Garinger up­sets Crouch-less Hard­ing, points to bet­ter fu­ture

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY LANGSTON WERTZ JR. lw­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Al­most a year ago, Garinger High beat Mon­roe’s Cen­tral Academy 42-0 to end a 55-game los­ing streak that spanned six sea­sons.

It didn’t take the Wild­cats nearly that long to win an­other game.

Garinger up­set Hard­ing 41-21 Fri­day night, snap­ping an eight-game slide. And I’m not sure any­one out­side of the Wild­cats’ locker room saw this com­ing. Hard­ing was na­tion­ally ranked in pre­sea­son and was in the Ob­server’s pre­sea­son Sweet 16 poll.

Hard­ing also was com­ing off a 56-6 sea­sonopen­ing loss to No. 1 Hough, look­ing to get its sea­son on track.

It’s ab­so­lutely Garinger’s best win since at least 1995, when the Wild­cats were 6-4, post­ing the school’s most re­cent win­ning sea­son.

Since ’95, Garinger has gone through 11 sea­sons without a W.

So this, folks, was big. “It feels good,” sec­ondyear coach Jeff Cald­well said. “The kids cel­e­brated hard and they know they worked hard. Ev­ery­body worked hard. The prin­ci­pal worked hard. The (ath­let­ics direc­tor) worked hard. The teach­ers. Ev­ery­body’s just en­cour­ag­ing the kids and it was on a whole ‘nother level tonight.”

Hard­ing has at least nine Divi­sion I col­lege re­cruits, in­clud­ing se­nior run­ning back/line­backer Quavaris Crouch, who might be the best high school foot­ball player in the coun­try. Hard­ing won the N.C. 4A cham­pi­onship last sea­son.

Cald­well said he spoke with first-year Hard­ing coach Robert Cross on Aug. 18 and Cross told him Crouch in­jured an an­kle in­jury dur­ing the Rams’ loss to Hough.

Crouch didn’t play Fri­day and that surely made a dif­fer­ence, but the Rams – who have al­lowed 97 points in two weeks – were thor­oughly out­played by a Garinger team that had been shut out five times dur­ing its past eight games.

Garinger wide re­ceiver Mal­colm Bai­ley caught two touch­down passes. Quar­ter­back An­to­nio Smith, who started at run­ning back a week ear­lier, was moved to his new po­si­tion af­ter AD Tony Hug­gins made a mid-week sug­ges­tion to his caoch.

Smith threw for two touch­downs and ran for an­other. On de­fense, lineback­ers Eli­jah Richard­son and Ja­mon San­ders led the Wild­cats, and Teddy Swukol­lie, who is from Liberia, showed he’s more than just an all­con­fer­ence punter.

Swukol­lie played wide re­ceiver and started at cor­ner­back. He caught a touch­down pass Fri­day.

“Yeah,” Cald­well said, “I know there will be some peo­ple who are sur­prised. We’re sur­prised. Hard­ing has a lot of D1 ath­letes on their team. But our kids stuck to­gether and prac­ticed hard and did the things we asked them to do. We thought we had a shot and it was about go­ing in and play­ing solid foot­ball.”

Cald­well said his job is to give players be­lief, some­thing that al­ways has been in short sup­ply at Garinger. But Cald­well has hired some ad­di­tional coaches – like new of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dun­can An­der­son from Dun­dalk High in Bal­ti­more, and new of­fen­sive line coach Ed­die McCul­lom, who played at West Char­lotte.

Slowly, Cald­well said, he thinks Garinger is mak­ing progress. A win like this could help ac­cel­er­ate that greatly.

“Man,” he said. “This was re­ally big for us. I can’t lie. It’s some­thing for us to build on.”

FRI­DAY’S OB­SER­VA­TIONS

If I’m a 2A team, I’m

keep­ing an eye on Maiden, which beat East Burke 68-0 Fri­day and has outscored its first two op­po­nents 89-6. Maiden was 11-0 last sea­son and gear­ing up for a state ti­tle run. That was blown up by a shock­ing 16-0 first-round play­off loss to New­ton Foard.

Maiden has plenty of fire­power, like quar­ter­back Bain Sipe, who threw for 233 yards and four touch­downs Fri­day.

