Football Notes for October 8th

by C. Jemal Horton and Chris Hunt

West Meck takes changes in stride

Tashion Singleton (far left) and Jakareen Smith (second from right) were invited to see Duke University’s football game against Army.

It’s been a trying few weeks for the West Mecklenburg High School football team.

For starters, one week after defeating East Mecklenburg for their first victory of the season, the Hawks suffered a 27-point loss to South Mecklenburg on Sept. 18. After a week off, the Hawks took to the field again, only to endure their worst loss of the season, 49-0, to MEGA 7 3A/4A conference foe Charlotte ­Catholic.

On the heels of the shutout defeat, West Meck also lost two assistant coaches: defensive coordinator Myron Bell and defensive line coach Omari Jordan, a pair of former NFL players.

West Meck head coach Jeff Caldwell said Bell, who spent time with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals, has decided to spend more time with his family and church, New Birth Missionary Baptist, where he also is the athletics director. Jordan, who spent part of the 2004 season with the Carolina Panthers as a defensive lineman, left the program for family reasons.

Caldwell has hired Jimmy Brookins, a former All-American linebacker at Valdosta State University in Georgia, as defensive coordinator. Caldwell and Brookins spent time together as assistant coaches on former Olympic High coach Maurice Flowers’ staff.

Despite the sudden changes since posting their first win of the season, Caldwell said his players haven’t sulked. In fact, it appears they’ve gained strength from the adversity.
“The players haven’t hung their heads,” said Caldwell, who is in his first season at the West Meck helm. “In recent days, we’ve had some of the most spirited practices we’ve ever had. The kids are really getting into it and showing what they’re made of. I’m proud of the way they’ve conducted themselves.”

Recently, seven players had a unique trip to take their minds off the changes.

On Sept. 25, Caldwell took Hawks Tashion Singleton, Jakareen Smith, Antonio Hall, Jalyn Crenshaw, Prince Mayela, Devin Martin and Shaquille Hart to Durham to see Duke University’s football game against Army.

Junior linebacker Singleton, junior receiver Smith and junior nose tackle Antonio Hall were invited by Duke coaches to attend the game. The trio received three game passes each, and they invited some of their teammates and coaches along.

“It was a great experience for the guys,” Caldwell said. “They loved it. They got to hang in the Duke locker room. They got to meet the coaches, and they got to talk to one of the Duke players from Charlotte (former Charlotte Latin star cornerback Ross Cockrell).

“All that really made them feel good.”

Now, the Hawks (1-5) turn their attention toward their next contest: a Friday, Oct. 8, home game against Waddell (1-6).

“Despite everything that’s happened, we feel good going into the Waddell game,” Caldwell said. “We’ve got five more (conference) games left. We’ve just to go out there and do our thing.”

Titans seek fourth consecutive win

The Hopewell High School football team has jumped out to a 5-1 record, thanks, in part, to its swarming defense.

Hopewell (5-1) has won its last three games, scoring at least 30 points in each outing. While Titans coach Chris Rust wasn’t excited about the mistakes he saw in a lackluster 35-0 win over first-year Hough High, he admitted his team’s playing with lots of confidence.

“Our team relies on momentum,” said Rust. “Confidence is the biggest factor for high school kids to win football games. We need to continue playing at this level to make the playoffs. We can’t take a game off.”

• Leading rusher Dondre Lewis-Freeman has been battling a sore ankle, which caused him to be pulled after four carries against Hough. His backfield mate, Denzel Heath, used the additional repetitions to produce his second consecutive 100-yard game. Heath ran for 116 yards in a win over West Charlotte two weeks ago and 137 yards against Hough.
Rust was quick to point out that Hopewell doesn’t have a two-back backfield; it’s more like a three-back backfield since reserve tailback Josh Wilson had 81 yards on 10 carries against the Huskies.

“(Wilson has) showed the last few games that we have three capable backs,” Rust said.

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