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Chris Hughes

Can the Wake County 4A teams finally breakthrough and compete for and win a football title?

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This has been the question of late, can a Wake County 4A football team, specifically (4AA), compete with and win a football state championship against a Charlotte area team?

 

I think we've seen some great advancement in some of the Wake County teams in recent years, and I think we'll see a few other really good squads burst onto the scene and try and make a name for themselves on a statewide level, but can a team rise up and compete with the likes of a Mallard Creek, Butler, or other Western teams on a consistent basis? 

 

In recent years, we've seen Wake Forest (formerly Wake Forest-Rolesville) make it to three 4AA championship games and Garner to one, but other than those two, it's been a struggle for Wake County teams to advance very far in the playoffs, especially when it comes to playing non Wake County teams. 

 

Last year we saw Apex Middle Creek dominate their schedule only to be hammered by Greensboro Page, a Western team (playing in East bracket) 49-23. 

 

A few years back (2005), it was Wakefield that seemingly lapped the field when facing Raleigh competition only to be blistered 28-7 by New Bern in the 4th round, and the list goes on and on.

 

For the most part, Garner has been one of the few exceptions when it comes to being able to handle their own against non-Wake teams.  For years, it was Fayetteville area teams that brought a different level of physicality to the Raleigh schools that they didn't handle well, but usually Garner was able to hold their own.

 

I think we'll see some really good Raleigh area teams this season.  I think Middle Creek once again will be very dominant, at least in the regular season games, and I think Garner and Wake Forest will also be pretty stout.

 

I think the biggest surprise team that could burst onto the scene and look really good could be Holly Springs.  They've really done well under Robert Furth and I don't see that changing.

 

I think there are a multitude of reasons why Wake County schools have struggled.  Several of them could be the addition of numerous new high schools, which has diluted the talent at several up and coming schools.  Other reasons, especially in comparison to Charlotte, is that the Queen City is more of a football town, has more of a blue collar feel, and has a multitude of former professional players ready and willing to help train high school athletes.  Since the Carolina Panthers began play in 1995, we've seen a large number of NFL players retire to Mecklenburg County, many of which live in the Highland Creek area that feeds Mallard Creek. 

 

While Raleigh dominates in Basketball and Soccer, I think Raleigh has more of a northern feel with somewhat of a transient population as northern families have relocated for some tech jobs in the Cary / RTP area.  

 

I anxiously await your input and discussion on this topic, as I think it's a very good one, especially as we begin to ramp up our 2016 football discussions. 

 

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I have always felt that the biggest reason for the disparity was and continues to be Tom Knotts. Going back know 20 years ago I think he elevated the level of play in the area largely because he was ahead of his time in many areas and he was unafraid to beat your brains in and mock you while he was doing it.

 

I think the lasting effect of that is still seen today and its why you see the gap.

 

I have always insisted that complacency has killed Wake county. You can see it the schedules, you can see it in the offensive schemes and you can hear it from the fan bases that largely blames the 28 year title drought on unbalanced school distribution and on the belief that Meck county somehow cheats.

 

If there was a head coach who thought outside the box and wanted to beat anyone and everyone by 100 you would see the entire area either get better ir be humiliated.

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I have always insisted that complacency has killed Wake county. You can see it the schedules, you can see it in the offensive schemes and you can hear it from the fan bases that largely blames the 28 year title drought on unbalanced school distribution and on the belief that Meck county somehow cheats.

 

 

That's true there, Greensboro Page was pleading with some really good Wake teams to sign contracts for non-league schedules, but they were unable to convince any of them to play.  That's one thing I like about Page and Dudley, and really most good Triad teams, they'll play anyone. 

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That's true there, Greensboro Page was pleading with some really good Wake teams to sign contracts for non-league schedules, but they were unable to convince any of them to play. That's one thing I like about Page and Dudley, and really most good Triad teams, they'll play anyone.

I really dont think they want to venture out and play. I think teams like Wake and Middlecreek are fine dominating local competition and if they get lucky with the draw they have a good shot at making it to the title game.

