Southwestern football preview: Big I led by strong D

Southwestern football preview: Big I led by strong D

Football

Southwestern football preview: Big I led by strong D

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With just three weeks left in the regular season, the 4A Southwestern Conference race is starting to take shape heading into the playoffs. Independence and Butler appear to be locks for the postseason, while Rocky River is firmly in third place with just two games remaining on their schedule. On the other end of the spectrum, East Mecklenburg and Garinger will do battle with both teams looking for their first conference win of 2014.

Here’s a preview for this week’s Southwestern football action

Bye week: Rocky River (6-3, 3-1)

Myers Park (3-5, 1-2) at Independence (8-0, 3-0)

Myers Park visits Independence in what is shaping up to be a hard-hitting game that will help determine Myers Park’s playoff fate. Scott Chadwick’s Mustangs picked up a much-needed victory last week, throttling Porter Ridge 41-6. Four of Myers Park’s losses are by eight points or fewer. The Mustangs are learning the hard way how to win and lose close games. A strong defensive performance will be required for Myers Park against the feisty Indy defense. Quarterback Clay Norris will have his work cut out for him against the Patriots.

Big I football is back. But instead of the Big I, the Pats are putting the D in Indy. With six shutouts in eight games, the Patriots’ defense has been nothing short of amazing in 2014. A last-minute score from Porter Ridge prevented a seventh shutout back on October 2. Kelvin Hopkins has guided the Independence offense to a near flawless performance nearly every time we’ve seen them take the field. Independence hasn’t won a state championship since 2006, but Joe Evans has his players believing they can bring Indy back to prominence in Charlotte.

USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Independence 34, Myers Park 7

Butler (8-1, 4-0) at Porter Ridge (1-7, 1-2)

Butler had one of the most impressive wins in the Queen City last week, bowling over Rocky River 55-21. The Bulldogs’ offense has rarely been challenged thus far, averaging 47 points per game this season. Anthony Ratliff-Williams is the leader of the Butler attack, and his teammates refuse to let anyone get in their way on the road to a state championship game. Coach Brian Hales has done a fantastic job of keeping his players focused, knowing that if they take care of business every week, they control their own destiny in conference and in state.

Porter Ridge has struggled offensively this year, picking up their only victory two weeks ago against a hapless Garinger squad. The Pirates manage just 14 points per game, but against teams with a winning record, Porter Ridge has been outscored 176-44. Zach Bevilacqua’s team is simply overmatched at this point, and will need a perfect game to keep it close with the Butler on Friday night.

USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: Butler 47, Porter Ridge 13

Garinger (0-7, 0-4) at East Mecklenburg (1-7, 0-3)

The Garinger Wildcats visit East Meck in a battle of two teams looking for their first conference win. The Wildcats have been outclassed in every category this year, struggling offensively, defensively, and on special teams this season. Garinger’s closest defeat was 24 points against Harding University back on August 29. The Wildcats are outmatched where it counts most, and are on pace to score just 66 points.

East Mecklenburg enters this Friday’s game off a much-needed bye week after a 62-24 loss at Rocky River. Barry Shuford’s Eagles have struggled this year, but have a young core of players returning next year. The Eagles’ offense has been sluggish this year, and the defense can only hold so long before the floodgates finally open against East Meck. With the toughest challenges on their schedule behind them, the Eagles have a real opportunity to put together two victories before the season finale at home against Myers Park.

USA TODAY High School Sports Predictor: East Mecklenburg 41, Garinger 14

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