|West Side football’s revival|
|Harding, West Charlotte and West Meck on upswing|
|Published Wednesday, November 15, 2017 9:47 pm|
High school football is making noise west of Charlotte’s core.
Harding, West Mecklenburg and West Charlotte each advanced to the N.C. 4A playoffs, with Harding and West Meck earning first-round byes. After a string of lean years, multiple programs are taking strides toward prominence.
“These kids on the West Side take a lot of pride in wanting to compete,” said Harding coach Sam Greiner, whose Rams (10-1) are second in the Magnificent Seven rankings and the West Region’s top seed. “Just going outside and playing together, they all know each other. Competing with each other, you know iron sharpens iron, and I think all the West Side schools figure ‘If they can do it, we can do it.’”
They’ve done it under different scenarios. Harding, which served notice last year by going 5-6 to get to the postseason, have the nation’s top junior running back in Quavaris Crouch, who rushed for nearly 2,400 yards and 27 touchdowns as well as offensive tackle Jovaughn Gwyn, who Greiner says has been offered more than two dozen college scholarships.
West Meck overcame the loss of quarterback Preston Brown by leaning on versatile North Carolina commit Dyami Brown to go 8-3 with a first-round bye. West Charlotte, though, may be the biggest surprise, fashioning a 5-7 campaign under first-year coach Josh Harris.
“The West Side coaches are really working hard and I’m proud of each one of the coaches just to bring that West Side feel back, that atmosphere I heard about coming from South Carolina about the West Side teams,” West Mecklenburg coach Jarvis Davis said. “You can tell how much the coaches are putting in, and the students. The coaches respect the kids, the kids respect the coaches they respect the schools and they want the best for the school.”
Part of the turnaround is selling athletes on the worth of being part of something special. At Harding, Greiner pushes the notion of being great as individuals and as a team.
“We don’t believe in luck,” he said. “We believe in purpose and opportunity. “These kids believe in something. For these kids to put a U on their shirt and to make it mean something, you’ve got to make them believe in what you’re doing. To be special, you’ve got to want to be it and want to be great.”
Unbeaten Mallard Creek, No. 1 in the Magnificent Seven is the odds-on favorite to win the 4AA West Region, but the Mavericks aren’t the only Charlotte team capable of winning a state title. Harding and West Meck are hungry contenders in the 4A bracket.
“It’s just hard-nosed football on the West Side,” Greiner said. “These kids use football as an avenue to go to bigger places in life, and I think these kids are really starting to take hold of that and the coaches have done a great job of harnessing that.”
Said Davis: “We’re just trying to get this West Side back to how it’s supposed to be, get these kids to compete hard every play and get that respect back.”
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