Friday, December 14, 2018

Jacksonville and Charlotte Catholic to Lock Horns in Chapel Hill

The 3A state championship game this year is a tale of adversity and how teams handle it. The Jacksonville Cardinals faced so much adversity this season as Hurricane Florence tore through their town and county. Players and coaches were forced to sit idly by as a storm damage ravaged their community and kept them off the gridiron for over a month. While some teams fold when they face adversity, the Cardinals grew stronger and used football as an outlet for their anguish and came together as a team and family. The results have shown this as well as Coach Beau Williams's team is in the title game for the first time in twenty-four years and are looking for their second title ever in school history.

The Jacksonville running game is definitely the heart of the offense and a major team strength. The Cardinals showed off their dedication to running the ball this year and have two separate 1,000-yard rushers in running back Graham Brinker and quarterback Justyn Benton. This solid senior duo has combined for thirty-four touchdowns this year. Due to the inclement weather playing havoc on the season's schedule, the Cardinals have only played twelve games, so this tandem is averaging almost three touchdowns a game between the two of them.

In the playoffs, the Jacksonville Cardinals have been on a tear, scoring 212 points in their four games. Knocking off Havelock in the regional final, coming back from fourteen points down in the fourth quarter, helped the Cardinals find revenge for the only blemish on their 11-1 record. Knocking off their conference rival for the first time since 2007 to secure the regional championship made it even more special for the Cardinal faithful.

For Charlotte Catholic, the adversity was less physical and more mental. Coming off the state title last year, this year's Cougar team knew they would be in the crosshairs all season long. This was no more apparent than the first week of the season, a game Charlotte Catholic dropped, 6-0, to local rival Charlotte Christian. Faced with the choice of complacency or competition, the Cougars responded with one of the strongest season-long defensive showings in recent years. the Charlotte Catholic defense is only giving up 6.4 points per game in their fifteen games so far. Only 3 opponents have even scored double digits this season. Nick King's twelve sacks leads a Charlotte Catholic squad that has put the clamps on in the playoffs, not allowing any opponent to score more than seven points in a game.

Coach Mike Brodowicz, just like legendary Coach Jim Oddo before him, relies on a running game to stymie opponents and control the clock. The Cougars have rushed for 3,600 yards as a team, with junior Lamegea McDowell leading the team with 1,192 yards. Senior Michael Neal has also eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. The Cougars are not a one-trick team, though. Senior Chris Walton has completed nearly 70% of his passes for almost 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns.