Originally created 09/10/04

Bull's-eye is now on a different school



RALEIGH, N.C. - For the past four years, Charlotte Independence has turned away every challenge and shattered the state record for consecutive wins.

This week the Patriots became owners of the nation's longest active winning streak in high school football.

With Concord (Calif.) De La Salle's loss ending a 151-game run last weekend, the Patriots' 63-game streak now stands as best in the country.

It's the latest in an impressive string of achievements by the program, which is seeking to become the first to win five consecutive state championships.

"We don't talk about the streak," Independence coach Bill Geiler said. "I'm excited for our kids. I'm excited for our school, but it's not going to help us win a game.

"Our goal every season is to win the state championship. So if I have to sacrifice a loss to do it, I'll take it."

This year's Patriots look a little different from previous years. Tom Knotts, the coach who led Independence to four straight state titles, has left to become the quarterbacks coach at Duke, his alma mater. Geiler took over after being a longtime assistant to Knotts at Charlotte-Harding, West Charlotte and Independence.

But the season opened just as earlier ones began.

The Patriots (1-0) routed East Mecklenburg 69-6 last week, adding another win to a streak that began after a 34-31 loss to Shelby Crest on Sept. 1, 2000.

This week, the Patriots again began the year ranked No. 1 in The Associated Press Class AAAA state poll. They have been on that perch since the beginning of the 2001 season, a span of 33 weekly polls.

The Patriots climbed to No. 1 in one national poll this week, and are ranked No. 2 by USA Today.

Rick Strunk, associate executive director of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, said Independence's run has been one of the more amazing accomplishments he's seen since he was hired in 1986.

"I'm not sure that people can truly appreciate how difficult it is to go undefeated in one season, much less stringing together several seasons," Strunk said. "The magnitude of what they've done is amazing."

"Somebody's going to end it. Somebody's going to beat us down the road. That's a fact," Geiler said. "At some point we're going to have a bad game or a bad bounce. But it's not going to be because we aren't working hard.

"Every time we line up to play somebody, it's their Super Bowl," Geiler said. "Everybody wants to be the one that ends the streak."