Charlotte Catholic survives scare
Charlotte Catholic running back Elijah Hood, despite being just a junior, already has had some big wins in his career. But he said last week’s 15-12 squeaker over Waxhaw Marvin Ridge in the opening round of the Class 3AA playoffs was the best yet.
“We came together in this one,” said Hood, who finished with 256 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. “This was a big win. It’s one of the best football-game wins I’ve ever had in my life. It was spectacular to win that game.”
The Mavs actually jumped out to a 12-0 lead in the first half before Hood scored late in the second quarter to go down, 12-7. The Cougars’ defense stiffened and only allowed a single first down in the second half, however, to earn the win and advance to the second round, where they’ll host Weddington (9-2) on Friday, Nov. 9.
Cougars defensive end Jamie Choulas said the team was lucky to learn a valuable lesson and still earn the win over Marvin Ridge.
“We came in probably thinking we were going to win a lot easier than we did,” Choulas said. “We didn’t come ready or pumped up, and that’s what we had to do in the second half.”
Cougars coach Jim Oddo said that while the Mavericks came into the game with a sound gameplan, Marvin Ridge put Catholic on its heels with physical first-half play. While it took a half for Catholic to respond, it finally did.
“You have to do that – that’s the mark of a (good) team,” said Oddo. “You either bow up and fight back, or you get whipped. It’s that simple. Thank heavens they decided to come back and get after them.
“We made a few adjustments that helped, but basically, I think as much as anything, they just tightened up their chinstraps and got after (Marvin Ridge) a little bit.”
This week, though, Weddington could present the Cougars with their stiffest test of the season.
The Warriors earned a third of the Southern Carolina 3A/4A conference title with Class 4A contenders Indian Trail Porter Ridge and Monroe Sun Valley after each team posted 4-1 league marks. Weddington features a bruising run game fueled by back Gavin Black (more than 1,500 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns), while quarterback Jeff Welch and receiver Ryan Black give the Warriors big-play potential.
The Warriors biggest strength, however, is its defense, especially up front, where linebacker Chase Roten and safety Billy Ryan have helped hold five of the Warriors’ last six opponents to nine points or fewer.
On Oct. 26, Weddington beat Waxhaw Marvin Ridge – which Catholic beat last week, 15-12 – by a score of 17-9.
Nash lifts Charlotte Christian defense
Entering the season, Charlotte Christian coach Jason Estep wasn’t sure what he would get out of his linebackers because of youth and inexperience, but they’ve turned out to be one of the strengths of a talented and effective defense.
Outside linebackers Ryan Gilmartin (freshman) and Dalton Gouveia (sophomore) had never played varsity, but both have done admirable jobs. Junior C.J. Nash was the wild card after transferring from East Gaston High, but he’s found a home as the Knight’s middle linebacker and has become their leading tackler.
“This year has been amazing,” Nash said. “I’ve been trying to do all that I can to help my team. They have me blitzing and playing in the middle. They’ve put me in a place where I can be comfortable.”
Estep said Nash has fit in well and been an asset to a team that has won six consecutive games and will play Friday, Nov. 9, for the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I championship.
“This year has been wonderful,” Nash said. “It’s been a big difference to come here where everyone is on the same page and wants to win. To win a state championship would be unreal, so we have to come out here and be ready to play.
“It’s no knock against East Gaston, but the coaches and players are more focused here, and it shows. I want to do all that I can to help that.”
While the defense has been stingy, the Knights offense, behind senior Dez Lawrence, has been equally as impressive. Lawrence has topped 100 yards rushing in each of the past five games and had 180 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards in last week’s 48-20 victory over Charlotte Latin to advance to the state title game.
Estep said this is where he figured his team would be at this point of the season, and he believes the Knights will be ready as they try to become state champions for the second time in five years.
“We thought it was going to be us and PD (playing for the title) in the beginning of the year, and I bet they felt the same,” Estep said. “It’s going to be a tough one for sure.”
Chargers, Fields take next step
Defending state champion Providence Day advanced to the NCISAA championship game by avenging a regular-season loss to Charlotte Country Day with a 24-14 victory over the Bucs last week.
While there were several pivotal players for the Chargers, senior receiver Bryon Fields brought new aspect to the offense by frequently lining up at running back. The Duke University commit wound up carrying the ball 18 times for a career-high 198 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
It might’ve very well been the difference in a game against a team that took the field without its top player: dual-threat quarterback Michael Radford (concussion).
“We put a couple little things in to help spark our running game,” Chargers coach Bruce Hardin said. “We knew we’d struggled and got behind in that area, and using Bryon in different schemes really helped. And I thought our offensive line really played as well as they could against one of the best defensive lines that you’ll see.
“It’s unfortunate for Michael Radford. Life isn’t always fair, but Country Day still had a great year. But I’m so proud of (our) kids. They’re right where they want to be right now. I think they’ve found their niche. This is good for them.”
Radford watches as Bucs bow out
Michael Radford wore his Charlotte Country Day uniform last Friday night, but the senior quarterback knew he wouldn’t be able to play in the private-school state semifinal game against Providence Day.
Radford, who’s committed to Wake Forest, had to sit out the 24-14 defeat because of a concussion he suffered in an Oct. 26 win over Charlotte Latin.
“I tried to practice on Monday, and I just knew I couldn’t do it,” Radford said. “Brain injuries take a while to heal, and you know that they’re serious. I just thought about my future.
“Obviously, I would’ve done anything to play with my team, because I knew this was a really important game. But I didn’t really have a choice. The trainers said, ‘You can’t play,’ and that hurt.”
Instead, Radford provided advice and encouragement to his stand-in, Robert Tate, from the sidelines.
Radford said he plans to play in the Oasis All Star Shrine Classic on Nov. 24.
“I’ll be fine by then,” he said. “Now, I just have to keep working out so I can get bigger and then go on to Wake. I’m very excited about my future.
“I’m just glad (Country Day coaches) let me dress out, though. If I wasn’t able to have my pads on one last time, I would’ve really felt left out. I’m going to miss all these guys.”