Latin’s Griggs takes place in county record book
Before the 2011 season, Charlotte Latin kicker/punter Paul Griggs was excited about making his senior year special.
He certainly – and literally – got things started on the right foot in the Hawks’ season-opener last week.
During Latin’s 23-0 victory at North Cross (Va.) on Aug. 27, Griggs booted a 57-yard field goal that broke a 17-year-old Mecklenburg County record.
“It cleared the uprights by three or four yards, actually,” Charlotte Latin coach Larry McNulty said. “It went right down the middle.”
The victory helped previously unranked Latin make its debut in the Southern Mecklenburg Super 7 this week at No. 6.
Griggs’ kick, which gave the Hawks a 9-0 lead in the second quarter, surpassed the previous county mark of 55 yards by Charlotte Christian’s Brett Speakman in 1994. It also is tied for the third-longest kick in state history, according to the N.C. High School Athletic Association website.
Griggs has committed to Purdue University and recently was selected to play in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Video footage of Griggs’ kick already is on YouTube, and it had nearly 400 views after two days on the popular website.
“You can see very clearly that the ball is on the 40-yard line (went it was snapped), and the whole thing adds up to 57 yards,” McNulty said. “And I think on his next kickoff, the ball not only went out of the end zone – it darn near went through the uprights. He really was pumped up and getting his foot into the ball.”
The longest field goal in state history is 61 yards, a feat accomplished by Cline Ingle of Lawndale’s Burns High in 2000. According to McNulty, Griggs at least is going to have the opportunity to surpass that mark this season.
“We’re not hesitant with (Griggs),” McNulty said. “If we get (within) 64-yard field goal range and in, we can try. If you kick the ball into the end zone, it’s just like a punt; they put the ball on the 20. So we’re going to try long field goals.”
Bucs, young QB eye Cook Cup
No. 3 Charlotte Country Day and No. 1 Charlotte Catholic have taken different paths into this week’s much-anticipated Cook Cup rivalry game.
Country Day opened the season last week with an impressive 55-13 thrashing of Carolina Pride, a team that includes home-schooled players and students unable to play for the schools they attend. The Cougars, meanwhile, already have two games to their credit, both dominating victories over Class 4A squads South Mecklenburg and Providence.
Because Country Day’s conference – the Charlotte Independent Schools Athletic Association – implemented a rule this season limiting the number of two-a-day practices its teams could have, Bucs coach Bob Witman was concerned that his squad entered the season a bit behind where it normally is this time of year. But after the Aug. 26 victory, he feels a bit more at ease.
“Our kids had another gear,” Witman said. “We’re starting to catch up a little bit. We’re pleased overall. A few penalties here and there kind of upset me. But (the game against Catholic), obviously, is going to be pretty challenging.”
The game will be the first major test for first-year Country Day quarterback Michael Radford, who looked poised against Carolina Pride. Radford takes over for former Bucs star Morgan Roberts, who’s now on the squad at Clemson University.
Witman, though, believes Radford is ready for the challenge, comparing him favorably with Roberts.
“(Radford’s) pretty athletic, and he’s got a good arm,” Witman said. “If you’re just sitting up in the stands watching (Radford), there’s not a lot of difference in the guy last year, in my opinion. Now the guy last year had a little bit stronger arm and had a little bit more experience, but this kid can sling it.”
Radford will look to excel against what might be one of Catholic’s few concerns: the pass defense. He has a proven receiver in senior Bryan Erb, who had a scintillating touchdown catch last week.
“Catholic’s going to be a big game,” Erb said. “We lost last year, and that was a heartbreaker. Our team is going to be so fired up for that game, and I think we’ll play well.”
Backup O’Brien leads Mustangs to win
When Alex O’Brien’s first pass against Hough was intercepted for a touchdown on Aug. 26, things could’ve gone downhill fast for the Myers Park sophomore making his first start for the injured Ross Jeffries.
Instead, O’Brien led the No. 4 Mustangs to their second consecutive win to start the year, completing 11 of 14 throws for 181 yards. While he added another interception on the night, he also connected with Terrance Long for a score. Receiver Kennedy Barkley caught six balls for 106 yards.
“(O’Brien) is really coachable,” said Myers Park coach Greg Taylor. “It doesn’t hurt his feelings (when he makes a mistake), he doesn’t pout. He came back and made plays.”
