Prep Football: Independence wins 108th straight
DURHAM — Charlotte Independence is heading into the offseason the same way it has the previous six years — with a state championship won in history-setting fashion.
Dequan Leak ran for 204 yards and four touchdowns to help the Patriots extend the nation’s longest winning streak to 108 games by beating Durham Riverside 49-19 in the Class 4-AA North Carolina High School Athletic Association championship on Saturday night.
Leak was named the game’s most valuable player for the Patriots (16-0), who became the first team in state history to win seven straight titles. Darryl McFadden completed 13 of 20 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown, while Jason Barnes finished with six catches for 80 yards and a score.
The Patriots finished with three turnovers — enough to irk always-demanding coach Tom Knotts, who called his team “a little sloppy.” Still, it wasn’t enough to stop the Patriots from tallying a 30-point win against the Pirates (11-5).
Their first title came by a five-point margin in 2000, but their closest finals victory in the years since has been a 38-19 win against New Bern last year.
“The thing about Independence football is it ain’t about winning and losing,” Knotts said. “It’s how you play the game. That’s what I’ve tried to instill in these guys. We’ve won a lot of games with that philosophy. Sometimes feelings have gotten hurt, but that’s the way it is.
“You’ve got to do your best all the time, and this team’s kind of been up and down. But coming away with a win and a championship is obviously a pleasing thing.”
The Patriots have not lost a game since a 34-31 loss to Shelby Crest on Sept. 1, 2000, and stand 43 wins from matching the all-time national record of 151 set by Concord (Calif.) De La Salle. They shattered the state record of 46 straight wins to open the 2003 season and have been ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press state 4-A poll since the beginning of the ’01 season.
James Lundsford threw for 133 yards and ran for a touchdown for Riverside, a No. 11 seed that fought its way to the finals and jumped to an early lead before the Patriots took control with 28 straight points.
“They just stretch you so many ways,” Riverside coach Tommy Blalock said. “You’ve got to stretch your defense to cover their passing game and we just didn’t have enough bodies to put in places to stop them. They’re very, very good.”