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While the weather outside Friday was gloomy — and expected to be the same through most of Saturday morning — the rain is expected to taper off and leave some clouds behind by the time the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A football championship game kicks off in Raleigh.
The turf at Carter-Finley Stadium might be soggy but for East champion Southern Nash and West champion Charlotte Catholic, it probably won’t matter. The Firebirds (15-0) and Cougars (11-3) rely heavily on the run game, which could give each offense an edge over the defenses.
While Charlotte Catholic has won six NCHSAA titles since its first in 1977 — including the last two 3-A championships — this is the first trip to the championship game for Southern Nash.
Firebirds head coach Brian Foster said Monday at the championship press conference in Vaughn Towers, which houses the press box and other facilities at Carter-Finley, his team would prepare just the same as it has every week this season.
“You hear me say all the time, ‘We’re going to worry about Southern Nash,’ and we’ll prepare for them like we do for any team,” he said. “We probably won’t even mention their name, like we don’t for any other team and do our best on Saturday.”
The Firebirds will depart campus at noon Saturday for the game, which will kick off a few minutes after 3 p.m. Members of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, Bailey Fire Department and Stanhope Community Volunteer Fire Department will be on hand to give the team a send off and fans are encouraged to attend.
Foster said that while he’s had other teams at Southern Nash that were good enough to reach the state final, this group of Firebirds — which was the No. 1 seed in the East and played all four of its previous playoff games at home — has done it, in part, because of their closeness and commitment to a common goal.
“A lot of times you can have a team that you think is better, but don’t get that break or has the wrong injuries,” he said. “So I mean, this is the first time it has all come together. We’ve got the No. 1 seed, so instead of having to go to Havelock like we did three years ago, we got to stay at Southern Nash, which I think was big.
“It’s not just who has the best team every year. It takes a lot — I wouldn’t say luck — but you’ve got to have the right breaks to go your way and then you’ve got to have a group of kids that really believe in each other and like each other and I think this team does.”
The Cougars, who went 31-1 over the previous two seasons, have not been as dominant this year. Charlotte Catholic ended up as the No. 5 seed in the West but have only had to play one team seeded higher than itself this postseason — a 34-20 defeat of No. 4 Gastonia Hunter Huss in the second round.
Still, head coach Mike Brodowicz’s players are eager to keep their championship streak going and put their names alongside the other state title teams in school history.
“It really comes down to just playing fast and hard and enjoying being in the state championship game, playing at this venue,” said Brodowicz, who has three state championship rings. “A lot of these players haven’t had an experience and our student body and our community gets to come together one more time before Christmas hopefully to get a win.”
Times staff writer Jack Frederick contributed to this report.