 

If they get smoked they are comfortable with the " stacked" team theory. I just dont think a title is a priority.

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I really dont think they want to venture out and play. I think teams like Wake and Middlecreek are fine dominating local competition and if they get lucky with the draw they have a good shot at making it to the title game.

If they get smoked they are comfortable with the " stacked" team theory. I just dont think a title is a priority.

So they field teams and are ok with losing in a title game? Your Charlotte is showing pretty bad in this post.

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I have been longing for someone to bring this topic up, mostly because I like to stay on topic and not ramble about something that has nothing to do with the conversation. Let me first start out by saying I appreciate all the hard work and effort every HS coach puts in to their programs, especially Coach Lucas of Wake Forest. Having played for him, he taught me life lessons on and off the field that I really will cherish for the rest of my life. I highly respect that man for how he has changed the program from what it use to be and the principles he runs it by. However, to provide a very blunt answer to your question, the answer is no, no, no, no, no, a thousand times no. The start of the problem is our scheduling. Look at the schedule from last year and compare it to the 2016 schedule. No, your eyesight isn't going bad, it is the same exact schedule. The simple fact is this, if we ever want a hope or chance of ever winning a 4A title, we (as in Wake County schools) have to upgrade our brand of football. Beating Cary (and no offense to the Cary football program at all) to a 48-0 pulp at halftime does absolutely nothing to help grow our kids and get them ready for the big game if we even make it there. When we were doing a home/away with Hoggard some years back, I thought that maybe some teams might follow and schedule somebody outside of Wake County but it seems the opposite has happened. The name "Weak County" is rightly deserved, because quite frankly we are weak. We're weak in our scheduling, conditioning, and really pride if you think about it. We schedule teams we know good and well we can beat to hype ourselves up for conference and playoffs only to get steamrolled by teams like Page or Mallard Creek year in and year out. A part of me was really glad to see us in a 6 team conference for the next realignment but the way things have been going, it very well might be more of the same. The bar simply needs to be raised. 

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So they field teams and are ok with losing in a title game? Your Charlotte is showing pretty bad in this post.

Has zero to do with Charlotte. If you look closely you will see they usually dont make it to a title game to play a Charlotte team. 4 times in 20+ years at least. 3 of those times by the same school.

 

I think a team like Wake has choosen to do what they do and change the dynamic little along the way. Ok with losing are your words. Content with the status quo would be mine.

 

I cant figure out another reason why a team or teams refuse to schedule outside their direct area when it's been so clear forever that they are greatly overmatched and unprepared when they play a top tier school from outside that area. Whether that school is Page, Britt, Butler or Mallard Creek.

 

When I say unprepared I am speaking in terms of coaching as well as players. Their in game adjustments are non - exsistent. Why?...because when you play inferior competition that is very predictable you dont have to come off the plan. You can run your 15 plays and stay with your basic sets on defense and win walking away. I have heard Palmieri and Hales say 100 times. The tough schedules are as much for the coaches as it is for the players. Go against tough competition in tough places to play and you are forced to come off the plan from time to time.

 

Here is the difference between Palmieri and any coach in Wake county. He could careless about a regular season loss or conference championship. His focus is soley on rings and it shows in everything he does. Schedules potential losses. Trys out a 3-4 defense against a conference foe and takes a loss. Now...Palmieri has never run a 3-4 until last year but his DC wanted to give it a shot so he let him make a decision. Thats how you build trust and confidence. Wanted to work on his oline toughness and runs the ball 95% of the time against Vance.Again unafraid to take a loss...just preparing his team for the title run.

 

Now...Let's take a look at the opposite side of that in Lucas and Wake. Great coach especially on the defensive side. However after getting killed in two title games in 2010 and 2013 he returns what many think is his most talented squad in 2014. ALL AMerican RB. 3-year starting QB, two 5star dlineman and a strong veteran oline. Probably the best widEout in Wake forest history in CunningHam. Does he go out and schedule a Scotland, S. DURHAM, Dudley or Page to test them early?? NOPE

Knowing he is very one dimentional on offense does he use some of these regular season blow outs to work on a passing game?? NOPE..he averages 7 passes a game.

