The Grid: Week Ten

Week ten of high school football action on WCHL features another Big 8 battle as 6-2 Chapel Hill continues its tough gauntlet of games by welcoming 6-2 Cardinal Gibbons to town.

The Tigers lost a heartbreaking 38-37 decision to the undefeated Orange Panthers last week and will be hungry to bounce back with a win against the perennial powerhouse Crusaders.

Paul Connell will have the call of the 7 p.m. Friday kickoff  on 97.9 FM, WCHL. Live pregame coverage from Chapel Hill will begin at 6:30 p.m.

We’ll also bring you live streaming right here on of the 3-5 Carrboro Jaguars as they try to mount a playoff push starting with conference rival Jordan-Matthews. Jeff Hamlin will have the play-by-play for you there.

And don’t forget to start your evening off with ‘The Grid with Matt & Matt’, WCHL’s exclusive high school football pregame show hosted by Matt Oakes and Matt Paul.

At 6 p.m., the stage will be set with interviews from all the area head coaches, analysis and predictions from the night’s biggest games, the selection of The Grid Great of the Week, as well as the unveiling of the WCHL/ Super Six rankings.

The Grid: Week Eight

Week eight of high school football action on WCHL features a battle for Hillsborough bragging rights between the undefeated Orange Panthers, 6-0 on the season, and the 2-4 Cedar Ridge Red Wolves. Orange starts as the heavy favorite, but in rivalry games like this one, anything can happen.

Paul Connell will have the call of the 7 p.m. Friday kickoff on 97.9 FM, WCHL. Live pregame coverage from Hillsborough will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Exclusively right here on, we’ll bring you live streaming of the local contest between struggling East Chapel Hill and Durham Riverside. Jeff Hamlin will be on the mic for that one.

And don’t forget to start your evening off with ‘The Grid with Matt & Matt’, WCHL’s exclusive high school football pregame show hosted by Matt Oakes and Matt Paul.

At 6 p.m., the stage will be set with interviews from all the area head coaches, analysis and predictions from the night’s biggest games, the selection of The Grid Great of the Week, as well as the unveiling of the WCHL/Chapelboro Super Six rankings.

The Grid: Week Four

Week four of high school football on WCHL features an intriguing contest between the 2-1 Carrboro Jaguars and the undefeated Northwood Chargers, sitting at 3-0. The collision in Carrboro promises to produce a high-octane offensive shootout.

The Jaguars suffered their first defeat at the hands of the surging Chapel Hill Tigers last week, but the Chargers continued their dominant play with a 37-7 demolition of rival Jordan-Matthews.

Paul Connell and Chris Casey will have the call of the 7:30 pm Friday kickoff right here on WCHL. Pregame coverage will begin at 7 p.m.

In addition to that one, we’ll stream the high school gridiron showdown between the improving 2-1 Cedar Ridge Red Wolves and the 0-3 Riverside Pirates on our website,

The game will be broadcast exclusively on Jeff Hamlin will have the call for you at 7:30 p.m. live from Hillsborough.

And don’t forget to start your evening off with ‘The Grid with Matt & Matt’, WCHL’s high school football pregame show hosted by Matt Oakes and Matt Paul.

At 6:30 p.m., the stage will be set with interviews from all the area head coaches, analysis and predictions from the night’s biggest games, the selection of The Grid Great of the Week, as well as the unveiling of the WCHL/Chapelboro Super Six rankings.

