Believe it or not, Mecklenburg County football wasn’t always strong. After South Mecklenburg won an N.C. 4A championship in 1981, the county didn’t produce another public-school champion until 1995, when West Charlotte won its first and only title.
For many of those in-between years and during most of the ’90s, there was always talk about “Black Friday” on the first night of the playoffs when it seemed every county team except one and sometimes two would fall. Times have changed. Mecklenburg County schools are dominating and Friday’s Butler-Mallard Creek matchup matches the two best overall teams in North Carolina.
• Same train of thought: Of the top 10 overall teams in North Carolina, regardless of class, I’d say five are from around here: Butler, Charlotte Christian, Hough, Independence and Mallard Creek. And Rocky River is right there, too. The other five? Scotland County, New Bern, Crest, East Forsyth and Richmond Senior. The best small-school team is Shelby.
• Two area teams are in the MaxPreps’ top 25 national rankings this week: No. 11 Mallard Creek and No. 25 Rock Hill Northwestern. Northwestern lost 30-22 to No. 22 Duncan Byrnes (S.C.) last week. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Butler jump in if the Bulldogs can upset Mallard Creek on Friday.
• As good as Charlotte Catholic looked opening up the offense last week at Providence Day, the key to beating pass-happy Northwestern is to control time of possession by doing what Catholic has always done: run. Another key? The Cougars’ defensive backs can’t get caught looking into the backfield like they did last week.
• Providence Day has a future star in sophomore Gabe Montgomery. The sophomore tailback runs extremely hard and with passion and good speed. One to keep an eye on.
• Charlotte Country Day’s Bob Witman is one of the best coaches in Mecklenburg County history, having built a private-school dynasty over the past three decades. Now his son, Drew, is assistant head coach at Myers Park under Mustangs coach Scott Chadwick.
• Kind of neat how all these local high schools are hiring alumni to return as coaches. Independence has a bunch and Providence Day has hired a few, too, including the school’s all-time greatest player, former running back Reggie Clark, and quarterbacks coach Kelly Johnson, who walked on at Alabama and won three national championships.
• The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study this week saying that chronic sleepiness is a public health issue among teenagers. The study said nearly one in 10 falls asleep during the school day. Big culprit? Forty three percent of the nation’s high school students start school before 8 a.m., including CMS. Most CMS schools go 7:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Going, say, 8:15 to 3:15 would push practice start times back a little but wouldn’t crash the schedule and student-athletes who get home later than most regular students already would probably be more alert in the morning.
• Metrolina Christian’s Rudiger Yearick had a pretty good junior year debut in last week’s win over Concord First Assembly. He completed 11-of-18 passes, five were for touchdowns.
• A good performance lost in a 49-0 loss to Independence: South Mecklenburg junior DB Chance Kennedy had five catches for 59 yards, five tackles, an interception and five kickoff returns for 176 yards.
• Cherryville quarterback Grant Henderson threw for 260 yards in last week’s wild 50-44 win over Bunker Hill. That was 10th most in school history. Henderson completed 21 passes to six different receivers.
• One of more intriguing matchups of Friday night is Victory Christian at SouthLake Christian. The teams have split the past two state championships and both feature one of the area’s top running backs – SouthLake’s Robert Washington (2,512 yards, 28 TDs in 2013) and Victory’s Joshua Allen (1,950 yards, 18 TDs). Could be high scoring.