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Led by the spirit of their football coaching legend, Charlotte Catholic rallies past Crest

Herb White
·3 min read

Jim Oddo’s influence on Charlotte Catholic football was evident.

From the name on the scoreboard, his name printed at midfield and the ground-oriented offense he championed over 41 years as the Cougars’ championship-winning coach, tributes abounded to the coach passed away last month. Ultimately, the Cougars’ 28-21 come-from-behind win against Crest Friday in the 3A playoffs – Catholic’s first postseason game since his death in March – was fitting.

“Coach Oddo is always in our hearts around here,” said Mike Brodowicz, his successor as Catholic football coach. “Coach Oddo built this program, and we all know that. It gets me a little emotional because he would love this type of football game and we tried to do exactly what he’s taught us when we worked with him and to do it here on coach Oddo’s field with his family here, they know he’s part of our program and he is Charlotte Catholic football.”

Catholic (6-1) rallied after Crest reeled off 21 points to take a 14-point lead in the second quarter, primarily by pounding the Chargers with its running attack. Senior Paul Neel, who scored the game-winning touchdown with 5 seconds left, paced the Cougars with four scores and 184 yards on 24 carries while sophomore Akil Williams added 132 on 17 tries.

“Paul’s a three-year starter, a 2,000-yard rusher and two-time MVP in the state championship game, so the kid knows what it takes to play the game of football here and our running backs in our wing-T formation is who we are. We embrace that, Paul embraces that, and he wants the ball during this type of game, and that’s why we give it to him.”

The Cougars shut out Crest (6-2) over the final three quarters to get into position to win. Taking over at their 30 with 2 minutes, 2 seconds left, Catholic ran on seven straight plays with Williams’ 18-yarder moving the ball at the Chargers’ 5. Neel powered across the goal line two plays later for the go-ahead score, topping a night in which the Cougars rushed for 346 yards on 51 carries.

“Our game plan is to run and the ball and that’s what we’re going to do all night,” Neel said. “We moved the ball downfield and once we got closer to the end zone on their side, we messed up a bit and made some mistakes, but we never doubted our run game.”

Williams was a fine complement in his fourth varsity game, moving the ball between the tackles while Neel was effective outside.

“We just knew we need to capitalize so we could win this game,” Williams said. “We just had to do what we had to do – everybody do their jobs so we could win.”

THREE WHO MATTERED

Paul Neel, RB, Charlotte Catholic: Rushed for 184 yards and four scores on 24 carries.

Akil Williams, RB, Charlotte Catholic: Rushed for 132 yards on 17 carries in his first postseason game.

Timothy Ruff, QB, Crest: He ran for 150 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and connected on 3-of-7 passes for 68 yards and another score.

Crest 21 0 0 0 -21

Charlotte Catholic 7 7 7 7-28

CC-Paul Neel 9-yard run (Jack Jones kick)

CR-Caleb Borders 56 run (Blake Roderick kick)

CR-Timothy Ruff 64-yard run (Roderick kick)

CR-Borders 60-yard pass from Ruff (Roderick kick)

CC-Neel 2-yard run (Jones kick)

CC-Neel 9-yard run (Jones kick)

CC-Neel 3-yard run (Jones kick)