Friday Night Lights

Before the Carolina Panthers were even a glimmer in Jerry Richardson’s eye, high school football was the most important sport in Charlotte. Our writers and photographers take you inside the culture of Charlotte’s very own Friday Night Lights.
Peter Taylor

Before the Carolina Panthers were even a glimmer in Jerry Richardson’s eye, high school football was the most important sport in Charlotte. To tens of thousands of people, who pack stadiums large and small every Friday night in the fall, it still is and always will be. But it goes beyond sport. Each game is a community gathering, a social event, a chance for boys to become men and men to become boys. In the following pages, our writers and photographers take you inside the culture of Charlotte’s very own Friday Night Lights.

 

GAME DAY
South Point High School, Belmont –Jeremy Markovich

One play, one and a half yards to go. The South Point Red Raiders huddle around their coach, get their instructions, and then, weary but hungry, line up across from the ball. If they can keep the Lincolnton Wolfpack from crossing the goal line, they win. -Click to read the article.

THE COACH

Jim Oddo, Charlotte Catholic –Cliff Mehrtens

At home games, the Charlotte Catholic Cougars run onto Jim Oddo field. Not far behind them runs Coach Oddo, his red or brown ball cap tugged low, his mind churning about the next play. Charlotte Catholic, in its thirty-seventh season with Oddo as head coach, has a college atmosphere… -Click to read the article.

THE CHEERLEADER
Bailey Thompson, Charlotte Christian School –Annie Monjar

"This side! Stand up and yell: ‘Fight, Knights, fight! Fight, Knights, fight!’ " A lone football hurtles through the looming dusk, a fanfare of blue and white pompoms flutters, and the crowd, buzzing from Charlotte Christian School’s first-quarter touchdown at this Friday-night game against Victory  Christian, obeys the command: "Fight, Knights, fight" -Click to read the article.

THE PLAYER
Marquise Williams, Mallard Creek High School Quarterback –Jarvis Holliday

To Marquise Williams, August 2007 seems like a long time ago. He was a ninth-grader and one of 1,200 students to attend the newly opened Mallard Creek High School. He was the starting quarterback, and he was nervous and excited. -Click to read the article.

THE BAND
Harding University High School’s Band of Gold –Annie Monjar

In August 2007, Anthony Jones took a phone call. “He said, ‘This is Barack Obama,’ ” Jones, the musical director at Harding University High School for sixteen years, remembers. The then presidential candidate was hosting a rally in Charlotte, and he needed a good marching band. Could Jones and the band, called the Band of Gold, be ready in a week? Click to read the article, see the photos, and watch a short film.

THE RIVALRY
Independence High School vs. Butler High School

In Charlotte high school football, there is no bigger rivalry than Independence and Butler. The two schools are located on Charlotte’s eastside and draw students from adjacent neighborhoods. Independence has won seven state titles in the last decade,… Click to see the photos.

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