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How Christian McCaffrey's dad ended up bringing his high school team to Charlotte

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 8/31/2019 By Langston Wertz Jr. and Steve Lyttle, The Charlotte Observer

Friday night at 7, Charlotte Christian will host Valor Christian, perhaps the best high school football program in Colorado.

Valor Christian is coached by Ed McCaffrey, whose son, Christian McCaffrey, is a star running back for the Carolina Panthers.

Valor Christian was 14-0 last season and has won five of the past seven Colorado Class 5A state championships. Charlotte Christian hopes to 3-peat as N.C. Independent Schools Division I state champions in November.

“Our two schools have done some administrative swapping in the past,” Christian coach Jason Estep said. “Our administration goes to their campus for a couple days and they come here, trying to learn from each other. We have similar missions.”

Estep said the schools tried to schedule the game last season, when the last of Ed McCaffrey’s sons, Luke, was playing his senior year. Luke McCaffrey is now a freshman at Nebraska.

In fact, all of Ed McCaffrey’s sons starred at Valor Christian.

Max and Dylan won state championships and went on to play FBS college football. Max is now a wide receiver with the 49ers. Christian McCaffrey went to Stanford and was the 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up. The Panthers made him a top 10 NFL draft pick in 2017.

And Ed McCaffrey is a former Super Bowl-winning wide receiver with the Broncos.

This season, Valor Christian is led by sophomore running back Gavin Sawchuk and offensive lineman Roger Rosengarten, who has committed to Washington.

“And they’re still good,” Estep said. “They’re the No. 1 team, public or private, in the state and they play in the big class. But any time a team steps outside of North Carolina and represents your state, it’s good for the school. Mallard Creek did with Dutch Fork, and we like to have these big games early. I think it’s good for us.”

Christian may not be a full strength Friday night, however. Quarterback Matthew Tuomala, a junior, is doubtful with a shoulder injury he suffered in last week’s win over Sun Valley High School from Indian Trail. Running back Henry Rutledge (ankle) is also doubtful.

“We’ll continue to monitor those situations,” Estep said, “and we’ll make the best decision moving forward, and not just for this game.”

Estep is focused on winning a third straight state championship. Charlotte Christian has won six of the past 11 state championships in the private school’s biggest class and five of the past seven.

Estep thinks that history helps all of his teams, but especially one like this year’s group, which lost all-state QB Garrett Shraders and several other key players.

“We’ve changed the mentality here,” Estep said. “I think our kids expect to win championships now and that goes a long way when you have a team at the beginning of the season with question marks and uncertainty as far as reps go. I like the senior group that we have and I think people don’t think we’re as good as we are, and I think we’re better than people think.

“I”m testing us early to see what we’re made of.”

Friday’s Previews

No. 7 Butler (1-0) at No. 1 Mallard Creek (0-0-1), 7 p.m. – Mallard Creek holds a 9-4 edge in this 4A rivalry, including a 36-28 error-filled victory a year ago. Both teams looked sharp in storm-interrupted openers last week.

Carolina Bearcats (1-1) at Charlotte Latin (1-0), 7 p.m. – The Hawks’ defense could get a test, as Bearcats’ QB Wanyae Freeman threw for four touchdowns two weeks ago.

No. 5 Charlotte Catholic (1-0) at Olney (Md.) Our Lady of Good Counsel, 7 p.m. – The host Falcons, who play in the powerful D.C.-area Catholic schools conference, are ranked fifth in Maryland and 48th nationally. Charlotte Catholic hasn’t lost since the season-opener a year ago against Charlotte Christian.

Community School of Davidson (0-0) at Winston-Salem Bishop McGuinness (0-1), 7:30 p.m. – Look for Community School to run the ball, as Bishop McGuinness gave up more than 400 rushing yards last week against Central Davidson.

Covenant Day (0-1) at Charlotte Country Day (1-0), 7 p.m. – Covenant Day’s strong defensive line gets a test from Country Day’s Quentin Cooper, who rushed for 113 yards last week.

East Mecklenburg (0-1) at Ardrey Kell (0-1), 7 p.m. – This could be a defensive struggle. Both teams did a good job last week against high-scoring opponents.

Harding (1-0) at Garinger (0-1), 7 p.m. – Is Harding back? The Rams exploded for 54 points last week against Hopewell. It’s not clear if Garinger QB Barry Truss Turner, who played well Monday before injuring an ankle, will be back Friday.

