When Garner travels to Cleveland this Thursday, it will be the first live-televised regular-season game in the Triangle.
For years, the N.C. High School Athletic Association has not permitted live broadcasts of any regular-season athletic contests. Time Warner Cable, a media partner of the NCHSAA, had only televised the games on tape-delay.
But a new deal struck last winter allows TWC to broadcast one football game live each week on a Thursday night. Last week’s game was Concord at Kannapolis Brown. Select basketball games will be broadcast this winter.
Few games are on live TV because they are thought to decrease gate revenue, the lifeblood of all high school athletics programs.
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“They talked about that when pro sports first started being on TV,” Cleveland coach Scott Riley said. “I think with it being on TV, many people will want to be there just for the event.”
Garner athletic director Nelson Smith said fans of Cleveland and Garner, a blossoming rivalry, aren’t likely to stay home.
“There are some games it may affect but for Cleveland-Garner, it won’t affect it much,” Smith said.
Garner coach Thurman Leach was more worried about having three days of preparation for a game instead of four.
“It puts us behind the 8-ball, but you can’t question what it’s doing for the kids,” Leach said. “It’s an opportunity for the team to get some exposure and for the young men to be seen across the state. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for these young men.”
Apex Friendship and Grace Christian Raleigh each drew crowds for their respective first football games last week.
At Friendship, which has no varsity team this season, the home stands were nearly full as the Patriots’ JV team defeated Panther Creek 34-12 on Thursday.
“I wasn’t necessarily surprised but I was impressed. We’ve always had a ton of community support,” said Friendship coach Adam Sanders. “It felt like a Friday night atmosphere.”
The Patriots were up 28-0, but Panther Creek scored twice to make it 28-12. Friendship responded with a long touchdown drive to seal the win.
“We’ve never told the guys that we’re a JV team,” Sanders said. “We do everything with the mindset that we want to get better every day.”
Grace Christian had its first varsity 8-man game against Wilson’s Community Christian. Its fans understood the adrenaline rush of high school football early as quarterback Jeremie Fitts faked his way through the defense, scampering 87 yards for the score.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be pretty good,’” Grace Christian coach Keith Boutwell said.
The lead was short-lived, and the visiting Cyclones pulled away to a 58-13 victory, but the loss was almost to be expected for a team playing its first game.
The starting 11: players of the week
Ian Boyd, Apex: Four catches for 111 yards and three touchdowns.
Eryk Brandon-Dean, Orange: Had eight carries for 121 yards and 2 TDs, caught two passes for 86 yards and one score
Melvin Briggs, St. David’s: Four carries, 4 TDs on 65 yards in 62-0 win against Hobgood Academy.
Marquis Cooper, Wakefield: Caught 6 passes for 146 yards and one TD.
Daniel Jackson, Middle Creek: Three interceptions for the safety, one returned for touchdown.
Kavante Johnson, South Johnston: Ran for 177 yards and 3 TDs against Franklinton, including seven runs of 10 or more yards.
Tripp Harrington, East Wake: Ran 17 times for 100 yards and 2 TDs, also went 16 of 26 for 266 yards and 3 TDs through the air.
Shemar Miles, Cedar Ridge: Dashed for 161 yards rushing and 3 TDs.
Caiden Norman, Cleveland: Junior threw for 3 TDs, ran for a 154 yards and passed for 262 in the Rams’ victory over Clayton.
Dylan Parham, Southeast Raleigh: N.C. State recruit was 9 of 21 passing for a score but added 12 carries for 118 yards and four TDs.
James Russo, Cardinal Gibbons: Caught 5 passes for 119 yards and had the game-winning extra point kick.
3-point stance: top defenses
Cleveland: The Rams limited Clayton’s explosive senior Blake Joyner to five touches.
Leesville Road: Shut down Jordan to 9 yards on 15 carries, also limited the Falcons to 73 passing yards.
Riverside: Chapel Hill had four returning offensive linemen, yet the Pirates held the Tigers to minus-18 yards rushing.
▪ Millbrook celebrated football coach Clarence Inscore’s on-field success, 100 wins, on Friday. However, the NCHSAA does not recognize on-field wins that were later forfeited, so Inscore’s total sits at 90. Millbrook forfeited seven on-field wins in 2003 and had to double-forfeit one more that season. It had two more forfeits in 2006.
▪ Southeast Raleigh will be part of the Derrick Law Firms Carolinas Kickoff Clash at Doug Shaw Stadium in Myrtle Beach, S.C., on Saturday, 5:15 p.m. The three-day event will feature five games with a North Carolina school playing a South Carolina school. Advance tickets sold through the school are $10 for the entire event, discounted from the original $12 price. The Bulldogs rushed for 441 yards and had 597 total in a 65-55 loss at Greenville’s D.H. Conley.
▪ Rolesville, Southern Durham and Northern Durham lost in Fayetteville on Friday by scores of 55-0, 22-21 and 55-21, respectively. Southern’s Jalen Green completed 21 of 32 passes for 251 yards and three TDs in his team’s loss.
▪ The two teams that won the overtime coin toss won their games Friday. Cardinal Gibbons needed only a TD and extra point to beat Athens Drive after the Crusaders blocked the Jags’ PAT.
▪ Hillside alternated running backs Jamal Currie-Elliot and new transfer Abdul Adams in its 29-27 victory at New Bern. Currie-Elliott had three TDs and 125 yards on 16 carries, while Adams had 20 carries for 111 yards and one TD.
▪ First-year head coaches, including interim Cedar Ridge coach Scott Loosemore went 7-9 in their openers last week. Apex (Robert Graham), Heritage (Dewayne Washington), Middle Creek (Randy Ragland) and Corinth Holders (Bubba Williams) were among the other winners.
▪ Athens Drive may have the largest fullback in the state. Senior Nate Gatling, a 6-foot-4, 330-pound senior, had four carries for 11 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Cardinal Gibbons. Gatling, the younger brother of WNBA player Markeisha Gatling, had a 39-yard fumble return for touchdown last season.
BBQ and SSS Football: Smithfield-Selma opens its home slate at Tucker Stadium against Nash Central Friday at 7:30. If you’re hungry for football and food, you’re in luck. There will be a BBQ plate sale – with proceeds benefiting the Spartan football team – at the football concession stand from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. the day of the game (Aug. 28). Plates are $8 each and orders of 10 or more can be delivered. To place a delivery order or for more details, call Alison Jones at 919-934-8452.
D. Clay Best, Justin Hill, Adam Thompson, W.E. Warnock, Jessika Morgan and Mike Potter contributed.