Charlotte Latin blitzed rival Country Day 33-0, giving their coach the perfect ending to his 32-year career
In the days leading up to the NCISAA Division II championship game, Charlotte Latin coach Larry McNulty said he often thought of how the game would play out.
The 47-year coaching veteran – including 32 seasons at Charlotte Latin – knew this was his final game, but he wanted to win not only to ride off in the sunset with another title.
“It’s my final game and we’re playing our chief rival over all of those years at our place, I don’t think it gets any better than that,” he said. “There were times during the week I realized how important it was to win this game. It wasn’t just because it was my last game, even though that was a small part of the process, but I didn’t want to go out losing to my chief rival in the state championship game. We were very focused on winning that game. To get that far and not finish is tough.”
The Hawks took care of business nearly from the opening kick, routing Country Day 33-0 to claim McNulty’s 13th career coaching championship.
DeMarkes Stradford, who became the Hawks’ first 2,000-yard rusher in a season, set the tone early and his teammates followed.
“DeMarkes Stradford is a very special back, and there were times he got hit by three or four guys and broke loose and still scored a touchdown,” McNulty said. “He made some phenomenal runs and had a great game and a great season.”
Stradford, a Harvard commit, scored from 18 yards out on the Hawks opening possession to put them up 6-0.
Just five minutes into the game, Stradford bounced off a 64-yard touchdown run to give the Hawks a 13-0 lead.
Stradford completed the hat trick with a six-yard run in the second quarter for a 19-0 lead. In two games the star senior scored nine rushing touchdowns against Country Day.
Senior quarterback Martin Sumichrast waited for his turn to get in on the championship game action much like he had to become the Hawks starting quarterback this season.
“Martin didn’t play until his senior year,” McNulty said. “We had the Jones brothers (Daniel, a redshirt sophomore quarterback at Duke, and Bates, a freshman basketball player at Davidson) here for five years and Martin sat in the wings. We didn’t have any idea how he’d play and damn he had some great games.”
Sumichrast went 7-16 for 120 yards and an interception in the championship game, but ran 14 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
Both Sumichrast touchdown runs came from one yard and occured in the second quarter to provide the final margin of victory.
From there Latin cruised to the win and the most improbable titles for their coach.
The Hawks had returned just two starters on each side of the ball this season. McNulty said only three guys weighed more than 200 pounds when the season started and this was a team that had probably the smallest margin for error of any team he’d coached.
“We had a very small margin for error, we weren’t unbelievably talented and we had to be spot on to win every time we took the field,” McNulty said. “We had some tough games there in the middle of the year against PD (Providence Day), Charlotte Christian and Statesville Christian who are all good teams.
“We were a decent football team all year, we just didn’t have any room to be careless with the ball like we were against PD and Charlotte Christian. When we got down toward the end of the season, we tried to simplify it offensively and defensively and only had maybe two interceptions during the last four games that we won. That was big for us.”
The Hawks forced three Country Day turnovers in the finale, getting fumble recoveries from Britt Fuller and Walker Finke and an interception from Andrew Sumichrast.
“We really came a long way this year,” McNulty said. “We were a small squad with not very many seniors. We didn’t have a lot of plusses.
“We had no starters back in our secondary and they were shaky in the beginning of the year, but they got it together. It was fun to watch all of that come together.”
McNulty said another bright spot was the play of middle linebacker Ryan Brouse.
“He may be the best middle linebacker we’ve had here in a long time,” he said. “He ended up with over 160 tackles, which is crazy. We played a very basic defense, covered him up and let him run.”
In the end all of that amounted to the perfect send off for one of Charlotte’s all-time most iconic coaches.
“The trophies and the championships are nice and fun,” McNulty said. “They are very meaningful, but the part that really hits home is the relationships. There are lots of guys that I coached early on who are now fathers with young children and even teenage children. They call me or I see them and that’s rewarding to see how well they’re doing as dads and adults and I think that maybe something that they got from being in my football program has been some tiny part of their success and that’s what’s special to me.
“I loved coaching here for as long as I did, but I will keep these relationships the rest of my life and that’s what I’m most proud of.”