HS Boys Basketball: Graham 47 – Carrboro 42

Shoop Heads For Purdue

   When Everett Withers and the remains of the Butch Davis coaching regime were not retained, only one member of the old staff stayed in Chapel Hill.
John Shoop was still under contract for the 2012 season at UNC, so for the first time since grade school Shoop spent an autumn off the football field. Besides a completely new experience, he said it turned out to be one of the best years of his life.
He grew a beard and wore cool, outdoorsy clothes. He watched his son and daughter in their school activities, like a normal parent. The Shoops actually took weeks and weekends off to travel, see the world and visit family and friends.
While the early morning meetings and late-night game-planning were not part of his life and he barely stepped on a football field, the game he has loved forever was never far from his mind. He wrote a weekly column for Chapelboro, previewing the local college and high school games of note. He called Friday night prep games on WCHL radio with play-by-play sidekick Paul Connell.
And, as the only member of Davis’ staff who still lived in Chapel Hill, Shoop unobtrusively remained an advocate for the players he had recruited and coached at Carolina. He wanted them to succeed under new coach Larry Fedora and he supported the players who had been through two awful years of NCAA investigation and suspensions plus several entangled in the academic scandal.
“The year was an unbelievable blessing for us,” Shoop said this week after being named the new offensive coordinator at Purdue. “I loved helping out on the radio, filling in for D.G. Martin occasionally, doing the high school games and writing the column. We loved all of it.             But the most important thing we did was to continue supporting the UNC players who had gotten caught up in some of what happened here. We advocated for student-athlete rights, particularly the young men who we had recruited to UNC.”
Shoop uses the word “we” when he speaks, because he and his wife Marcia are a team in such endeavors. Her website became popular with UNC players and their families during the NCAA problems, and her spiritual blog “Calling Audibles” was often a frank and telling memoir of her view on the controversy and those it touched.
The Shoops were particularly close with fullback Devon Ramsay, who was suspended for much of the 2010 season and then reinstated when Ramsay’s mother hired an attorney and challenged the suspension. Upon returning to the field in 2011, Ramsay was injured and spent most of the last two seasons rehabbing his knee before graduating last May.
“We had a small party for Devon at our house before I left for Purdue,” Shoop said. “A lot of folks came, friends and teammates. He’s staying fit, hoping to get a shot in the NFL, and I’m doing everything I can to help him; he’s a really good fullback. Either way, that guy’s got so much on the ball that we all might be working for him some day. He is what’s right with college athletics.”
Despite how his tenure at UNC ended, Shoop holds no grudge over what happened to the coaches and program that earned four straight bowl bids from 2008-11. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“We have feelings deeply invested in this place and many of the people here,” he said. “We’re not bitter; it’s the reason we stayed. We wanted to do what we could to be part of the solution.”
Shoop knew he would return to coaching, continuing to network and stay in contact with the industry during his year off. He said he had several offers from colleges and NFL teams but found Purdue to be the best fit for him and his family.
With almost 40,000 students, Purdue is one of the biggest of the Big Ten schools and, though not nationally prominent in recent years, the Boilermakers have a rich tradition, having produced players named Len Dawson, Bob Griese, Leroy Keyes and Drew Brees. Shoop found similarities between Chapel Hill and West Lafayette, Indiana, particularly the opportunity to live out in the country as he did here but still close enough to campus. He has known new Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell and offensive line coach Jim Bollman since they worked together with the Chicago Bears, where Shoop was the offensive coordinator for three years including the 2001 season when they finished 13-3 and made the playoffs. Hazell and Bollman moved on to work for Jim Tressel at Ohio State. Every year, the Carolina and Ohio State staffs spent time together. With Hazell and Bollman landing at Purdue, going with them felt right.
“Our offensive philosophies were kind of similar at Carolina and Ohio State,” Shoop said. “We both liked to be physical, run the ball from a pro style offense. We see the game similarly. And I’m excited that this is the first time I’ll be an offensive coordinator for an offensive head coach. I’ve always worked for defensive head coaches, so this will be fun.”
He did not settle on Purdue until it became clear that Butch Davis was not taking another head coaching job for the 2013 season. Shoop said he stayed in touch with his former boss over the last year   “and it is fair to say he was close” to starting over again at another school.
“It’s something we would have considered,” Shoop said of going with Davis, “and I’m surprised he didn’t get one. But he will, he deserves another chance.”
Happily, Shoop has gotten his.
(Read John Shoop’s final, touching column for Chapelboro)

"On The Heels" Signing Day Coverage with Paul Connell and Brian Chacos

Brian Chacos and Paul Connell broke down all the news and coverage from the Tar Heels National Signing Day celebration and commitments with this special edition show. Follow what Fedora and the Heels are up to!!

The Light at the end of the Tunnel

It’s finally here ladies and gentlemen…. the last game of the 2012 University of North Carolina football season. Wow, this season has absolutely flown by and, for me; this is when depression sets in. After Saturday, the countdown begins to the opening kickoff of the 2013 season (August 31, 2013) in Columbia, South Carolina. That’s right – 279 days till the flagship school of South Carolina and the Ole’ Ball Coach Steve Spurrier and his Gamecocks take on the flagship school of North Carolina. And if you’re like me, you will be counting down every one of those 279 days through national signing day, spring practice, summer workouts, ACC media day and the pigskin luncheon.

