King guides Rams to state title game in first year as head coach of alma mater

Two of the most successful high school football teams in the last 10 years met for the state 3A championship game on Saturday.

And Havelock and Charlotte Catholic both expect to continue that success — possibly with a rematch in next year’s state championship game. The Cougars beat the Rams 28-14 at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham.

“Both Havelock and Charlotte Catholic have programs,” Cougars coach mike Brodowicz said. “We take pride in not being a one-and-done season, but to build a program. Both of our varsity staffs coach JV football at the same time. It’s the same continuity from ninth grade to 10th grade to your senior year. It keeps continuity and you’re hearing the same message. That builds your program and helps guys buy in.”

Charlotte Catholic has been to nine state championship games, winning five of them. The Cougars have played in eight of the nine last western regional championship games, reaching the final four in the state in both 4A and now 3A classifications. Catholic also won a state title in 2015.

Havelock has a similar record of success, having played in eight of the last nine eastern regional title games. Most recently, the Rams won state championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see them again,” Brodowicz said of Havelock. “I think we followed them a couple of times (at state championship venues) when we were the 4A, and they were the 3A and played in front of us. It was nice to see them and watch what they did.

“We knew they are used to this atmosphere. They’re used to being in big games. They work the same way we do. We knew it was going to be a battle. We’re very excited because when you go into a game with two programs like this, you know it’s going to be a game. Whoever wins the game, they’ve won the game. It wasn’t given to them. You have to earn it.”

Havelock coach Caleb King knows that playing Catholic again would mean that both teams had successful seasons.

“Without a doubt, you hope to meet them every year,” he said. “I hope we play Catholic every year. I’d love another shot at them next week, but they won the game tonight (Saturday). But to see them, there’s only one spot we can do it at, and that’s here (at the state championship).”

King was hired as head football at his alma mater in January, replacing Jim Bob Bryant, who coached the Rams to three consecutive state titles. The 2002 graduate of Havelock High, who was an assistant coach on those state championship teams, said he felt no pressure to continue the success of the Havelock football team.

“It was an honor more than it was pressure,” he said. “You get to coach guys like this, it makes the job really easy. The players that we have, the community support that we have, so pressure, I never really felt like it was there. We just went out and did our jobs and did what we were supposed to do and how we were supposed to do it.”

And he said that would continue into the offseason as the Rams prepare to make another bid for the state championship in the 2018 season.

“What we have to focus on is getting back to our process, what we’re going to do and how we’re going to change the outcome,” he said.

King guided the Rams to a Coastal 3A Conference championship, eastern regional crown and a 14-2 record in his first season as head coach at Havelock.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be the head football coach of this team, and what they were able to accomplish this year, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “Having come up short the past two years, but to get back to the title game this year and do it the way they did it, it’s a tremendous feat for us. We just came up one game short. We were leading going into the fourth quarter and just couldn’t finish it.”