 

So now you get to the title game. Play a close 1st half against a very young MC team. Bryce love runs for 150 plus in the 1st half. Palmieri makes adjustments at half, shuts Love down and guess what. Wake has no answer. Why would they? They havent been in a single tough game or worked on a alternative in the previous 14 games. They take a loss.

 

Happy with the status quo and I do believe that this myth about "stacked" teams and recruiting is part of the issue. I think that theory rests in the back of many of the coaches , players and fans and it gives them a rationalization for mediocrity. Once you start making excuses for why you cant you never will. Your dead.

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Has zero to do with Charlotte. If you look closely you will see they usually dont make it to a title game to play a Charlotte team. 4 times in 20+ years at least. 3 of those times by the same school.

 

I think a team like Wake has choosen to do what they do and change the dynamic little along the way. Ok with losing are your words. Content with the status quo would be mine.

 

I cant figure out another reason why a team or teams refuse to schedule outside their direct area when it's been so clear forever that they are greatly overmatched and unprepared when they play a top tier school from outside that area. Whether that school is Page, Britt, Butler or Mallard Creek.

 

When I say unprepared I am speaking in terms of coaching as well as players. Their in game adjustments are non - exsistent. Why?...because when you play inferior competition that is very predictable you dont have to come off the plan. You can run your 15 plays and stay with your basic sets on defense and win walking away. I have heard Palmieri and Hales say 100 times. The tough schedules are as much for the coaches as it is for the players. Go against tough competition in tough places to play and you are forced to come off the plan from time to time.

 

Here is the difference between Palmieri and any coach in Wake county. He could careless about a regular season loss or conference championship. His focus is soley on rings and it shows in everything he does. Schedules potential losses. Trys out a 3-4 defense against a conference foe and takes a loss. Now...Palmieri has never run a 3-4 until last year but his DC wanted to give it a shot so he let him make a decision. Thats how you build trust and confidence. Wanted to work on his oline toughness and runs the ball 95% of the time against Vance.Again unafraid to take a loss...just preparing his team for the title run.

 

Now...Let's take a look at the opposite side of that in Lucas and Wake. Great coach especially on the defensive side. However after getting killed in two title games in 2010 and 2013 he returns what many think is his most talented squad in 2014. ALL AMerican RB. 3-year starting QB, two 5star dlineman and a strong veteran oline. Probably the best widEout in Wake forest history in CunningHam. Does he go out and schedule a Scotland, S. DURHAM, Dudley or Page to test them early?? NOPE

Knowing he is very one dimentional on offense does he use some of these regular season blow outs to work on a passing game?? NOPE..he averages 7 passes a game.

 

So now you get to the title game. Play a close 1st half against a very young MC team. Bryce love runs for 150 plus in the 1st half. Palmieri makes adjustments at half, shuts Love down and guess what. Wake has no answer. Why would they? They havent been in a single tough game or worked on a alternative in the previous 14 games. They take a loss.

 

Happy with the status quo and I do believe that this myth about "stacked" teams and recruiting is part of the issue. I think that theory rests in the back of many of the coaches , players and fans and it gives them a rationalization for mediocrity. Once you start making excuses for why you cant you never will. Your dead.

 

Couple issues. One you are comparing MC Coach to any other coach in the state they are going to come up short in comparison. Second WF runs the triple option, as far as I know, so what exactly was available to them to change? Still you manage to finish up with that Meck County hubris that is expected about rationalizing mediocrity. 

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No he's not. Far from it too. Of course I know Crest fans are hypersensitive about who they schedule in non-conference so you must feel a kindred spirit with Wake.

 

I could care less who Wake County schedules in non conference. I think it is absolute nonsense that any group would rationalize losing. So spare me that tripe. 