Hickory Grove Christian (0-0) at Simpsonville (S.C.) Southside Christian (1-0), 7:30 p.m. –Lynn Coble, Hickory Grove’s new coach, takes his team up against a South Carolina foe that scored 70 points last week.

Highlands Ranch (Co.) Valor Christian (0-0) at No. 12 Charlotte Christian (1-0), 7 p.m. – A Denver Post headline this week: Can someone knock off Valor Christian? The visitors feature explosive RB Gavin Sawchuck and have won five of the last seven 5A championships in the Rocky Mountain State.

Hopewell (0-1) at Berry Academy (0-0), 7 p.m. – A meeting of teams hoping that the return of 16 starters (for each school) can lead to big improvements from rough 2018 seasons.

No. 8 Hough (0-1) at Providence (1-0), 7 p.m. – The Huskies’ defense looked strong at times last week against Butler. Providence held East Mecklenburg to less than 130 yards total offense last Friday.

Lake Norman Charter (0-1) at Mooresville Pine Lake Prep (1-0), 7:30 p.m. – Lake Norman Charter gave up 252 rushing yards last week against Southlake Christian and faces a Pine Lake Prep team that rolled up 46 points in an opening victory.

Mount Holly Mountain Island Charter (0-1, 0-0 Southern Piedmont 1A) at Christ the King (0-1, 0-1), 7 p.m. – The Pride’s explosive offense, which was held in check last week by Providence Day, faces a Christ the King defense that had trouble stopping the run in a 43-20 loss to Cherryville.

North Mecklenburg (0-1) at Olympic (0-1), 7 p.m. – Olympic QB Sean Bowles is a big threat for a Viking defense that had a tough time stopping Independence last week.

North Raleigh Christian (1-0) at Southlake Christian (1-1), 7 p.m. – Bryce Duquesne had 10 receptions for 88 yards last week and is part of a powerful Southlake passing game.

No. 16 Providence Day (1-0) at Rabun Gap (Ga.)-Nacoochee (1-0), 4:30 p.m. – Rabun Gap blocked four punts in its victory last week while Providence Day’s defense posted a shutout against high-scoring Mount Holly Mountain Island Charter.

Rocky River (0-0) at No. 14 Gastonia Huss (0-0), 7:30 p.m. – It’s a meeting of two teams whose high hopes for 2019 were put on hold by storm-related cancellations. Both have strong defenses, including Rocky River LBs Brian Grier and Kalil Alexander.

South Mecklenburg (0-1) at Independence (1-0), 7 p.m. – Patriots’ RB Davion Nelson had two touchdowns last week, and the Patriots are hoping to get off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2014.

No. 3 Vance (0-0) at Lynchburg (Va.) Heritage (0-0), 7:30 p.m. – A tough opening test for 2018 N.C. 4AA runner-up, as it faces the defending Virginia 3A state champion. KJ Vaughan, who rushed for 1,500 yards last season, will lead the Heritage attack.

West Charlotte (1-0) at West Mecklenburg (0-0), 7 p.m. – It’s the renewal of a neighborhood rivalry. West Charlotte’s Iwuan Jackson rushed for three touchdowns in the Lions’ opener.

Outside Mecklenburg

Gastonia Ashbrook (0-0) at Kannapolis Brown (0-0), 7:30 p.m. – This game features a pair of offensive standouts in Ashbrook RB Kendall Massey and A.L. Brown WR Jose Vargas.

Indian Trail Sun Valley (0-1) at Central Cabarrus (0-1), 7:30 p.m. – Two 3A playoff contenders hope to erase the sting of season-opening losses. Central Cabarrus had a 20-0 lead over Harrisburg Hickory Ridge but lost 27-20. Sun Valley fell to powerful Charlotte Christian.

No. 11 Kings Mountain (1-0) at Monroe (1-0), 7:30 p.m. – A pair of 3A powers, each coming off impressive victories over 2A opponents, meet in Monroe.

No. 6 Weddington (1-0) at Indian Trail Porter Ridge (0-0), 7:30 p.m. – The Warriors dominated Ardrey Kell last week, and RB Will Shipley (two touchdowns) is worth the price of admission. Porter Ridge’s game against Marvin Ridge was postponed.

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