Three Mecklenburg County high school football teams are playing in state semifinal games Friday.
Myers Park will play Vance at Mallard Creek High after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials determined that a soft and wet field at Vance might pose safety concerns.
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Across town, Charlotte Catholic will host Kings Mountain in the N.C. 3A semifinals. Catholic, the reigning 3A state champion, will try to qualify for its 10th state final.
Unlike Myers Park or Vance, who have never played in a modern era state final, the Cougars have won five previous N.C. championships.
“We have a great tradition,” Catholic coach Mike Brodowicz said. “Football is important at this school. It’s our flagship program.”
Catholic (13-1) is making its ninth consecutive appearance in the semifinals, or Western Regional championship game. The county record is 10 straight regional finals appearances, set by Independence High from 2000-09.
Friday night, Catholic will play a Kings Mountain team that is 12-2 and has won seven straight games. The Mountaineers are averaging more than 42 points each week. Kings Mountain quarterback Kaylon Wade has thrown for 3,063 yards and 42 touchdowns. He has rushed for 780 yards and 17 more scores.
Kings Mountain has nearly 6,000 yards total offense this season
“They’re dynamic,” Brodowicz said. “Offensively, they’re a big challenge for us.”
Catholic is allowing just over six points per game. That average is closer to three points when the Cougars’ starters finish games, Brodowicz said. Catholic’s defense, for example, shut out N.C. 3AA semifinalist Weddington 20-0 Sept. 28 and held the Warriors to negative yardage running the ball.
Brodowicz said he expects a tough game from Kings Mountain.
“Hopefully, we can play ball control, keep their offense off the field and play good defense,” he said. “Then we can make this is a backstreet brawl and it can be a 21-14 or 14-3 game. Really I don’t care what the score is, so long as we’re ahead at the end. It’s going to be a great atmosphere with a whole lot of people here.”
That will also be the case at Mallard Creek.
Vance is in the regional final for the fourth time in five years under coach Aaron Brand. Myers Park makes its third regional appearance and first in 13 years. The Mustangs also played in the 1965 Western 4A regional final and beat Garinger 27-6. But no state championship was played that year.
The Mustangs lost 18-15 to Elizabeth City in the 1957 N.C. 2A state finals, but has not reached the championship round since the N.C. High School Athletic Association began having four class championships in 1959, the start of the so-called “modern era.”
Myers Park has also never played in a class 4A championship, the largest and toughest class in North Carolina.
“It means a lot to everybody here,” Myers Park coach Scott Chadwick said, “because this is rare air for Myers Park. This is only the (third) time that Myers Park has reached a 4A regional final and it would mean a lot to our school and community and alumni base to win it.”
Brand, who has won state titles as an assistant coach at Independence and Mallard Creek, said coaches and teams should celebrate getting this far. He wants his team to enjoy the moment.
He also desperately wants to win.
“There’s so many people that don’t get to this point,” he said. “If we can keep getting there, at some point we are going to break through (and get to the state finals). I hope it’s this time. If not, we’ll keep trying and we’re going to load up and get going again.”