Christian’s Shrader turns nightmare to dream in title game
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.
FRIDAY’S FEATURED PERFORMERS
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: