Friday night, Harding first-year coach Sam Greiner will face the man who taught him about winning. The Rams (1-2) will host East Meck (0-3), which is led by Greiner’s high school football coach, Barry Shuford.
Greiner played three seasons for Shuford at Butler High in Matthews from 1997 until 1999.
“Football was a way of life at Butler,” Greiner said. “They taught me about how important winning and family were. So I love Shuford for that. But I know (Friday) he wants to beat me as bad as I want to beat him.
“He definitely doesn’t want to lose to a guy he taught, and I don’t want to lose to an old man.”
Greiner, 33, laughs as he teases 52-year-old Shuford about his age.
It has been 16 years since they were together at Butler. Greiner was a 130-pound sophomore when the school opened in 1997, and Shuford was building the foundation to one of North Carolina’s all-time dynasties.
“I was an undersized outside linebacker,” Greiner said, again with his hearty laugh. “But they had to play me. They didn’t want to play me.”
Shuford’s first team at Butler was 4-7. The Bulldogs haven’t had a losing season since. In fact, by Greiner’s senior year Butler finished 10-4 and nearly upset the state’s top team, Richmond Senior, on the road in the third round of the N.C. 4A playoffs.
Greiner envisions similar success for Harding, which has had two winning seasons the past 25 years.
“It’s not the kids’ fault,” Greiner said. “There’s nothing for them to strive for. They used to practice on a softball field with sand.”
Greiner has helped raise money for new equipment and embraced students calling Harding University High School as “The U.”
The Rams have new uniforms and on the back of their helmets is a big “U” decal.
“Our motto is ‘Moving Mountains,’ ” said Greiner, who is emphasizing team unity. “It’s not easy, but you’ve got to have strong faith. The mountain at Harding hasn’t been successful in 20 years, and that’s a hard mountain to move. But you’ve got to believe in yourself.”
▪ Shuford has coached for 31 years and has faced several former players. Last season, when he coached against Butler, he looked across the field and saw assistant Mark Sanders, whom he coached in college at Lenoir-Rhyne, along with five other Bulldogs assistants he formerly coached in college or in high school. Last season, when East Meck played Porter Ridge, Shuford faced Pirates head coach Zach Bevilacqua, another former Butler player. And Greiner was on Shuford’s coaching staff at Olympic.
“It makes me feel old,” Shuford said of his former players becoming coaches. “I don’t always remember all of their names, but it’s nice to see them and I certainly enjoyed coaching them.”
▪ Harding will rename its field for former coach Dave Harris before the East Meck game. Harris, who was 86 when he died five years ago, coached at Harding from 1948 until 1966 and won two state titles.
▪ Mallard Creek fell from most national polls following a 31-29 loss to nationally ranked Byrnes (S.C.) last week. The Mavericks fell 25 spots, to No.34 in the National High School Football 100 rankings.
▪ Myers Park and South Mecklenburg will resume one of the state’s oldest rivalries Friday. The teams will meet for the 55th time in the fourth Patriotism Bowl, held to raise money and awareness for those serving and who have served in the military. There will be a skydiving exhibition, flight simulators and military displays. Both teams will wear camouflaged jerseys.
▪ Mount Pleasant coach Michael Johns won his 100th game last week in the Tigers’ 35-24 win against Cox Mill.
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr