CHARLOTTE – Oftentimes statistics can tell much of the story, but in the case of many of the Charlotte Christian football players this season isn’t shaking out quite that way.
It’s not that any of them mind their statistics are down, and it’s mainly because the 8-0 Knights are historically great, perhaps on the path to becoming the most dominant private-school team certainly of this generation and maybe of all time.
Last season, the 10-1 state champion Knights set the program record by averaging 47.8 points per game. No CISAA member school has ever scored that much.
This year, they average 47.3. And it would be more if the Knights weren’t blowing people out and sitting most of their starters at halftime of the majority of their games so far.
“It affects everybody on our team,” coach Jason Estep said. “We haven’t carried the workload of other teams.
“I told Gary Brown, who does all of our stats, that maybe we should do a multiplier of times two or something and say, ‘This is what it would be if they played the whole game.’ Garrett (Shrader) has thrown for 1,500-1,600 yards, but that would be 3,000 easy if he played the whole game. But our other guys work hard, too. So I try to get them in the games because they deserve to play and the scoreboard dictates we take out our starters.”
Last year, the Knights allowed about two touchdowns per game and were statistically a Top 5 defense among the teams in Estep’s 13 years with the program.
But this season, the Knights average 1.75 points per game – surrendering a ridiculous total of 14 points in eight games.
It has a lot to do with the secondary of Wake Forest commit Jeremiah Gray, Obi Egbuna, Henry Rutledge, Ben Williams, Chip Kasay and others.
The Knights are big up front, and undersized standouts Nathan Cherne and Blake Long seem to be everywhere at once.
But the most prominent reason this Knights team is as overwhelming dominant as they are lies squarely on the broad shoulders of senior lineman Ricky Kofoed and senior middle linebacker JT Killen.
Both are big, physical presences who have their futures clearly laid out for them. And both are dominating players on the field who opposing coaches scheme and game plan for but still can’t keep from wreaking havoc.
Like many of the starters on both sides of the ball, they are rarely on the field in the fourth quarter and don’t have the stats to back up their impact.
But there presence is felt on every play. Take Christian’s 41-7 win over Charlotte Latin as a prime example.
The Hawks could muster just over 140 yards of total offense. They were 4-11 passing, rarely testing the gifted secondary They stayed committed to running the ball, but with Kofoed and Killen leading the resistance could do nothing as they gained 97 yards on 34 carries.
Kofoed, who doubles as a 6-3, 220 pound pass catching machine at tight end, has committed to Appalachian State although Estep said he is good enough on his own to just play defensively in college.
Against the Hawks, he was lined up against Kevens Grammont, a next-level lineman with 11 offers of his own. Grammont played well and pressured Knights quarterback Garrett Shrader on several occasions, but Kofoed routinely set the edge by pinning Grammont on his inside.
But Kofoed, who also had three receiving touchdowns in the win over Latin, isn’t taking credit for the Knights dominance.
“We listen to what our coaches tell us to do,” Kofoed said. “Coach (Mike) Rose is our defensive coordinator, and he gives us the game plan each week and we just follow it. He’s a fanatic. He always comes up with the plays and he anticipates. He’ll say something like, ‘They never run it this way, but in case they do here’s how we’re going to defend it.’ We listen to everything he says because he’s a guru.
“But we have a good group of guys out here, we’re all close friends so to be out here like this has been really fun and enjoyable.”
Killen, a 6-3, 215 middle linebacker, looks like he was born to play football. However, he’s also an all-state pitcher and power hitter who has committed to play both sports at Coastal Carolina.
Killen is routinely double teamed, but he sheds blockers with quickness and toughness and is more often than not in on the play.
“This is fun,” he said. “It’s not fun coming out of games in the second half, but if we could play four quarters that would make it really fun. We have fun with it though. The real reason is we make each other better in practice every day. Coach always tells us that we play against the best team in practice every day we’re here and we do compete and go after each other every practice.”
The Knights will look to extend their win streak to 19 games when they face Providence Day in the season finale on Oct. 26, although the weather is calling for heavy rain and wind.
Estep said it wouldn’t matter what conditions the game was played in, because he wouldn’t worry about Kofoed and Killen.
“Neither Ricky nor JT have anything that rattles them,” Estep said. “They’re both the kind of guys that when you take them out of the game they’re mad. They say they don’t want to come out, and I know, but the score says you should be out of the game at this point.
“I don’t think anything phases Ricky. As a sophomore a couple of years ago, he caught one in the back of the end zone to pull us within one in the state championship game. We’ve known about him for a long time. Same with JT. But they’re both great kids and leaders for us. They came through our middle school system here. Ricky is a lifer here, and I think JT came in the second or third grade so they’ve seen it and been around it for a long time.”