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So how many adjustments offensively are they expected to make out of that approach?

I have watched many teams throw sucessfully out of those formations. Butler ran a ton of wing T with the Qb in shotgun and under center in 2012. It wS nearly impossible to stop when they threw it.

 

First thing that has to happen is you need to committ to it. Averaging 7 throws a game not a committment

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I have watched many teams throw sucessfully out of those formations. Butler ran a ton of wing T with the Qb in shotgun and under center in 2012. It wS nearly impossible to stop when they threw it.

 

First thing that has to happen is you need to committ to it. Averaging 7 throws a game not a committment

 

Were those teams Wake Forest in 2014? 

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It's fairly easy and needs no explaining. BTW teams also make adjustments on defense and on special teams.

 

They rationalize not competing for championships because they haven't done so in forever. Got it. Thanks for heads up about teams making adjustments in other areas during the game. Hadn't considered that. 

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Communist kickball and the WRAL soccer center has been the downfall of football on Wake county. When it opened back in the early to mid 80's every kid in the white middle class went to play soccer. I don't know why. My lol made me go to a day soccer camp at 7 years old. I told her don't ever make me do that crap again! Me and all my friends stayed playing football. Garner has always been strong, Millbrook used to be strong, and now Wake Forest. Other schools haven't had the facilities or commitment from administration to have strong teams. Even today my lovely alma mater Athens Drive still doesnt have football weight training. Not do they get all players in weights at all. That doesn't happen on Charlotte.

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Meck Co population (2015)- 1,034,070

Wake Co population (2015)- 1,024,198

 

Public HS

MC- 20

WC- 22

 

Private HS w/ football presence

MC- 10

WC- 4

 

New HS opened since 1997

MC- 8

WC- 8

 

MC has a lot more private schools which should diminish the talent somewhat in the public schools. It has in basketball, well over half of the top recruits in bb are attending private schools.

This makes MC dominance even more impressive.

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There is some talent in the Big 4 Charlotte privates plus Davidson Day.  Christian has had a long run of big time prospects and Davidson Day has the last couple of years and only continues to improve.  Private schools in Charlotte are way advanced in football than any other area.  

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So 3 issues on this thread that defiantly has an impact. 

1) The Knotts effect has elevated Meck Co football.

2) Scheduling has defiantly hurt Wake Co teams.

3) Redistricting. It appears MC has done a better job than WC, at least with athletics. 

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We are seeing more and more kids being homeschooled in the RTP area.  What has really hurt the Wake schools has been a lot of redistricting and instability/inconsistency on the school board the past several years. 

 

That is one thing I would like to see at some point. How a group of kids would react with growing up in roughly the same school district. Middle Creek has had some success lately and I did notice quite a few young kids watching the games there. Would be rough for the program if they made it all the way through middle school and then were shipped off to Apex High School #4 or whatever. 

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So how many adjustments offensively are they expected to make out of that approach?

They are expected to make any adjustment necessary to win a title. It's really very simple. You are never going to win a title in 4aa with a 90% run based offense.

 

If you have the talent that they have ( considerable) and you fail to make adjustments to your philosphy to make a title a possibility then you are comfortable with the status quo.

 

They dont have to throw the ball 40 times a game and yes talent sometimes dictates scheme but they have had more than enough pieces to be a threat vertically and choose not to even try to work on it to get better.

 

That tells me that winning a state title isnt as important to them as it is to the schools in the West.

 

If they had been 20% more efficent in throwing the ball in 2014 they win the title. They choose not to even try to get better...there's your hubris

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They are expected to make any adjustment necessary to win a title. It's really very simple. You are never going to win a title in 4aa with a 90% run based offense.

If you have the talent that they have ( considerable) and you fail to make adjustments to your philosphy to make a title a possibility then you are comfortable with the status quo.

They dont have to throw the ball 40 times a game and yes talent sometimes dictates scheme but they have had more than enough pieces to be a threat vertically and choose not to even try to work on it to get better.

