Football Notebook for October

Heath leads area September football highlights

Hopewell senior running back Denzel Heath put together one of the state’s top rushing performances this season, as he totaled 284 yards on 24 carries in the Titans’ 50-26 win over Lake Norman High on Sept. 30.
Heath also had four touchdowns in the victory, which pushed Hopewell’s record to 3-3 on the season, including a 2-1 mark in the I-MECK 4A conference.

Hawks fall just short against Berry

The West Mecklenburg High School football season has had its share of highs and lows.
The highs: After a surprising 0-2 start to the season, the Hawks heated up and rolled off three consecutive victories – over South Mecklenburg, East Mecklenburg and Harding – to pull their record one game above .500. Also, young quarterback Jalan McClendon began to show poise, and senior wide receiver Jakareen Smith started showing why he’s considered one of the most dangerous offensive players in the MEGA 7 3A/4A conference.
But last week, the Hawks suffered one of their most difficult losses of the season, when they fell to conference foe Berry, 21-19.
West Meck had a chance to take the lead midway through the third quarter after Smith caught a 53-yard touchdown from McClendon to pull the Hawks within a point, 14-13. But the Hawks opted to go for a two-point conversion rather than the extra point. The conversion attempt failed, and West Meck stayed a point down until Berry scored in the fourth quarter to make the score 21-13.
Again, though, West Meck rallied, as McClendon found Smith for another deep score with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining in the game to make the score 21-19. However, another two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the Hawks in the precarious position of having to try an onsides kick.
Remarkably, though, West Meck recovered the kick and had one more chance to win with 1:13 left in the contest. But McClendon was intercepted, and the Hawks suffered their second consecutive loss.
“When Berry had to make plays at the end, they made plays, and we came up a little bit short,” Hawks coach Jeff Caldwell said. “If you’re going to be a good team in Charlotte, you have to be consistent. Everybody has good athletes. We’ve just got to seize the moment.
“But I think we’re getting close to where we need to be. It’s a long road.”

Hopewell wins on last-second kick

Pretty impressive for a player not even listed on the roster.
Ryan Santee, an accidental omission from Hopewell’s printed roster, kicked a 25-yard field goal as time expired for a 24-23 victory at Hough on Sept. 23.
It capped a 90-yard drive by Hopewell, which had no timeouts, in the final two minutes. Denzel Heath had a 20-yard run in the drive, and Tijaun Sifford threw a 20-yard pass to Christopher Strickland.
Santee, who had missed on a 32-yard attempt in the third quarter, hustled onto the field as the clock was winding down. The snap from center Tyshaun Cochran to holder Strickland was perfect, as was Santee’s kick.
“I just tried to stay loose and focus on what was coming,” said Santee, who also plays goalkeeper on Hopewell’s soccer team. “I felt it as soon as it came off my foot.”
Hopewell coach David Johnson didn’t hesitate to send in Santee for the kick.
“I had faith in him the whole way,” Johnson said. “He had that look and said, `I got it.’ I said, ‘Then go win it for us, baby.’”
Hopewell rallied from a 23-14 deficit early in the fourth quarter.
“You just have to have that heart,” Johnson said. “We’ve been down the past couple of weeks and didn’t really play Hopewell football. That (against Hough) was Hopewell football. We knew we were going to give it our all, on every play. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. Good things happen when we play Hopewell football.”

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