Chris­tian’s Shrader turns night­mare to dream in ti­tle game

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

Char­lotte Chris­tian quar­ter­back Gar­rett Shrader had five turnovers in his team’s 33-32 win over Prov­i­dence Day Fri­day.

Play­ing in the Big South 4A con­fer­ence cham­pi­onship game, and play­ing on a cold, rainy night, Shrader - who has com­mit­ted Mis­sis­sippi State - was watch­ing his team’s un­beaten sea­son and top 100 na­tional rank­ing go up in smoke. This had the po­ten­tial to be per­haps the worst game for a player who’s had one of the best ca­reers in N.C. pri­vate school his­tory.

Prov­i­dence Day led 26-6 at half­time. Among the is­sues for Shrader and the Knights? Mul­ti­ple per­sonal fouls, which cost them 15 yards each, and two turnovers in­side the Prov­i­dence Day 10.

“I don’t want to take any­thing away from Prov­i­dence Day. They had a great plan,” Chris­tian coach Ja­son Estep said. “But we prob­a­bly played our worst half of foot­ball I’ve seen in a long time. But one thing I felt good about? There was a calm­ness in our locker room at half­time, and I knew we’d be OK.”

Sure enough, Chris­tian made a big rally at home to lead 27-26. Shrader had a touch­down pass and two touch­down runs to help make it pos­si­ble. But the de­ter­mined Charg­ers - who lost the 2017 con­fer­ence and state cham­pi­onship games to these Knights - took the lead right back.

Notre Dame re­cruit Osita Ek­wonu scored his third touch­down of the game with un­der four min­utes re­main­ing.

And then Chris­tian got a big kick­off re­turn near mid­field and Shrader took off on a scram­ble for a big gain. But the 2017 (and soon to be 2018) all-con­fer­ence player of the year suf­fered his fifth turnover.

Prov­i­dence Day cel­e­brated.

All seemed lost.

“If you know any­thing about (Shrader),” Estep said, “at least on the foot­ball field, there are never any highs or any lows. But the last time he fum­bled, he was down on the ground on his knees and he had this look on his face, like ‘Did I just let ev­ery­one down?’ Typ­i­cally whether he throws a pick or a 50-yard touch­down, he comes off the field the same way. This time, he came off with a heavy weight.”

But Char­lotte Chris- tian’s de­fense, which had been stout in the sec­ond half, forced a quick punt, and Shrader and the of­fense came storm­ing down the field.

With 14 sec­onds left, Shrader threw a pass to Wake For­est re­cruit Jeremiah Gray, who was tack­led at the Prov­i­dence Day 2. The clock should have stopped for the first down with 2.7 sec­onds left, but it didn’t. The Charg­ers and their fans rushed the field. Some of the Knights headed to the side­line in dis­gust.

“It got in­tense at the end,” Estep said. “They stormed the field and we were try­ing to get set to (spike the ball to stop the clock). There was com­plete panic.”

Ul­ti­mately the field was cleared and Shrader got one more play. He took the snap and ran up the mid­dle. Ball game.

Shrader fin­ished with 176 yards rush­ing, four touch­downs, and he added 163 yards pass­ing, one touch­down. There aren’t too many games where both teams have cham­pi­onship cel­e­bra­tions, and there aren’t too many games that have been quite like this one.

“It wasn’t just him,” Estep said of Shrader. “Our of­fen­sive line did a great job and our de­fense just gave up one score in the sec­ond half. I don’t want to put it all on Gar­rett be­cause I wouldn’t put a loss all on Gar­rett. But I’m proud Gar­rett was able to lead us and make a play at the end. It was a com­plete team win.”

And one Estep, Shrader and many cold and wet Char­lotte Chris­tian fans will likely re­mem­ber a long time.


It’s time for Char­lotte●

Meck­len­burg Schools to come up with a bet­ter plan of how to han­dle sports and the weather. Too fre­quently the dis­trict seems be­hind its peers with mak­ing com­mon sense de­ci­sions, like mov­ing back Fri­day’s sched­ule to Thurs­day.

Sev­eral teams were forced to change venues Fri­day, mean­ing there was po­ten­tial for fans to go to the wrong place, and sev­eral more schools were forced to move games to Mon­day. If play­ing in Fri­day’s con­di­tions could in­crease the chance for in­jury, so could play­ing two games in five days next week when the is­sue could’ve been avoided.