With that being said though, this has been a long and winding road for this group of seniors who have lived through 2 ½ years of an emotional roller coaster of change. Not many college football players can say they lived (and endured) through two head coaches, an academic fraud scandal, NCAA sanctions, scrutiny from peers, University faculty and officials, and constant negativity from local fan bases and major local media outlets in particular the Raleigh News & Observer. Within all of this adversity, a group of young men were truly developing before our very eyes not only on the field, but in the community as well (see last week’s column about Jonathan Cooper and Gentle Giants ). These seniors have become valuable members of the University community and, despite the controversy that has surrounded their tenure here, will be remembered with fondness and distinction in Chapel Hill.

With the new hiring of Coach Fedora this past December and the reality that the 2012 Tar Heels would not be eligible for post season play, our football program was at a crossroads. All players had the right to transfer to a different University without sitting out a year and a special group of Tar Heel seniors led by Kevin Reddick decided to make a stand and finish what they had started. When Coach Fedora laid out the options to his Seniors during a meeting, Reddick was one of the first to address the possibility of leaving. “After we told the seniors, ‘Hey, you guys can leave if you want. You can do whatever you want,’ “Coach Fedora said.” Kevin was the first one to stand up and say, ‘I’m not going anywhere. We’re going to have a great season here next year.’ ” This shows the kind of character that is instilled in these young men not only by this University but also by the role models who have molded these athletes from prospects to lettermen. The parents, guardians, mentors, pop warner coaches, teachers and counselors all deserve credit for helping to make a forgettable situation a positive and something that the entire program can – and will – build on.

The reason why I bring this up is because Saturday will be the last time that the majority of these seniors will ever play the game of football and ever be a part of a family atmosphere and brotherhood like the one at UNC. I was fortunate enough to get to experience two Senior days (due to a medical hardship) so I know exactly what these guys are going through this week. The week will fly by and the players will experience a sense of loss as they experience everyday moments for the last time – the last Monday practice, the last game plan meeting, the last Tuesday lift session, the last time out with the guys for the weekly dinners. And as they walk through the tunnel and hear the final roar of the crowd and run through the smoke, they will remember back to the day four or five years ago when they first walked through the tunnel with the magic of college football and Kenan stadium awaiting, and they’ll feel as if it passed in the blink of an eye.

As hard as it is for the players to know that the end is near, sometimes the parents or guardians take it that much harder. They have supported and fostered the growth of this player from the days when he couldn’t tie his own cleats to now seeing him play for the last time. Maybe this player achieved his goals and lived up to his potential and maybe he didn’t. Either way, the end is here and it’s a sobering time for all involved. What I hope comes out of this last Saturday and what I think we’ll see is two things:

  • 1) A great effort by this football team and a program that is prepared to send these seniors off with a win while looking forward to building the foundation for next year and years to come.
  • 2) A packed stadium that allows everyone in the community the opportunity to spend a Saturday in one of the most beautiful stadiums in college football. Let’s all soak it in while we can because 279 days is a far ways off.

Please make sure to tune in one hour after the final whistle to 97.9FM to listen to more post game coverage with Paul Connell and myself on “ON THE HEELS.”

Smart. Fast. Physical. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Look For A Hundred Passes!

When UNC prepared for ECU two years ago, we planned to run the ball as much as possible. It was our belief that the nature of ECU’s offense prevented their defense from preparing adequately for our run game.

