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November 9, 2011
Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
There was a time when Charlotte (N.C.) Independence beat everyone. And we mean everyone, as its famous 109-game winning streak attests.
It just wants to beat rival Matthews (N.C.) Butler.
Independence, a national power almost every year since the turn of the century, slipped a year ago in its first season under head coach Bill Geiler - finishing the year with an unthinkable 3-8 record.
This year, it's back to playing like the Independence of old as it will take a 10-2 record into its second-round playoff game with Butler - a team it has lost to in their last four meetings.
It is the RivalsHigh Game of the Week.
"It's like the 'old champs' versus the 'current champ'," Deana King, publisher of NCPreps.com, said.
Indeed. Butler's rise coincided with Independence's fall. The Bulldogs have won the past two Class 4A state titles.
"Butler had been a bridesmaid for several years," King said. "After it won the state title in 2009 it put people on notice."
Butler comes into the game ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 78 in the latest RivalsHigh 100.
And while Independence took a step back for one season when it lost Tommy Knotts, Butler has managed to replace Mike Newsome without a problem.
"Offensive coordinator Brian Hales was named head coach and they are doing the same things they have done for years," she said. "Butler is very good offensive team with lots of skill kids. The defense is a very stingy unit that plays aggressive. "
The trio was part of an amazing team last year, but each year is different. And unlike the last two, this team has been tested more frequently.
The usually high-octane Bulldogs have been saddled with some tough game recently: a 43-40 win over Charlotte (N.C.) Ardrey Kell and its 38-26 Southwestern Conference Title game win over Independence among them.
The rally cry at Butler is that those games are behind them and Butler is focused on the task at hand.
"It's definitely going to motivate us a little more because it's Independence," Ferguson told the Charlotte Observer. "But we don't need any more motivation because this is the playoffs, and we are going to go out and play Butler football no matter who we are playing."
Butler has won 41 of its last 42 games. But don't expect this one to be easy.
Geiler said his team will be ready.
"Absolutely we're gonna be," he told the paper. "I'm proud of our guys."
He's got some good ones.
The trio was close to capitalizing on several big plays that could have turned the earlier meeting and the defense against the run has seemed to improve each week.
It will need a solid game to knock off the Bulldogs.
If it is able to pull the upset, everyone in the nation will know that Independence - once again- is able to beat anyone.