Thursday, August 11, 2011

Preseason Sweet 16 No. 5 Charlotte Catholic

Look for No. 4 announced at 3 p.m. Friday on Charlotte

By Corey Inscoe

Mark Harrell went to the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio as a relatively unknown offensive tackle prospect in January.

The Charlotte Catholic senior received his first scholarship offer from Duke last October, midway through his junior season.

“I was pretty excited about it,” he said. “I didn’t really expect to get many more.”

After a stellar performance at the combine, Harrell did get more. A lot more.

“Once he got invited to San Antonio, it just went big time,” said Charlotte Catholic athletic director and assistant football coach Kevin Christmas, who helped Harrell with the recruiting process. “His stars went up and all the sudden people were calling and coming in.”

At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Harrell has the size college scouts are looking for and after playing fullback for two years in middle school at Holy Trinity, he had the footwork that made him one of the top 25 prospects in the state. He also plays basketball at Catholic to work on his footwork and stay in shape and throws shot put for the track team in the spring to build strength.

“They love his feet,” said Christmas. “They see him being able to move and he can be versatile.”

Offers poured in from many other ACC and SEC schools, then from Michigan and Stanford. Notre Dame invited him up for its junior day in February.

“I didn’t really expect much out of it,” said Harrell, 18. “I just thought it would be a cool trip.”

Harrell left South Bend without an offer, but the coaches were interested. Two days later, they offered him a scholarship.

By May, Harrell had narrowed his list down to six schools: Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, Auburn and Notre Dame.

“I was going to take my six visits this summer, but I decided I knew where I was going so why wait on it?” said Harrell, 18.

On May 19, Harrell verbally committed to the Irish. Now the senior can focus on leading the Cougars, No. 5 in the preseason Sweet 16 football poll, back to the playoffs this year.

Charlotte Catholic won 14-straight games last year before losing to Crest 31-10 in the 3AA state semifinals. It was a tough loss for a team that looked poised to win its first state championship since back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.

“I’ve watched that game film multiple times,” said Harrell. “My dad keeps making me watch it. It’s just motivation to do better (this) year. We were literally one game away.”

Last year, Harrell was a part of a senior-laden offensive line that head coach Jim Oddo called one of the best he’d ever seen in his 38 years of coaching Catholic.

Now, Harrell, technically a tight end, but who only had one catch for eight yards last year, is the lone returning starter.

“We have a lot of young guys but I think they have the ability, it’s just about meshing as a team,” said Harrell.

The backfield will look different for Catholic as well. Gone are Steven Bevilacqua and Nick Johnson, who combined for more than 2,700 yards and 42 touchdowns last year. David Herlocker is the only returning starter in the Wing-T formation with junior Alex Sabates taking the other wing back position and sophomore Elijah Hood, whom Oddo called “a pretty damn tough kid,” filling the fullback role.

Jack Brodowicz will take over quarterbacking duties from his brother, C.J., who graduated last year.

The defense returns five starters, including All-ME-GA 7 senior linebacker Matt Cincotta and Brodowicz and Herlocker playing both sides of the ball in the secondary. Senior Michael Moll returns to the defensive line with senior Josh Conde, who saw substantial playing time last year. Harrell will probably also see some playing time on the defensive line.

Despite returning just seven starters from last year, Oddo is confident about his team.

“We’re always optimistic,” he said. “If you don’t think you can win then you don’t have a chance.”

With his college decision out of the way, Harrell has just one thing on his mind.

“It feels great to get it done and to just focus on my last high school season and hopefully win a state championship and have a great senior year,” he said. “It was nice to get that behind me and focus on Catholic football.”

Charlotte Catholic
Last year:
14-1, lost in the semifinals of the N.C. 3AA playoffs.
What’s new: Almost all of the offense. The Cougars return just one starter on the offensive line, Mark Harrell, and one starting running back, David Herlocker, from last year’s team.
Three to watch
TE/OL Mark Harrell (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) Sr.: The Notre Dame commit will be a force on the offensive line – and likely on the defensive line – clearing the way for Catholic’s impressive running game.
RB David Herlocker (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) Sr.: After being the third back for the Cougars last year and averaging little more than 40 yards per game, Herlocker will have to step up this year and become Catholic’s featured back.
QB/DB Jack Brodowicz (5-foot-9, 155 pounds) Sr.: The all-conference safety will also play quarterback this year for Catholic. With Herlocker and seniors Brendan Carroll and Nick Georges, Brodowicz will be part of an experienced Cougar secondary.
Bet you didn’t know: In addition to being an all-conference linebacker, Matt Cincotta (6-foot-1, 190 pounds) is one of the top long snapper prospects in the country, ranked No. 8 nationally by Chris Rubio Long Snapping.
Preview analysis: Most of the players at Charlotte Catholic have been playing in the same system since middle school at Holy Trinity, so replacing graduated players usually isn’t a problem for the Cougars. The offense may take longer to click this year, but when it does expect Catholic to be a state title contender again.
Schedule: Aug: 19, South Mecklenburg; Aug. 26, Providence; Sept. 2, @ Charlotte Country Day; Sept. 9, @ Charlotte Latin; Sept. 16, @ Garinger; Sept. 23, West Mecklenburg; Oct. 7, Harding; Oct. 14, @ Berry; Oct. 21, @ East Gaston; Oct. 28, Olympic.


Anonymous said...

People keep asking where Porter Ridge is going to be. They better not be ranked ahead of Catholic, Catholic would DESTROY Porter Ridge.

Anonymous said...

Catholic being #5 is wrong; try number 3 behind Butler & Mallard. They will "not" lose a game. They have the best soph. in the State "MR.HOOD" They are loaded!