That tells me that winning a state title isnt as important to them as it is to the schools in the West.

If they had been 20% more efficent in throwing the ball in 2014 they win the title. They choose not to even try to get better...there's your hubris

You are correct that it is incredibly arrogant that only your way is capable of winning a title in 4AA.

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No..whats your point

Then how do you know that fit their style or personnel? Because of that nonsense you followed this post with about having to run a certain offense to win titles otherwise they aren't interested in winning?

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Agree. Middle Creek is blessed with good karma. Ever heard of West Lake Road? My ancestors owned much of that land near Middle Creek. West Lake Elementary used to be a farmvthat my grandfather's first cousin used to run.

There has been a lack of continuity in the past from Wake in terms of districts. As such, the kids have not been able to form long lasting bonds with other kids, year after year.

I expect that we will see this bleed into Johnston County much more in the near future. From looking at Smithfield-Selma, it has probably already started.

I assume all of 4AA East will consist of these two counties in the not so distant future.

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You are correct that it is incredibly arrogant that only your way is capable of winning a title in 4AA.

Prove me wrong. Show me the school in 4aa that has won a title in the last 15 years that averaged 7 pass attempts a game.I will wait

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Then how do you know that fit their style or personnel? Because of that nonsense you followed this post with about having to run a certain offense to win titles otherwise they aren't interested in winning?

Nice strawman but I never said you had to run a certain offense. Said you had to be able to throw the ball.

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State Championship Game appearances by WF

 

2010: Lost to Butler 44-0, The 1st time they introduce that ugly offense to the State.

 

2013: Lost to MC 59-21, The 2nd time they introduce that ugly offense to the State

 

2014: Lost to MC 25-14 rode the back of Bryce Love the entire 1st half. 2nd half Mallard Creek shut's him down. WF coaching staff were clueless and had no answers, Live by the run, die by the run. 5 for 18 passing.Not going to be real effective when you wait until the State Championship game to work on your passing game. Not a big difference from the offense they ran in 2010 that finished 150 total yds of offense against Butler.

 

2015: Lost to Page with the same ugly offense: Page shuts down the run game. They go 3-14 passing. 

 

 

 

doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The Coaching staff is insane!  :lol: 
 

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I felt that a nice short and intermediate passing game would have made WF a very tough out in 2014.  When they did try to throw the QB had issues with the pass.  

 

You have to have a base that is your go to but unless the team is just so incredibly talented and stacked you have to be able to mix it up a bit. I think that is more so in 4AA than the smaller sub classes.  I am sure an argument can be the other way, also.

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Nice strawman but I never said you had to run a certain offense. Said you had to be able to throw the ball.

So a team running the ball 90% of the time that "won't win a title in 4aa", isn't a certain kind of offense.

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Prove me wrong. Show me the school in 4aa that has won a title in the last 15 years that averaged 7 pass attempts a game.I will wait

Probably isn't one. Doesn't mean that a team can't win the title with a run heavy offense. Nor does it mean Wake County teams aren't interested in changing the status quo because Wake Forest has a run based offense.

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State Championship Game appearances by WF

 

2010: Lost to Butler 44-0, The 1st time they introduce that ugly offense to the State.

 

2013: Lost to MC 59-21, The 2nd time they introduce that ugly offense to the State

 

2014: Lost to MC 25-14 rode the back of Bryce Love the entire 1st half. 2nd half Mallard Creek shut's him down. WF coaching staff were clueless and had no answers, Live by the run, die by the run. 5 for 18 passing.Not going to be real effective when you wait until the State Championship game to work on your passing game. Not a big difference from the offense they ran in 2010 that finished 150 total yds of offense against Butler.

 

2015: Lost to Page with the same ugly offense: Page shuts down the run game. They go 3-14 passing. 

 

 

 

doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The Coaching staff is insane!  :lol: 

 

One of our biggest problems besides coaching. Riding the back of the one 5 star player we manage to produce every year.

