It was a “feel-good” game, and West Mecklenburg got to leave the field with a victory for the first time this season.
The Hawks took advantage of numerous Harding errors and trounced the Rams 46-14 Thursday night in a SoMeck 7 4A game at Olympic High.
West Mecklenburg coach Beady Waddell and his Hawks (1-5, 1-4 SoMeck 7 4A) celebrated afterward like you might expect.
But for both Waddell and his Harding counterpart, Van Smith, this spring season is not being measured in wins and losses.
“We’re working towards the fall,” says Smith, whose team fell to 0-6, 0-5. “We only have five seniors on this team. Our quarterback is a sophomore. Our entire offensive line and defensive line is coming back (next season).
“What we do this spring is laying the groundwork for next fall.”
It’s much the same from Waddell.
“I have a very young group,” he says. “I’m playing a lot of 10th-graders and one freshman. I think they all know we’re preparing for the fall.”
Harding’s roster Thursday night was made up of nine seniors, 12 juniors, 13 sophomores and 14 freshmen. West Mecklenburg’s had 13 seniors, 16 juniors, nine sophomores and a freshman. That means 65 of the 87 players in uniform Thursday can return next season.
Thursday’s contest often looked like a junior varsity game.
Not surprisingly, each team has taken its lumps this season.
“We’re making progress, but the hard thing is getting the kids to see the progress,” Smith says.
Waddell notes, “We’ve shown some flashes. We’ve had some moments. But we’re playing a lot of guys who have never played on Friday nights before. They’re learning and that can be painful.”
Both coaches say many of their players don’t have cars, and with high school students only attending class in-person twice a week, it presents a problem.
“We don’t know which kids will be at practice sometimes,” Smith says. “Our coaches have to go out and pick them up.”
Waddell says another problem has been academic eligibility. Many high school teachers and administrators have said remote learning has put a large number of students in academic trouble this year.
“My team got hit very hard,” Waddell says. “I have six or seven guys ineligible who would change the makeup of my team.”
The presence of inexperienced players shows on the field.
Harding had 10 fumbles Thursday night and lost five. A couple of those set up West Mecklenburg touchdowns. But West Mecklenburg was whistled for 20 penalties. Waddell says the young players are still learning to contain themselves.
Smith doesn’t mince words.
“I wasn’t in favor of playing this spring,” he says. “I knew there would be problems.
“But we’ve taken this spring as an opportunity to prepare for the future. We’re making progress. It won’t show until the fall, however.”
THREE WHO MATTERED
Michael Catlin Jr., West Mecklenburg: A junior running back and linebacker, Catlin ran for a touchdown, caught a 67-yard pass for a score, and returned a kickoff 88 yards for a third touchdown.
Keyshawn Harrison, West Mecklenburg: Harrison, one of the Hawks’ few seniors, had two sacks, two tackles for lost yardage, and a tackle that ruined a Harding screen pass.
Octvion Davis, Harding: Davis, a junior wide receiver, caught six passes for 56 yards.
▪ Harding’s turnovers played a huge role in the game. West Mecklenburg scored 46 points on just 231 total yards of offense. The Hawks had a kickoff return for a touchdown and scored on drives of 7, 12 and 29 yards, along with drives of 42 and 72 yards.
▪ A statistical oddity. Harding trailed 33-14 at halftime but led West Mecklenburg in first downs 12 to 6. That was due, in part, for the Hawks’ penalties. Harding had six first downs by penalties in the first half.
▪ West Mecklenburg finished with 20 penalties for 200 yards.
▪ Hawks’ coach Beady Waddell is starting one freshman — his son, Beady V. The younger Waddell scored two touchdowns Thursday night, carrying 17 times for 65 yards.
▪ Thursday’s game was played at Olympic High, due to wet grounds at Harding, the home team.
West Mecklenburg finishes the season next Friday at South Mecklenburg. Harding’s finale is next Friday at Berry Academy. Both are SoMeck 7 4A games.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle
West Mecklenburg 14 19 0 13 — 46
Harding 0 14 0 0 — 14
WM: Beady Waddell V 1 run (Jorge Ruvalcaba kick)
WM: C’Andre Hinson 7 run (Ruvalcaba kick)
WM: Michael Catlin Jr. 67 pass from Zaire Kenney (kick failed)
WM: Catlin Jr. 7 run (kick blocked)
H: Kyree Faust 8 run (Faust run)
WM: Catlin 88 kickoff return (Ruvalcaba kick)
H: Octvion Davis 10 pass from Diego Parks (pass failed)
WM: Waddell 12 run (Ruvalcaba kick)
WM: Parks 29 run (kick failed)