A cold, con­stant rain had been fore­cast for more than a week, and more than half of the area’s games were moved back. Sev­eral CMS coaches ex­pressed sur­prise to the Ob­server dur­ing the week that the games were not moved.

Play­ing in these kinds of con­di­tions stresses fields, like at Prov­i­dence High, and even when schools are able to move to sites where there is ar­ti­fi­cial turf, teams will play in front of smaller crowds. For schools that rely on foot­ball con­ces­sions and foot­ball ad­mis­sions to help fund the over­all ath­letic bud­get, it’s worth it to move up 24 hours. Ob­server cor­re­spon­dents and coaches re­ported that crowds at three venues Fri­day were 80-85 per­cent lighter than would be ex­pected.

Or as one for­mer CMS coach who once led a lo­cal team to a state fi­nal texted me Fri­day af­ter­noon: “So, just be­cause those schools have as­tro­turf, they’re go­ing to play those kids in weather (Fri­day night)? Don’t they un­der­stand about gate re­ceipts?”

As good as Fri­day’s

Prov­i­dence Day-Char­lotte Chris­tian game was, fans may be want­ing to see an­other. They prob­a­bly won’t have to wait long. If Ar­den Christ School and Fayet­teville Trin­ity Chris­tian qual­ify for the Di­vi­sion I play­offs, as Chris­tian coach Estep ex­pects, those two schools would likely play one state semi­fi­nal next week. Chris­tian would host Prov­i­dence Day in the other.

The of­fi­cial pair­ings will come out this week­end, but it’s a real pos­si­bil­ity.

“I don’t know how else it shakes out,” Estep said. “We don’t pre­fer it. But that will be unique.”


rGene Brown, Garinger: FormerWild­cats QB be­came the first black quar­ter­back in­ducted into the Ci­tadel’s Hall of Fame. Steve Shaugh­nessy was his high school coach.

rJared Wheat­ley, Porter Ridge: He made a 51-yard field goal in woe­ful con­di­tions, just be­fore half­time against My­ers Park. The Mus­tangs won 28-23, but Wheat­ley made the fifth-long­est kick in Union County his­tory.

qWest Meck: Off since Oct. 5, the Hawks weren’t sharp and were nearly up­set by a ster­ling ef­fort from South Meck. In­stead the Sabres (2-7, 1-3 SoMeck) lost their third straight game.

rWest Meck: The Hawks got an in­ter­cep­tion in the end zone on the fi­nal play of an 11-7 win over South Meck.

rWest Lin­coln: Beat East Lin­coln for first time in 14 years.


Jay­den Blan­ton, Cher­ryville: In a 45-6 win over Pine Lake Prep, the ju­nior run­ning back scored four touch­downs in the first half.

Eli­jah Bow­ick, Luke Maye, My­ers Park: Bow­ick caught six passes for 241 yards and two touch­downs in a 28-23 win over In­dian Trail Porter Ridge. Maye was 9-of-14 passes for 245 yards and three scores. He also ran for a score. Bow­ick’s yards set a school record and rep­re­sents the 11th best sin­glegame per­for­mance in Meck­len­burg County his­tory.

Gar­rett Shrader, Char­lotte Chris­tian: Scored game-win­ning touch­down with no time left in a 33-32 win over Prov­i­dence Day. The Mis­sis­sippi State re­cruit had 29 car­ries for 176 yards and four touch­down. He threw for 163 yards and a touch­down.

Osita Ek­wonu, Prov­i­dence Day: A Notre Dame re­cruit at line­backer, Ek­wonu had 30 car­ries for 229 yards and three touch­downs in 33-32 loss at Char­lotte Chris­tian.

Charles Mincey, Mal­lard Creek: Ran 16 times for 254 yards and two scores in a 41-20 win over North Meck.

Justin Ol­son, North Meck: Caught six passes for 186 yards and two touch­downs against Mal­lard Creek.


Ar­drey Kell 29, Olympic 9: The Knights won their third straight game and im­proved to 4-6, 4-1 in the SoMeck. Ar­drey Kell has outscored teams 81-15 in the win­ning streak. If West Meck loses one of its last two games and Ar­drey Kell can beat Hard­ing at home in its sea­son fi­nale, the Knights could get a share of the league ti­tle.

But­ler 51, Garinger 6: Prov­i­dence 48, Berry 6: Boone Watauga 35, Mor­gan­ton Free­dom 16: Con­cord CoxMill 31, Cen­tral Cabar­rus 15:

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