Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep just turned in one of the best coaching jobs I’ve seen in some time.
In August, the Knights whipped Sun Valley 35-13 in their season-opening game but suffered injuries to key players. The next week, Charlotte Christian hosted Colorado 5A state champion Valor Christian, coached by Christian McCaffrey’s father, Ed.
Sure enough, Valor Christian beat the Knights 56-6. By October, Estep’s team was 2-2 and had lost to Charlotte Country Day, which hadn’t beaten a conference team since 2016.
Christian, a two-time defending state champion, had been laid low.
What does Estep do? He leads his team on a six-game win streak to end the season, polishing it off with a dominant 38-21 win over Ardren Christ School in the state championship game Friday — its third straight title.
Estep’s teams have now won seven of the past 12 state championships in the private school’s largest class.
Someone asked me Thursday was he the best private school coach in North Carolina history. There have been some good ones, but my answer then is as it is now: He’s as good as there’s ever been.
And I don’t think he’s done.
Friday’s #BIG5 Prep Football Top Performers
Calvin Jones, East Rutherford: Eight total touchdowns — the second-most in N.C. High School Athletic Association history — in a 76-27 win over East Gaston. Jones had 542 all purpose yards in the win.
He had 10 rushes for 346 yards and four touchdowns. He had two catches for 111 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a pass for 25 yards and a touchdown. He also had a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. Jones, a senior running back, is committed to Western Carolina. He crossed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and receiving Friday.
Evan Pryor, Hough: The junior RB/WR finished with 160 total yards (88 rushing, 72 receiving) and scored four touchdowns in a 42-28 win over Vance that gave the Huskies the No. 2 seed in the I-MECK 4A.
Henry Rutledge, Charlotte Christian: Junior running back had 183 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in a 38-21 win over Arden Christ School in the NC Independence Schools Division I state championship game.
Cullen Smith, South Iredell: He went 10-for-13 passing for 220 yards and three touchdowns in a 51-31 win over China Grove Carson. He ran 12 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns, and had two interceptions on defense.
Ryan Tyson, Mount Pleasant: His 2-yard run with 47 seconds left and subsequent two-point conversion from Tyson to Sawyer Osborne lifted Mount Pleasant to a 18-17 upset over West Stanly. Mount Pleasant (4-7, 2-2 Rocky River 2A) made itself playoff-eligible with its second straight win since overcoming a four-game losing streak. Tyson finished 8-of-15 passing for 102 yards and ran seven times for 24 yards.
↑Hough: After a 1-3 start, Hough looks like a dangerous playoff team. The Huskies beat Vance, 42-28, at home Friday and have won six of their past seven games. How good was Hough on Friday? Vance has allowed 114 points all season.
↑Richmond Senior: Raiders beat rival Scotland County for the second straight year, winning 48-13. QB Caleb Hood ran for 137 yards and a touchdown and he threw for 158 yards and three more scores.
↑Trent Simpson, Mallard Creek: No. 1 recruit in the Carolinas had a monster game in a 24-7 win over Mooresville: Two touchdowns on offense, three sacks and two batted down passes on defense.
↑Metrolina Christian, Providence Day: The two teams looked strong in NCISAA Division II semifinal wins Friday. Metrolina beat High Point Christian, 42-10. Jadus Davis had three touchdowns. Providence Day, which won 42-10 at Metrolina on Sept. 27, beat Raleigh Ravenscroft, 61-0. Providence Day will host the state final Friday at 7.
↓Anson County: Despite a 7-3 record, including a perfect 4-0 mark in the Rocky River conference, the Bearcats will not go to the playoffs. NCHSAA spokesperson James Alverson said the school received written confirmation of a ruling from the association in September. The Bearcats had five players suspended for fighting during a game with Richmond Senior. NCHSAA rules call for a team to lose playoff eligiblity if it accumulates more than three individual ejections for fighting.
↑Concord Cox Mill: Upset previously unbeaten Northwest Cabarrus, 41-34, to win share of first conference title in school history.
3 Quick Thoughts
▪ I hope that the NCHSAA will place Myers Park and Mallard Creek on opposite sides of the N.C. 4AA Western playoff bracket. I think a potential Mustangs-Mavericks game is probably the most anticipated in at least 10 years when folks wanted to see Independence play the fast-rising Butler Bulldogs in 2009.
If the teams do meet, it would be nice to do it at a venue big enough to let the whole crowd in, like Richardson Stadium on Charlotte’s campus. The regional round is Dec. 6.
▪ Ardrey Kell beat rival Providence 48-6 Friday to win a school-record 10th straight game and tie the school record for wins. The Knights, who wrapped up the outright SoMECK championship, will enter the playoffs with a lot of confidence, and I think they are good enough to upset a heavyweight in the playoffs. As star Cedric Gray said a few weeks back, “we ain’t scared.”
▪ Nice bounce back by Harrisburg Hickory Ridge to win its last two games after losing to Myers Park and Butler in back-to-back weeks. The Ragin Bulls locked up the No. 3 seed with a wild 51-48 win at Indian Trail Porter Ridge on Friday. The game-sealer was an 89-yard pass from Kobe Clifton to Derrick Brinton late in the fourth quarter.