sports 3 days ago

Could Vance High have hosted Friday's state semifinal with Myers Park? We think so.

The Charlotte Observer — Langston Wertz Jr. The Charlotte Observer

Dec. 05--On Tuesday, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools decided to move this week's highly-anticipated N.C. 4AA Western Regional championship football game between Myers Park High and Vance to a neutral site.

The teams will play Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Mallard Creek, less than 6 miles away. Mallard Creek has artificial turf. Vance, which was scheduled to host the game, has a grass field that is in rough shape.

Earlier in these playoffs, the Cougars had a first-round home playoff game with Northwest Guilford moved to a turf field at West Mecklenburg. But last Friday, Vance played Hough on its home field. Videos of the game show both teams' uniforms muddy and wet. Although there is no rain forecast between Tuesday and Friday, when the game would be played, CMS chose to move this week's regional final from Vance's home field.

System athletics director Sue Doran didn't return calls from the Observer, but said in a text that "the focus of the decision was the safety of the student-athletes from both schools."

Many parents from Vance were outraged at the decision to move the game. They couldn't understand that if last week's game could be played at Vance, why this one couldn't.

Cougars athletics director Carlos Richardson told the Observer Tuesday night that CMS officials told him the field was too wet to play. He felt that it would've dried out some before the game and that he had other measures planned to help with field conditions.

Walking onto the field Tuesday morning, it felt like what you might expect after a long rain: soft and damp. There were some bare patches, but I've seen many playoff games contested on fields in worse shape.

There is certainly less likelihood of a player's foot getting stuck and causing a twist of an ankle or knee by playing at Mallard Creek, and I appreciate that CMS wants to air on the side of safety. But in this case I don't think it was necessary.

This game could've been played at Vance, which earned the right to have a home-field advantage.

"Very playable surface," Vance football coach Aaron Brand said, "but it's not my decision and not my call. I've got 48 hours to get my team prepared to play at a different location and we'll do that."

Brand said the condition of Vance's field is about the same as all season.

"It's been wet and soft all year, 100 percent.," he said. "We're past it now. Apparently, the decision has been made. We're onto the next thing."

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