Charlotte Country Day and Myers Park High School are about 3 miles apart. Country Day opened in 1941; Myers Park 10 years later.
Curious thing: The two schools have never played a football game against each other. Until now.
“It’s crazy when you think about it,” Myers Park coach Scott Chadwick said. “Schools that are that close together, that are that old, with just great overall traditions – and they are two schools that have never played in football.”
Country Day’s coach Drew Witman said: “It’s a great opportunity for this community. I told these kids a lot of people from the past wish they could play in this game, and it’s not like we’re playing on some small scale. The Kickoff Classic puts this game on a bigger scale. I’m excited for (the players) and for the community to come together. People always wondered what would happen if Country Day played Myers Park.”
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Country Day and Myers Park will start Saturday’s Kickoff Night doubleheader at Memorial Stadium at 5 p.m. At 8, Mallard Creek, ranked No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16, faces No. 3 Independence.
Mallard Creek, Country Day and Independence have won multiple state championships. The Mustangs, though, have never won a football state title. Myers Park was undefeated in 1965 and was the Western Regional champion, but no state title game was played that year.
Chadwick said his team is glad to share the stage with three glamor programs.
“We’ve been given a heckuva opportunity to play at Memorial Stadium,” Chadwick said, “and at that time, we’re the only game going on in the state. It’s a big event. As a program, we haven’t done anything to deserve being put on this stage, so we’ve got to show they didn’t make a mistake by putting us out there.”
Earlier this week, players from Myers Park and Country Day visited the Levine Children’s Hospital and a local homeless shelter. The players made cards for sick residents and talked to the kids in the hospital. They also fed the homeless lunch.
The idea for that came from Charlotte Country Day coach Drew Witman, who was defensive coordinator and strength training coach for Chadwick last season at Myers Park. Chadwick said Witman’s hiring added a little spice to the game.
“I see it as a little weird,” Chadwick said. “He was such a tremendous part of our offseason program. Basically the guy who ran our offseason program, preparing our guys for the season gets to his first game, and the first game he has as a head coach is against the guys he prepared. That in itself is ironic.”
Witman replaced his father, Bob, at Country Day. Drew played under his father and saw his immense success. Bob Witman, who resigned in late February, was 219-67 in 25 years at Country Day, where he won eight state championships.
Drew Witman, who was hired just a few weeks before the 2014-15 school year ended, said he hopes to continue what his father built. He also said he understands how Chadwick feels about him leaving.
“First and foremost, Myers Park is a great place,” Drew Witman said, “and Scott’s an unbelievable man and coach. The kids are great. It was hard to leave. I wouldn’t have left for any other job. ... Country Day is a great opportunity and I wanted to take it. We put our hearts (at Myers Park) into this offseason, and then I got this opportunity. I hope they know I’m still a big fan of their people and students and a big fan of Scott Chadwick. But for 2 1/2 hours Saturday, we’re going to compete.”
Tale Of The Tape: Myers Park vs. Charlotte Country Day
Country Day Bucs
Student Population: 1,630 (K-12)
2014 record: 5-6
Returning Starters: 4
Of Note: Country Day has 12 seniors returning, including QB Cole Bloomer, a rare three-year starter. Wide receiver Trip Sappenfield, another senior who played at Myers Park last season. Coach Drew Witman said the Bucs entire offensive line is made up underclassmen
Myers Park Mustangs
Student Population: 2,833 (9-12, as reported to NCHSAA for 2014-15 school year)
2014 Record: 5-7
Returning Starters: 8
Of Note: Three of the Mustangs four returning receivers – Brandon Adams, Cooper Hearn, Jason Monastra – caught at least 20 passes last season. QB Jack Davidson, a 6-2, 215-pound junior, moves up from junior varsity. On defense, LB Noah Smith is a three-year starter who was all-conference last season.Jamal Watson, a three-year starter, returns at DB. Myers Park lost 30 seniors to graduation from its 2014 team.