Columns & Blogs

Country Day football coach Bob Witman puts retirement thoughts on hold

After 33 years of being a head high school football coach, Charlotte Country Day’s Bob Witman is beginning to think about what life would be like without a whistle.

“I don’t know yet,” Witman, 64, said of possibly retiring. “I’ll think about it when the season’s over. When you’ve coached this long, you think about when is enough enough.”

In 26 years at Country Day, Witman has an impressive 215-61 record and he’s won eight state championships. From 1993-2004, he won seven in 12 years. When you think about the greatest football coaches in Mecklenburg County history, it’s hard to not include guys such as Bruce Hardin (Olympic/West Charlotte/Harding/Providence Day), Dave Harris (Harding), Gus Purcell (Myers Park), Rudy Abrams (West Charlotte/East Meck), Larry McNulty (Charlotte Latin) and Jim Oddo (Charlotte Catholic). I’d vote for longtime West Charlotte, Harding and Independence coach Tom Knotts at the top.

From 1987-2007, Knotts took three different Mecklenburg schools to 11 state championship games, winning seven times.

Witman ranks up there with all of them, a guy who came to Charlotte from the Greenhill School in Dallas, seeking a winning tradition. He found one at Country Day and took it to another level.

“I had the feeling early on that this place was special,” he said. “I came to interview and got an indication of how excited the parents were, how into it they were. I know that’s a double-edged sword. You want your school community to be into it, but they get too much into it and they want to knit-pick and micro-manage. But you won’t get anything done unless you have support from your family base. And these people over here, they’re into it. They want to win. It’s not just an activity to them.”

• Former Mallard Creek outside linebacker Jacob O’Connor is now at Hickory Grove Christian (1-1), which plays North Raleigh Christian at home at 7 p.m. Friday. O’Connor, a junior, is second on the team in rushing (27 carries for 125 yards) and third in tackles (12). He also has two sacks.

• Providence Day sophomore Gabe Montgomery rushed for 324 yards on 31 carries in a 17-0 win over Raleigh Ravenscroft last week. That’s the 10th-most single-game rushing yards in Mecklenburg County history. It’s second in school and county history behind Josh Covington, who ran for 378 yards in a 2010 game for Providence Day.

• Butler and Mallard Creek seem to be taking turns at who sits on top of the North Carolina prep football landscape. Butler won the latest battle by an (extra) point last week. My crystal ball says that’s one of two meetings this year. The next one will likely determine who goes to a state championship.

• And props to Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri and Butler’s Brian Hales for scheduling tough competition. In this era of playoff seeds and points, it would be easy to assure yourself a high seed and schedule light. Both schools schedule heavyweights each year and recently signed a two-year deal to keep their budding rivalry brewing.

• Harding High hasn’t had a lot of football success in recent years, but the Rams now have two NFL players: Walt Aikens Jr. is with Miami and L.J. McCray is in San Francisco. Aikens played at Liberty and was drafted in the fourth round. McCray is an undrafted rookie from Division II Catawba College in Salisbury. ... Charlotte Latin also has two new NFL players: Brenton Bersin (Wofford, Carolina) and Ross Cockrell (Duke, Buffalo). Former Hawks star Chris Canty (Virginia) plays in Baltimore.

• The N.C. High School Athletic Association state championships will be held at two sites in December. The 1A, 1AA, 3A and 3AA games will be at N.C. State. The 2A, 2AA, 4A and 4AA will be at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem. Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill has hosted championship games each year since 1989, but is not available this season because of work on the stadium field that will begin when North Carolina’s season ends.