Charlotte Catholic coach Mike Brodowicz is careful as he says this, because he doesn’t want anybody to get the wrong impression. But he want to be honest.
He said Cougars fans need to get used to more games like Friday’s 21-14 win over Providence at Memorial Stadium. A 21-0 lead became a hold-your-breath finish, as the Cougars needed a fourth down stop in the fourth quarter, inside their 10-yard line, to secure the win.
“We’re young and don’t have a lot of depth,” Brodowicz said. “I’m not saying, ‘Oh poor us.’ I don’t want people saying we won four states and now he’s crying because he can’t win them all. I mean, we’ll play those teams (like Providence) anytime, but you get these schools in Charlotte and they just keep rolling it in. It’s tough.”
After winning four straight N.C. 3A state championships, Catholic has moved up to the 4A class with just 1,100 students. It was really like moving up three weight classes. In the past the N.C. High School Athletic Association held two playoffs in each class. Above Catholic in 3A were championships in a 3AA, 4A and 4AA classification.
Now, that’s all been boiled down. All the 4A teams are altogether.
And yes, the Cougars played in the 4A class once before and even won a 4A championship in 2015, but they won the small 4A title.
Now, everybody is just bunched all together. Catholic’s with the big boys.
“The difference between 4A and 4AA is huge,” Brodowicz said. “We played (4AA) Mallard Creek and got a running clock put on us three out of four times....Our kids are tough and they will battle. We’ll do our best, but there’s going to be a lot more games like this, where we’re pulling it out at the end.”
For most of the past four years, the Cougars would run through many of their regular-season and playoff games. But facing these big schools, the size and numbers often come into play. It didn’t help that Catholic lost 6-foot-2, 315-pound tackle Gavin Hood to a season-ending knee injury last week against Blessed Trinity (GA).
Friday, Catholic was also without a wingback and potential star tailback, junior Akil Williams, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in six of the seven games he’s started dating back to last year. Williams has a nagging foot injury.
So replacing Hood with a player who is 5-9, 235 and being without Williams, Brodowicz felt, was always going to be a problem -- as was his team’s lack of depth. So even when the Cougars got their three-score on the opening play of the third quarter, a 90-yard kickoff return from Ethan Ellis, Brodowicz wouldn’t allow himself to relax.
And sure enough, Providence kept pounding.
The Panthers had a few long drives, that wore down the Catholic defense, and then they scored. Later Providence had a chance late in the fourth quarter to tie or take the lead. On fourth down at the Cougars 9, defensive end AJ Smith got some pressure on the Providence quarterback and induced a throw that sailed over the head of Catholic’s safety Tommy Hoefling.
“We were barely hanging on the edge of the cliff, and they were standing our fingers,” Brodowicz said. “It was a tough one, but I’ll take the win.”
▪ Butler tied a national record Friday. The Bulldogs didn’t allow a first down in a 70-0 win over Garinger.
▪ Garinger has a team with only a handful of seniors and lots of ninth and 10th grade players. The Wildcats made a late attempt to field only a junior varsity team this season, but was denied.. The Wildcats have been outscored 169-0 in three games.
Next week, however, Garinger plays East Mecklenburg, which is 0-5 and has been outscored 228-7. I think it’ll be a great opportunity for both teams to play a competitive game and get a win. My guess is the kids will be juiced up at school all week for this one.
▪ Olympic High moved to 4-0 after Friday’s 35-0 win over Harding. The Trojans are averaging nearly 40 points per game and allowing eight. Their first big test comes Friday at home against Weddington.
▪ Porter Ridge moved to 3-0 on the season with a 25-14 upset of Sweet 16 No. 4 Ardrey Kell. Ardrey Kell had opened the season with three straight wins over some of Union County’s best teams -- Cuthbertson (41-28), Marvin Ridge (26-7) and Weddington (38-21). Give Porter Ridge’s defense major credit. And they defended their county’s honor.
▪ Charlotte Catholic defensive back Tommy Hoefling sure likes playing at Memorial Stadium. He had two red zone interceptions in a season-opening win over South Meck at the stadium on opening night last month. He had another interception Friday against Providence. He now has four total for the season.
Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers
Alex Bentley, Hickory Ridge: completed 18-of-22 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of Friday’s 48-14 win over AL Brown. Hickory Ridge led 45-7 at halftime.
AJ Colombo, Cuthbertson: 9-of-14 passing for 245 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-6 win over Robinson. He ran 11 times for 80 yards and another touchdown.
BG Hampton, Freedom: 16 carries, 324 yards, four touchdowns in a 42-19 win over Central Cabarrus.
Noah Loeblein, West Rowan: 215 yards passing, three touchdowns in a 49-14 win over Carson.
Cam Reese, South Mecklenburg: playing against the nation’s top sophomore QB, Catawba Ridge’s Jadyn Davis, Reese threw for 189 yards and a touchdown. He also used his cadence to draw two first downs on a key scoring drive. Reese also ran for 34 yards.