Coaches excited about Bank of America Stadium high school football doubleheader

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Playing a game at Bank of America Stadium “would have been awesome,” D.J. McFadden said, recalling his days as a quarterback at Independence High nearly two decades ago.

“We played some games at bigger stadiums, but nothing like this,” McFadden said. “That’s what makes this so nice.”

“This” is the Keep Pounding High School Classic, a season-opening high school football doubleheader set for Aug. 22 at Bank of America Stadium. The event is sponsored by the Carolina Panthers.

McFadden is now head coach at Independence, and his Patriots will face Myers Park in the 4 p.m. opener that day. The 8 p.m. nightcap will be a meeting of defending champions — Weddington, last fall’s 4A public school champ, against two-time private school Division 1 king Providence Day.

The competing schools’ head coaches and top players visited Bank of America Stadium on Thursday for a photo session and meeting with media members.

This won’t be the first appearance at the Panthers’ stadium for coach Chad Grier and his Providence Day team. The Chargers beat Northwestern before a crowd of 12,000 last August in the inaugural event.

But that won’t dim the excitement for Grier and the Chargers.

“Last year was an overwhelming positive experience for our community,” Grier said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for our players and fans.”

The other head coaches — Chris James (Myers Park), Andy Capone (Weddington) and McFadden — said they consider playing in the game to be a privilege.

“It says something when your team is invited to play in a game like this,” he said.

James recalled playing in a similar event in Atlanta when he was a high school player in Georgia.

“I remember everything about that day — the bus ride to the stadium, being in the locker room, coming out onto the field,” James said. “It will mean a lot to our players and fans.”

James is involved in a rebuilding project at Myers Park, but he guided the Mustangs to a seven-victory season in 2023 after a 3-7 record a year earlier.

“He’s done a good job of making the program what they want it to be,” McFadden said of James.

Independence, meanwhile, won 11 games last season, falling to Weddington in the state semifinals. The Patriots return most key players from that team.

“What DJ has done at Independence is remarkable, “ James said. “They’ve got skilled guys all over the place.”

Grier said he recalled coaching McFadden years ago at a football summer camp.

“He’s smart, and he’s always been a hard-worker and a good player,” Grier said. “And Chris (James) has done a really great job at Myers Park.”

The Providence Day-Weddington contest will feature numerous Division I prospects. Grier talked Tuesday about the loss of players such as quarterback Jadyn Davis and other standouts from the 2023 team.

To that, Capone responded, “They’ll be good, no matter what.”

The teams have split two previous meetings, with Weddington winning 28-7 in 2021 and Providence Day taking a 52-32 shootout the following year.

“We had a couple of good games with Weddington,” Grier said. “Our kids know one another, so it’s not as if we’ll be strangers.”

Grier said Weddington’s front seven on defense is very good.

“I thought Rabun Gap’s front seven was the best I’d seen, but Weddington’s might be even better,” he said.

More on Keep Pounding High School Classic

There were already two winners Tuesday. The teams participated in a coin flip to select game uniforms for the Aug. 22 doubleheader. Coing toss winners were Myers Park, which picked white uniforms for its game against Independence; and Providence Day, which will wear mostly red uniforms.

Football celebrities took part in the coin toss. Panthers’ offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu, a Providence Day alum, represented his alma mater. Former Panther Captain Munnerlyn represented Myers Park, where he is an assistant coach. Former Panther Thomas Davis represented Weddington, where his son, T.J., is a starting linebacker. Former NFL receiver Hakeem Nicks was to have represented Independence, his alma mater, but he was unable to attend Tuesday.

The Aug. 22 game fills open slots in the schedules for Providence Day, Myers Park and Independence. Weddington canceled a game with Cox Mill in order to participate in the Keep Pounding Classic.

Tickets for the game are $8 and went on sale at noon Tuesday on Ticketmaster.