But­ler and Mal­lard

Creek proved both teams are bona fide state cham­pi­onship con­tenders Fri­day, but both teams have to clean up their play to get there. The teams com­bined for 25 penal­ties in Mal­lard Creek’s 36-28 win, in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple per­sonal fouls.

The Matthews Sport

sPlex, where But­ler and Mal­lard Creek played, is a 4,000-seat beauty of a fa­cil­ity and more high school foot­ball games – in­clud­ing the an­nual sea­son-open­ing kick­off now at Memo­rial Sta­dium – should move there.

EL­E­VA­TOR

rNorth Meck­len­burg, West Meck­len­burg: North Meck beat Olympic 55-26 to im­prove to 2-0 and is av­er­ag­ing 44 points per game un­der sec­ondyear coach Eric Mor­man. … West Meck bounced back from a close loss to Vance, get­ting some key players back from in­jury in a 53-24 vic­tory over West Char­lotte.

qProv­i­dence Day: The Charg­ers started the sea­son with state cham­pi­onship dreams on a team with at least five high ma­jor-col­lege re­cruits. It’s not too late to re­bound, but af­ter Fri­day’s 33-7 loss to Columbia Ridge View, the Charg­ers are 0-2 and have been outscored 7427.

rIn­de­pen­dence and Hopewell: The Pa­tri­ots beat Hopewell 54-19 Fri­day, just a day be­fore start­ing quar­ter­back Davyne Simp­son will be buried af­ter pass­ing away last Sun­day. The teams hon­ored Simp­son, nick­named “Flash,” af­ter the game.

FRI­DAY’S TOP PER­FORM­ERS

Ken­nique Bon­nerSte­ward, Hough: Se­nior quar­ter­back, who has com­mit­ted to Tem­ple, com­pleted 14 of 20 passes for 266 yards and four touch­downs in a 48-10 vic­tory over Prov­i­dence. Nolan Groulx, a Wake For­est re­cruit, caught three passes for 106 yards and a score.

Charles Mincey Jr., Mal­lard Creek: Se­nior play­ing his first game for Mal­lard Creek ran 14 times for 164 yards in a 36-28 win against But­ler. He had a 65-yard scor­ing run.

Muhsin Muham­mad, My­ers Park: Ju­nior wide re­ceiver had 153 to­tal yards in a 50-7 vic­tory over Ar­drey Kell. That in­cluded a 55-yard fake punt score, a 55-yard punt re­turn and a 43-yard catch. Sopho­more quar­ter­back Drake Maye threw for 283 yards and two scores.

Michael Neel, Char­lotte Catholic: In a 37-0 win against South Meck, Neel ran for 216 yards and three touch­downs, in­clud­ing 134 yards dur­ing the first half on 11 car­ries.

An­to­nio Smith, Garinger: Smith threw for two touch­down passes and ran for an­other in a 41-21 vic­tory over Hard­ing.

FRI­DAY’S ROUNDUP

Wake For­est 49, Richmond Se­nior 28: Richmond (1-1) had a few leads early, but Wake For­est, the two-time N.C. 4AA cham­pion, ran its win­ning streak to 33 games. Wake For­est held Richmond to 62 yards rush­ing. Richmond sopho­more quar­ter­back Caleb Hood was 13-for-24 for 265 yards and three scores.

Metrolina Chris­tian 46, Union Academy 0:

Myles Sax­ton was 13for-22 for 195 yards and four touch­downs in the win. Sax­ton added a rush­ing touch­down.

North­side Chris­tian 38, Statesville Chris­tian 0: North­side led 32-0 at half­time and out­gained Statesville 337 to neg­a­tive 36. Malachi Ren­nix ran for 142 yards and three touch­downs on five car­ries.

North­west Cabar­rus 35, Mount Pleas­ant 12:

Nick Wild’Law­ing com­pleted 15 of 18 passes for 200 yards and a score, and he ran five times for 35 yards and an­other touch­down in the win. Team­mate Tyrese Blake ran 20 times for 92 yards and three scores.

SouthLake Chris­tian 38, Hick­ory Grove 6:

Beau Bullderdick ran for 169 yards in the win.

South Point 42, Lin­col­nton 7: Naseem Jones ran for three touch­downs and 89 yards in an easy win.

TONY HUG­GINS Special to the Ob­server

Garinger High’s players cel­e­brate a win Fri­day over Hard­ing High, the reign­ing N.C. 4A cham­pi­ons

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