When training camp started in August for Cedar Ridge’s football team, they had something that was missing in 2015.
Entering 2015, the Red Wolves thought that former Burlington Cummings Coach Steve Johnson would be their new head coach. It certainly appeared to be a quality fit. Johnson led the Cavaliers to two state championships and was an assistant on three others.
Yet a month after his hiring was announced, Johnson suffered a thoracic aortic aneurysm in late August. He never coached a game at Cedar Ridge.
Of course, the Cedar Ridge players didn’t know that at the time. They came and went from practice day in and day out, running drills, preparing for games and wondering if Johnson would ever return. Offensive coordinator Scott Loosemoore coached the team in 2015 on an interim basis.
This year, there was no wonderin who the head coach was. Loosemoore was named the permanent coach early in 2016, but there were plenty of holes to fill. Quarterback Payton Pappas had graduated.
So Loosemoore remolded the team in a design that fit the parts he had. The spread offense was scrapped, a bold move in modern high school football. Instead, Loosemoore installed a wishbone setup led by running back London Saunders, Shemar Miles and Lucas Baldwin.
Sophomore Phillip Berger took over at quarterback.
Cedar Ridge opened 3-0 for the first time in school history, beating Carrboro, Jordan-Matthews and East Chapel Hill by a combined score of 162-12.
Unfortunately, the Red Wolves hopes of making the playoffs were dashed on the final play of the 4th game of the year against Riverside. As the Pirates ran out the clock of a 20-3 win, a toss sweep spilled over to the Riverside sideline and led to a fight. Each team had three players ejected from the game, which led both teams to be barred from the state playoffs.
Cedar Ridge immediately appealed, but didn’t have video footage to turn over to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. The best evidence they could produce was still photographs, which wasn’t enough.
Cedar Ridge would spin the final half the season playing for nothing more than pride, which was crushing for a team that hadn’t produced a winning record since 2010. In the wake of the NCHSAA ban, several players quit the team to begin preparing for winter sports.
Those who remained and fought can look back and said they were members of Cedar Ridge’s first winning football season in six years.
The Red Wolves went into its final game of the season 5-5 with a road trip to Northern Vance, who had also been barred from the postseason after a fight against Warren County.
The Vikings had proven to be a tough opponent in Henderson. They held Orange to two touchdown in a 14-0 loss only three weeks before the season finale. But the Red Wolves served notice against the Vikings they wouldn’t wait a day longer without a winning season.
The Red Wolves stromed out to a 27-0 lead and defeated the Red Wolves 41-21.
In his final game, Saunders scored two touchdowns. Senior running back Montae Kee rushed for 105 yards, a career-high in his swan song.