High School Sports

Friday’s observations: South Meck coach finds balance, seeks progress with Sabres

On Friday night, South Mecklenburg lost 47-0 to Myers Park. It wasn’t a surprise.

Myers Park is ranked No. 2 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll. The Mustangs appear in several national rankings, and Myers Park, this week, reached No. 1 in the Associated Press state 4A poll for the first time.

South Mecklenburg, playing one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the area, has scored 14 points all season and is 0-4. The Sabres have played Myers Park, N.C. 3A champion Charlotte Catholic, N.C. 3AA champion Weddington and have N.C. 4AA finalist Vance coming up next week.

So for now — as he tries to rebuild a program that won a state championship in 1981 and reached state semifinals in 1993 and 2008 — Sabres first-year coach Joe Evans is focused on a lot of things.

The final score just isn’t one of them.

“We celebrate the positives,” Evans said. “It’s not a negative tone here. I’m not a real negative guy. If you’re getting beat up and your coach is all over you, you’re going to lose some kids that really want to be here. That’s not what I want.”

Evans was hired in June, very late in the offseason, to take over the Sabres. He’s South Meck’s third head coach in 13 years, and he knows the history he’s fighting: no winning seasons since 2015, just four in the past 21 years.

But Evans, 39, has had success in similar conditions.

In 2013, he took over an Independence powerhouse that was losing a little steam. He went 9-5 his first year and 12-1 in his second, the Patriots best season since 2009.

At Ardrey Kell, his teams made back-to-back playoff appearances in 2015 and 2016.

Despite his success at both stops, Evans was let go. He said those experiences have helped him develop as a coach and to develop the patience it will take to succeed at his new job.

“I learned balance,” he said. “You have to be able to balance being a teacher, being a head coach, being a father to your kids, being a father to other kids, being a psychiatrist to people, to other coaches. There’s a lot of balls in the air you have to balance.”

Ultimately, though, Evans firmly believes he’ll make the Sabres a winner again.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I’m walking around campus and seeing kids that aren’t playing football. When I first took the job, I said it’s a sleeping giant. If we can keep the kids who are supposed to be here, here, we’re going to be just fine.”

Evans tells a story of one of his players who came up to talk to him this week, and how that empowered him.

“One of my kids was saying the other night, ‘Hey coach, when we go to the playoffs,’ ” Evans said. “And that’s refreshing. A kid who has never been to the playoffs as a player goes ‘Hey coach, when we go to the playoffs this year.’ And I’m like, ‘Man, I love the way you talk. You’re already speaking my language.’ ”

Friday’s Observations

With Richmond Senior going up to Raleigh and handling Cardinal Gibbons, winning 45-28, I really would like to see the Raiders go east in the playoffs. Gibbons beat three-time state champ Wake Forest earlier this year, ending Wake’s 45-game win streak.

Sending Richmond to the east would add some depth to what is traditionally the weaker side of the bracket and could set up one whale of a state championship game potentially with whichever team emerges out of what could be a historically difficult western 4AA draw.

Man, I really like the job new Ardrey Kell coach Greg Jachym is doing. After a tough 28-14 loss to N.C. 3AA champ Weddington to start the season, the Knights have won three in a row, including Friday’s 40-33 win over Independence. And Jachym has some talent.

Everybody knows about Ardrey Kell receiver Cedric Gray going to UNC next year. But Knights QB Jared Joseph is the goods. In a 36-33 come-from-behind win over Marvin Ridge last week, Joseph threw for 324 yards, three touchdowns and had the game-winning touchdown with 10 seconds left. In Friday’s win, he threw for 280 yards and four scores. Somebody buy that man lunch Monday.

Three big games jump at me for next week. Sweet 16 No. 2 Myers Park is at No. 13 Hough. After a relatively easy run in the early season, the Mustangs will finally face a team with bona-fide college talent that can match up. Hough is also where Myers Park QB Drake Maye started his high school career.

No. 7 Shelby is at No. 8 Kings Mountain. Cleveland County rivals meet and the Mountaineers will try to beat the class 2A state champions, who have owned this series.

Last, No. 14 Providence Day will face a Charlotte Country Day team that’s unbeaten and off to its best start in seven years. Big South (formerly CISAA) conference games are an event, and part reunion, and this one should be sold out — and competitive.


Mooresville: shut out Kannapolis Brown 30-0, in Kannapolis. It was Brown’s first shutout loss since losing 24-0 to Marvin Ridge on Aug. 24, 2018.

Lawndale Bunker Hill: beat Catawba Bandys 12-9 Friday, its first win over the Trojans in three years.

Ethan Rhodes, Maiden: completed 16-of-22 passes for 329 yards, five touchdowns in a 41-14 win over Hickory St. Stephens. He also kicked five PATs.

Eliah Burris, Mountain Island Charter: another week, another big game for the UNC recruit: 15 carries, 175 yards, three TDs in a 45-20 win at Berry. Teammate Demetrius Washington threw for 170 yards and two scores. On defense, Jaden Fisher had an interception return for a score; Durrell Johnson had two interceptions; and Christian Sellers had three sacks.

Lamagea McDowell, Gastonia Huss: Just days after transferring from Charlotte Catholic, McDowell ran 14 times for 94 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-7 win over Hickory.

Quick Links

Friday’s NC/SC scores, how the Sweet 16 fared, next week’s schedule

Friday’s top high school football performers

No. 1 Mallard Creek holds off S.C. power Gaffney on the road

No. 2 Myers Park overwhelms South Meck on Maye’s perfect night

Ardrey Kell holds off Independence in thrilling game

Harding goes to 3-1, holding off Rocky River

Hopewell whips Garinger, ends 34-game losing streak

Friday’s #BIG5 Top Performers

Isaiah Bess, Shelby: Another big performance from a player swiftly becoming one of his school’s all-time greats: 331 yards passing, two touchdowns in a 51-21 win over rival Boiling Springs Crest. He also ran for a touchdown. Shelby scored 34 points in the first half.

Caleb Hood, Richmond Senior: 27-of-34 passing for 316 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-28 win at Raleigh’s Cardinal Gibbons. Hood also ran 11 times for 77 yards and two scores on the road.

Jared Joseph, Ardrey Kell: 18-for-31 passing for 280 yards, four touchdowns in a win over Independence.

Dustin Noller, Mallard Creek: completed 22-of-37 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns in a 27-20 win at Gaffney, a top-five team in South Carolina regardless of class.

Isaac Riffle, Mooresville: Campbell-committed kicker made 3-of-4 field-goal attempts (24, 41, 45 yards), made 3-for-3 PATs and had 6-of-7 kickoffs go for touchbacks in a 30-0 win over Kannapolis Brown.