As demoralizing as losing a quarterback can be, Taylor said the team never questioned O’Brien’s abilities, which contributed to the Mustangs’ victory.
“I think the only person that pouted was me, and that was in my office,” Taylor said with a chuckle. “When we went out there, the kids just jumped in behind (O’Brien).
“They know what kind of player Ross is and how valuable quarterback is to a team, but it didn’t bother them – they just went on. It’s a great attitude and I was really pleased with it.”
Linebacker Mychal Turner, who doubles as a running back, teamed with Shaquore Harrington in the backfield and scored twice, giving the Mustangs a needed offensive boost. The senior also intercepted a Hough pass and ran it back 25 yards for a score, giving him three touchdowns in the game.
“He’s playing well on both sides (of the ball),” Taylor noted. “He’s in great physical shape and he wants to be out there all the time.”
Next up is a trip to Olympic, and while the Mustangs are 2-0, it’s the same record they enjoyed last season before losing six straight.
“We’ve got to keep improving,” Taylor said. “Our kids understand that and they approach it that way. We’ve got a senior-laden team and the leadership is good out at practice. Everyone’s trying to get better everyday and they aren’t satisfied with where they’re at.”
PD runners charge ahead
One of the chief concerns for Providence Day entering the 2011 campaign was the rushing attack. Specifically, how would the Chargers replace its top two ball carriers from a year ago, Joshua Covington (graduation) and Greg Goff (boarding school)?
The Chargers wasted little time proving they have a strong chance of doing just fine.
In last week’s season-opening shutout win over Victory Christian, the Chargers amassed 300 yards on the ground. Junior Gunner Guelli paved the way with 143 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown.
As a team, Providence Day averaged 7.9 yards on their 38 carries, with Daniel Stack gaining 15.5 yards per tote and Braxton Mosack registering 11.3 yards each time he ran with the ball. Stack and Mosack each ran for touchdowns, as did quarterback Chase Ferguson.
In all, eight different Chargers had rushing attempts. Providence Day coach Bruce Hardin thought it was a good first outing for his corps of runners.
“You see the potential every day in practice and just hope it doesn’t get exploited,” Hardin said. “But I’m very pleased with what our guys did running the ball. Hopefully, we can keep that going.”
This week, the Chargers travel to Rock Hill Westminster Catawba. Hardin also is hoping for another stellar outing from his young defense, which was stout in the 35-0 win over Victory Christian. Standouts included JV call-ups Ben Greenberg (two sacks), Blake Henderson (five tackles) and Mitch Renfrow (three tackles), along with Robby Rucho (eight tackles and a sack), Stack (six tackles) and Haamid Williams (four tackles).
Knight seek to keep momentum
Charlotte Christian earned its first victory of the season last week on the road at Concord First Assembly, 17-8.
Unlike the Aug. 19 season-opener against Franklin, when the Knights suffered a 21-point defeat, Charlotte Christian didn’t fall behind early in the game. That, Christian coach Jason Estep said, allowed the young Knights to gain confidence as the game wore on, and it put First Assembly is some precarious positions.
“Setting the tone early for us was huge,” Estep said. “We made (First Assembly) play from behind and do some things they didn’t necessarily want to do, which happened to us the previous week.
“Because we got ahead early (against First Assembly), we were able to stick to our game plan, which was to pound the football instead of throwing it. That worked out well for us.”
Sophomore running back Bo Hines gained 140 yards on 18 carries and scored a touchdown. But another important factor for the Knight was defense; last week, they switched from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4.
“We changed things up partly because we’ve had so many injuries,” Estep said. “But the guys adjusted well (to the 3-4). They looked good. It was a good move for us.”
This week, the Knights have a tremendous challenge at Liberty Christian (Va.), a 2,000-student school affiliated with Liberty University. Charlotte Christian will make the bus trip on Thursday and sleep over for the Friday night contest. Estep believes his team has a good chance against 1-0 Liberty Christian, thanks, in part, to last week’s win at First Assembly.
“The whole game just gave our kids the confidence that what we’ve been doing the last six months can work,” Estep said. “We have the potential to win if we stay healthy and our kids are focused on doing what we’re supposed to do.
“If we can get out of Liberty with a ‘W,’ our kids will feel like they can win a state championship.”