Hardin: Pirates still gaining postseason experience
“It wasn’t pretty,” said Porter Ridge coach Blair Hardin, “but at this time of year, if you have your lights on, that’s all you can ask for.”
Now, for the Pirates, it’s on to this week’s challenger, Greensboro Dudley. The Panthers enter the game with a 6-5 record but have won six of their last seven games after opening the season 0-4. Dudley features a multiple-front offense fueled by several strong athletes and has a strong tradition of success. They’ve advanced to the state title game four times since 2002 and won the Class 3AA title in 2007 and 2008.
“They have a great pedigree of winning up there, obviously,” said Hardin. “It’s going to be a dog fight. It’s going to be fun, but it’s going to be tough.”
Hardin said his team should benefit from a tough regular-season slate that featured just about every kind of offense you can face, which will help combat Dudley’s ability to run out of so many formations. But the coach added that any thoughts that Porter Ridge’s run through the playoffs last year will give them the experience to match the Panthers’ seasoning is false.
“Last year was the first year we even won a playoff game,” said Hardin. “A lot of people think we have a lot of experience, but it’s still really new, uncharted territory for our kids. Everything’s new.”
Hardin added that several Pirates who weren’t on the roster last year have had to find their footing in the postseason.
“We’ve really had to put it in the perspective that it’s going to get tougher each week and we’re lucky (to still be around),” Hardin continued. “That’s kind of where we are right now.”
Mavs earn first home playoff win
Last week, the Marvin Ridge football team turned a major corner in its history when it beat highly regarded Charlotte Berry in the first round of the Class 3AA playoffs. It was the first home playoff win in school history for the Mavs, who were 0-2 before beating the Cardinals.
“It truly meant a lot,” said coach Scott Chadwick. “I didn’t want to see those guys end their careers without having a playoff win at home. I think the thing it did was it really validated our season, and it put the final stamp on getting that 10th win and getting that home playoff monkey off our backs.”
Quarterback Tyler Chadwick completed 13 of his 19 passes for 155 yards and a score, and added another on the ground. Running back Joey Sanguine filled in for starter Jacob Henderson (head injury) and was solid, rushing for 172 yards on 20 carries. Receiver Taylor Capoziello had three catches for 102 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown.
Defensively, Phil Unis had two sacks, while Cameron Pittman added two interceptions.
But not to be overlooked was the performance of kicker Tyler Cochrane, who booted five of his six kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks while converting four extra points and a field goal. Cochrane’s performance was made more important by the fact that Berry featured several game-breaking threats on special teams, including U.S. Army All-American receiver Germone Hopper, a Clemson recruit.
The Mavs offense also helped by completing a 20-play, 80-yard drive that chewed off more than nine minutes in the third quarter.
“If they’re not on offense, it’s a lot harder to score,” said Chadwick.
The win improved the Mavs’ overall mark to 10-1 on the year, with the only loss coming to conference rival Porter Ridge. Not bad for a team that graduated nearly 30 seniors from last year’s 9-3 squad.
“These guys can now say we’re the best team in the history of our school, and the facts are there to back that up now,” said Chadwick. “I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished in a season where no one gave them a chance to accomplish anything.”
It’s a trait that could continue to serve the Mavs well as they face another tall task this week when they travel to undefeated Charlotte Catholic. But the Mavs might enter the game more battle-tested than the vaunted Cougars. The Mavs played seven teams this year that qualified for the postseason, and those teams went 7-0 last week, while Catholic’s playoff opponents were 1-4.
“I think we’re very excited about the opportunity,” said the coach. “You don’t get those opportunities every day to go face the No. 1 team in the state. I think we’re approaching it as it’s a great opportunity to go create a memory.”
The setting, however, might be the most raucous the Mavs have seen this year, as the Cougars are famous for their home crowds. But Chadwick said the Marvin Ridge fans have a chance to even out the atmosphere on Friday night.
“Certainly it would help if we could travel well and bring some atmosphere of our own,” said Chadwick.
Cuthbertson wins seventh grade title
On Saturday, Oct. 29, the Cuthbertson Middle School seventh-grade football team won its first-ever Carolina Midget Football League Championship, beating the Weddington Middle School Wildcats, 31-8. Cuthbertson finished the regular season in a three-way tie for first in the Western Division with Marvin Ridge and Weddington but improved to 9-1 with the championship.
Cuthbertson’s seventh-grade football team is the first in school history – regardless of sport – to win either a division title or a conference championship.
Cuthbertson’s roster included Lex Voelker, Sam Mennitt, Javon Johnson, Zion Ledyard, Callon Nuccio, Mitchell Barnes, Rheece Hilliard, Tucker Tierney, Jake Adamczak, Nick Stitt, Brady Rastia, Louis Blount, Alex Reynolds, Ryan Shields, Kaleb Harper, JD Wilhelm, PJ Papadopulos, Neil Sullivan, Greg Culp, Connor Higgins, Josh Geiger, Brock Pickron, Jack Owens, Grant Garcelon, Greg McDonald, JT Cauthen, Alex Karras, Irwin Juarez, Cameron Roberts, KC Stamper, Kendal Lucas, Logan Malloy and Jaylyn Rutledge. Greg Wilhelm was the head coach, while DJ Johnson, Zach Bradey, Eric Garcelon, John Tierney and Hank Harris were assistant coaches.