Offensively the Pirates are no huddle, four wide receivers, and heavily oriented toward the pass. We didn’t think that they would be able to practice against a running game consisting of multiple personnel groupings, confusing run fits, and conflict of assignment play-action passes. They didn’t have the personnel to form a scout team mimicking what we did offensively.
We were right. In 2010, Johnny White and Shaun Draughn both went over 100 yards rushing and combined for 277 yards on 43 carries in a big win. Last season, Gio Bernard eclipsed the 100-yard mark with 12 minutes remaining in the first half and the RBs combined for 226 yards on 40 carries in another win.
This plan is the same one Louisville used against UNC last week as the Cardinals RBs combined for 200 yards on 36 carries and their offense held the ball for more than 38 minutes.
This year, UNC’s offense will look like spring football to Brian Mitchell, the DC at ECU. The over/under for passes in this game is 100 and there may be 200 offensive plays run between these similar offenses.
The good news for both defenses is that this is what they see every day in practice. Neither defense will be shaken by the quick pace, confused by pass concepts, or asked to figure out complex running plays. However, UNC’s advantage is future NFL QB Bryn Renner. As he gets more comfortable in the new offense, he will continue to improve. I’m sure Gio will be back soon, but A.J. Blue and Romar Morris have been outstanding in his place. They have both run and caught the ball effectively. This takes pressure off the wide receivers to always get open. When Bryn is willing to check it down to backs like these if nothing is open downfield, it makes calling plays easy.
N.C. State v. The Citadel
Kevin Higgins, the Head Coach at The Citadel, is a good coach who does a lot with a little. Imagine game planning against the schemes of Georgia Tech (i.e. straight option football) but with diverse personnel groupings, formations, motions, and shifts.
A problem that Mike Archer, the DC at State, will have is the same problem ECU had against UNC in the past. It is hard to practice against option football. The N.C. State offense is not set up to run the option and won’t have many players on their scout team to mimic what they will see this weekend. The first realistic look State sees of option football this week may be in Saturday’s game.
Coach Tom O’Brien has committed significant time in spring practice and summer training camp to defending option football. This advance preparation is smart because it is nearly impossible to prepare for this type of game in one week.

Option football creates headaches. On every play, the quarterback decides whether to give the ball to the fullback, keep it himself, or pitch it to a halfback. These are his “options” depending on how the defense reacts. Therefore, the defense has to tackle each of these positions on every play because they don’t know who is getting it.
This is assignment football at its best and any lack of discipline regarding these assignments is costly. It also eliminates “gang tackling.” When playing such disciplined assignments, players are forced to make unassisted tackles because the pursuit is not nearly what it is with a conventional offense.
It is my firm belief that nothing stimulates good morale on a football team like running the football effectively. To do so, an offense has to work as a unit more than in the passing game where isolated match ups come into play. Offensive lines love coming off the ball with flat backs and an aggressive demeanor.
Receivers and QBs know there will be big plays with conflict of assignment play-action passes. Defensive players love watching their teammates control the clock from the sideline. And after last week, The Citadel’s morale has to be sky high. The Bulldogs ran 63 times for 463 yards, controlling the ball for 38:11 minutes, and jumped out to a 31-0 lead over Appalachian State. That’s some attention-grabbing football.
The best way to control such a potent offense is to keep it off the field. State is going to have to put together some long drives and eat some time off the clock. Mike Glennon should have another strong day and find a lot of completions against a defense that doesn’t work a lot against complex passing schemes.
Duke v. Memphis
Memphis is off to a slow start this year under new Head Coach Justin Fuente. But their leading rusher is a young man our community should have an interest in. Jerrell Rhodes, a Jordan HS alum, is Memphis’ starting TB and I imagine he will be excited to come home to play a game in Durham. He is a fine young man who I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know in the recruiting process. I wish him well.
The Tigers will have a tough time handling a Duke offense that is becoming more balanced. Just like last week, Duke needs to run the ball effectively. Against N.C. Central the Blue Devils did: 29 times for 128 yards. Couple that run production with a 25 of 35 passing day and Duke will continue to give DCs headaches.
Look for Duke to strengthen its run production again versus the 108th run defense in the country. Coach Cutcliffe and Coach Roper know how important it will be to show a diverse attack heading into conference play the following week.
Carrboro High School v. Chapel Hill High School

This game might be the best one in the Triangle this weekend. Friday night the Chapel Hill Tigers host the Carrboro Jaguars in a battle of 5-0 teams. Carrboro Head Coach Jason Tudryn brings a physical brand of offensive football against a swarming, gang tackling, and hard-nosed defense of Chapel Hill, coached by Isaac Marsh.

Carrboro has a punishing ground game led by QB Alex McVeigh and RBs Doug Parrish and Trai Sharp. They grind it out behind a strong OL led by OT Ezavian Dunn. Carrboro mixes formations, motions, and shifts to gain strategic advantages in the run game as well as any team in the state, at ANY level. I get ideas every time I watch a Jason Tudryn coached team.
However, they are going up against one of the best defenses in the state this week. Chapel Hill has an imposing DL led by Brian James and Alex Colson who protect a group of LBs and safeties who pursue and gang tackle like the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I am excited to call the game with Paul Connell on WCHL radio at 7:30.