Daren Hart can breathe easier, and so can West Charlotte.
The Lions delivered a victory for their new coach with a 40-16 nonconference win against westside rival Harding on Friday at Jack Martin Stadium. West Charlotte cranked up its offense in all phases and the defense throttled the Rams when needed.
“It’s my first ever win and it feels good,” Hart said. “It always feels better to be on that winning side. I think the key is play hard and I think we learned a lot from last week” in a 22-21 loss to West Mecklenburg.
West Charlotte put those lessons to use early and often, scoring the first 40 points behind the balanced attack of quarterback Izayah Cole, who tossed three scoring passes and ran for a fourth. He finished with 219 yards total offense, including 191 passing on 8-of-13 accuracy.
“The first two games were hard,” Cole said. “We just had to come back and win. Coach Hart is a good coach. All we have to do is listen to him and accept his leadership.”
The Lions wasted no time jumping in front with Cole connecting with receivers on short routes that turned into long runs. He hit Jerko’Ya Patton on a 37-yarder to cap West Charlotte’s opening drive and did the same in the second half with a 33-yarder to Dezmien Berry and Quintin Mickerson to push the Lions ahead 33-0.
“I’m shorter so I have to look for short passes,” Cole said. “It motivated me and motivated my teammates. I trust my receivers to go get the ball, so when I throw it to them, I expect them to get it.”
West Charlotte’s ground game showed some spark as well, with the Lions piling up 204 yards and 1-yard scoring plunges by Mickerson and Cole. Patton added an 8-yard touchdown run for West Charlotte’s final score.
Harding avoided the shutout on Jaquan Rankins’ 32-yard run and Eugene Alexander’s 60-yard sprint with 22 seconds left. The Rams rushed for 142 yards on 25 carries, most of it in the fourth quarter with the game decided.
“This team is still growing. I’ve got a lot of first-year players on this team that needs that taste of winning. The only thing that has eluded this team is that win.” – West Charlotte coach Daren Hart.
West Charlotte is 1-2 and 0-0 in the MeCKa 4A; Harding is 1-2 and 0-0 in the SoMeck 4A.
Harding was 0-for-3 on fourth-down tries. West Charlotte turned all three changes of possession into touchdowns.
West Charlotte goes to South Point in Belmont for a nonconference game. Harding plays East Mecklenburg in a nonconference game.