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We are seeing more and more kids being homeschooled in the RTP area.  What has really hurt the Wake schools has been a lot of redistricting and instability/inconsistency on the school board the past several years.  The interesting thing, however, is that most of the Northern "transplants" love the Wake county school system.  We are really seeing a weird clash between the traditional southern culture and the new culture from the Northern transplants.

 

BTW, sometime last year Wake county supposedly surpassed Mecklenburg in terms of population.  The local media told the story that has a lot of similarity to the Cold War arms race.  However, the faster you grow  and if the growth is not evenly spread out across the county (and it's not), schools will be subjected more to redistricting.

 

I'll defer to my friends in Wake and Mecklenburg counties because I don't know all the facts, but from my viewpoint I do believe that  Mecklenburg County  has handled the exponential growth better than Wake County.  Wake's population has grown faster in recent years than Mecklenburg's growth, so that might be an issue.  Just shooting fish in a barrel on that observation.

Mecklenburg has definitely adjusted to the growth better than we have. Go on 540/440 between 3pm-6pm to see for yourself.

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Your Offense is part of your defense. Long drives keeping  your opponents high powered offense off the field. If your offense is a one trick pony, and you have no plan B to extend drives. The results will pretty much be consistent with what has happen to WF in the State Championship games. A bunch of 3 and outs, which keeps your defense on the field the entire game. Not a good look.

 

The 1st two games WF played in the State Championship were pretty much over when Butler & MC stepped on the field. Their last appearance they had a shot. Palmieri made adjustments on defense and WF had no answer. They just kept running and tried to establish a passing game during the State Championship game.You just don't do that. WF should have been working on their passing game when they were blowing everyone off the map during conference play.  Lost to Page 2015 was pretty much the same. They had no answer once you stop their run game. 

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I agree with Jim. It is never all about one side of the ball or the other. It is TEAM......PERIOD>

 

As far as the system a program uses on offense, (someone called it an ugly offense) I believe the system is less important than the fundamentals, game planning and adjustments (Work7). Wake Forest has been running Wing T since Earl Smith and have always been fundamentally sound.

 

Wing T offenses have won many championships over the very recent seasons. No less than 5 teams in this year's State Championship games were Wing T based.  3 of them won it all: Charlotte Catholic, Rocky Mount and Wallace Rose Hill.  (Bunn and Mitchell came up a little short but still had great seasons).

 

I also agree that you cannot be one dimensional. You have to have some diversity.  Murphy has run the Wing T for many years and many titles and have always thrown the ball extremely effectively. Looking from the outside in, we don't know that WF didn't have a plan for the passing game. Maybe MC shut that down just as they did the run game.

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Your Offense is part of your defense. Long drives keeping  your opponents high powered offense off the field. If your offense is a one trick pony, and you have no plan B to extend drives. The results will pretty much be consistent with what has happen to WF in the State Championship games. A bunch of 3 and outs, which keeps your defense on the field the entire game. Not a good look.

 

The 1st two games WF played in the State Championship were pretty much over when Butler & MC stepped on the field. Their last appearance they had a shot. Palmieri made adjustments on defense and WF had no answer. They just kept running and tried to establish a passing game during the State Championship game.You just don't do that. WF should have been working on their passing game when they were blowing everyone off the map during conference play.  Lost to Page 2015 was pretty much the same. They had no answer once you stop their run game.

 

The second one was most certainly over when they stepped on the field. That MC team was phenomenal and I think WF was a 12 seed with a gimpy Bryce Love. They deserve credit for beating Middle Creek in the semis but were fodder in the finals.

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Think its probably unfair to look simply at Wake Forest and Mallard Creek and Butler as the samples. Last year is a great example of the larger issue. Middlecreek and Wake Forest roll over everyone in Wake county but on their home fields are 2 and 3 tds worst than Page. Page wAs a good team but hardly a great one.

 

Their is a huge difference in the physicality of football played in Wake county versus other places in the state. I believe that is the direct result of week schedules.

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