Ardrey Kell 21, South Meck 0: After an 0-5 start to the season, the Knights have now won twice in three weeks. Ardrey Kell improved to 2-6 overall, 2-1 in the SoMeck conference. South Meck fell to 2-5, 1-1, with its two-game win streak being snapped.
Rocky River 20, Hickory Ridge 14: Rocky River (3-5, 1-2 Southwestern 4A) ended a four-game losing streak that included shutout losses to Vance and Myers Park. Hickory Ridge (4-3, 2-1) dropped out of a first-place tie in the conference and had a two-game win streak snapped. Hickory Ridge will have to beat Myers Park at home next week to keep its conference title hopes alive.
Harding 28, Berry 20: Two weeks after replacing first-year coach Robert Cross, the Rams got their first win of the season. After being blown out in their first six games, Cross was removed. Harding lost 31-13 to Providence last week, showing improvement, and then beat rival Berry Friday in the Battle of Alleghany Street, the street where both schools are located about a mile from each other. Harding is 1-7, 1-2 SoMeck. Berry is 0-7, 0-2.
Providence Day 63, Christ The King 0: Providence Day (4-3) won its fourth straight game. In the win streak, the Chargers have outscored opponents 209-17. QB Cody Cater threw two touchdowns and ran for one Friday. All-American receiver Porter Rooks had a 46-yard touchdown catch and a 38-yard touchdown run.
Richmond Senior 31, Fayetteville Britt 8: Richmond held Britt to 85 yards rushing and 89 yards passing. The Raiders, who led 24-0 at halftime, got 145 passing yards and three touchdowns from sophomore QB Caleb Hood.
Rock Hill Northwestern 31, Clover 27: Jamario Holley scored on a 2-yard run with 62 seconds left for the game-winning points. It was his only carry of the game. David Hall ran 29 times for 97 yards for Clover.