In May 2014, when Mike Brodowicz was named football coach at Charlotte Catholic, he admitted being nervous.
He was replacing one of the best coaches in state history. Jim Oddo had coached at Catholic since 1973 before retiring in 2013 after winning 358 games and three state championships.
Oddo left after delivering 14 straight winning seasons and helping build arguably the best high school football fan base in western North Carolina.
"To say that (I was nervous),” Brodowicz told me last winter, “that would be an understatement.”
Brodowicz is different than Oddo, who believed in smash-mouth football and little flash. Catholic still runs the ball, but the Cougars will run from spread formations and throw more than fans are used to seeing.
Brodowicz’s teams are 28-2, with the losses coming last year to 2014 N.C. 4AA champ Mallard Creek and 2014 N.C. 4A champion New Bern. Catholic reached the 4A final last year against New Bern and can return if the Cougars (14-0) win Friday night at Greensboro Dudley (13-1).
▪ In 1999, Asheville Reynolds beat Richmond Senior 13-10 in the N.C. 4A Western Regional championship game. That was the last time a Mecklenburg County team was not represented in the western regional final of the state’s largest classification.
Independence made the 4A regional finals in 2000 and 2001. Then, the N.C. High School Athletic Association subdivided the playoffs, splitting the 4A class into larger and smaller schools. Since then, a Mecklenburg County team has been in every 4AA Western regional final. Eight times, Mecklenburg County teams have met in that round.
This season, one county team is in: Two-time 4AA champion Mallard Creek visits East Forsyth Friday, with the winner going to next week’s state final.
▪ Speaking of the state playoffs: A Mecklenburg County team has won 11 of the 13 N.C. 4AA championships played.
Throughout North Carolina, I think East Forsyth has lots of fans this week who want to see the Charlotte freight train knocked off the tracks Friday night. But whatever was wrong with Mallard Creek earlier in the season, when the Mavericks lost close games in big moments, the playoffs have erased. Mallard Creeks seems focused and is playing well.
I would be surprised if a Charlotte team isn’t in the finals next week for the fourth straight season.
▪ Weddington’s Keith Duncan, who made a 50-yard field goal last week at Crest, is one of 15 semifinalists for the Chris Sailor national kicker of the year award. He is the only N.C. candidate. Duncan made 22-of-27 field goals this season, including five of 50 yards or longer. He was also 60-for-60 on extra point attempts. The winner will be announced in January.
▪ Time Warner Cable will air Friday’s N.C. 4AA regional championships at 7:30 p.m. The western final – Mallard Creek at East Forsyth – will air on TWC channel 324. The eastern final – Greensboro Page at Middle Creek – airs on channel 323.
▪ Braxton Knotts of Monroe had a brilliant third-round game in last week’s 50-7 win over Franklin. He rushed for two touchdowns and caught two touchdown passes. Knotts had nine catches for 160 yards and three rushes for 67.
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr