For the last seven years, the Carolina Pride football team has been searching for an identity.Second-year head coach Mike Martin says that is annual task, putting together a roster from a “hodge-podge,” of public, private and home-schooled athletes, but he believes it doesn’t always have to be that way.“We want to build a program here, where we can build with a core group of players every year like most teams,” said Martin. Carolina Pride is a faith-based team that can use players from any local school. “Instead of a last resort, we want to players’ first choice. It’s a tremendous challenge to lay that kind of foundation, but that is our goal.”Martin’s team (6-5 overall, 3-0 Carolinas Christian Athletic Association ) has had some success, beating Cannon School in back-to-back years, knocking off Lake Norman Charter in 2010 and coming within a point of beating Charlotte Christian the same season.Ultimately, Martin says his team wants to be like Charlotte’s big four private schools – Christian, Charlotte Country Day, Charlotte Latin and Providence Day – who are all on the schedule this year.“Those are our benchmarks for the type of program we want to be,” Martin said. “Not only do they have great coaches, but disciplined teams. To get there, we have to beat one of those teams. I feel like every year, we get a little closer.” Pride returns only six varsity players from a year ago, but Martin has been encouraged by the numbers as he has 30 players on the varsity team and 25 on the junior varsity.The offense averaged 24 points per game last year and has sophomore quarterback Grayson Willingham back. The home-schooler saw some time under center last year and has the “raw talent to be a player,” according to Martin.Willingham will have help in the backfield with junior tailback DeAndre Brake (Olympic High) also back after serving as the Pride’s punt returner. Sophomore Scottie Miller should also get some carries. Stephen Adams (United Faith), a 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior, will be the top option in the Pride’s passing attack.The biggest challenge are the offensive and defensive lines, which will feature all new players. .“We are all new, young and green up front on both sides of the ball, which is tough,” Martin said. “We have some guys with the size and talent to emerge as players for us.”The Pride defense is also young but talented with Martin’s son, sophomore Jimmy Martin (Carolina Christian), who had 110 tackles as a freshman.. The younger Martin (6-foot, 185 pounds) is big-hitter who will move from his linebacker spot in the secondary. Jimmy Martin can move spots with arrival of former Independence linebacker junior Tony Worthy (now a Butler student, but ineligible to play for the Bulldogs), who had 101 tackles, including 19 stops for a loss last year for the Patriots and brings size (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) and talent that should help the overall unit.The Pride is not shy about playing a tough schedule. They opened at Lake Norman Charter before traveling to Country Day, Latin, and Providence Day in the first four weeks.“In reality, we could be 0-4 and still be a good team,” Martin said. “But the way we look at is that each game is an opportunity for us to make a statement. All of those teams have penciled us in as a win, so the pressure is all on them.”After they get through the opening stretch, the Pride have a chance to win the CCAA again over league opponents Carolina Gladiators, Raleigh Titans and Virginia Disciples.Martin said the team should also benefit from a more stable practice situation as they are now working out at Carmel Baptist Church. They will again play home games at Weddington Optimist Park.While Martin is focused on having another winning season, he is also looking at the future of the program, which he is working to make more stable.“Just like every other program, we are also trying to build for the future, not just this season,” Martin said. “Until we can get kids from a young age, and help develop them on this team, it’s going to be tough to be a consistent winner.” *This story went to print before the Carolina Pride-Lake Norman Charter game.
Friday, Aug. 23, 2013
Carolina Pride football wants to build a program, find an identity
Carolina Pride Coach: Mike Martin (2nd Year, 6-5 with Carolina Pride) 2012 record: 6-5, 3-0 Returning starters: Six (three offense; three defense) Key players: • QB Grayson Willingham, 6-foot 175 pounds, So.: Home schooler has a lot of raw talent and potential and should make big strides this season, according to Martin. • LB Tony Worthy, 6-foot-3 235 pounds, Jr.: Former Independence standout (now a Butler student) should be a big factor for Pride defense. • S Jimmy Martin, 6-foot 185 pounds, So.: Big-time hitter had 110 tackles as a freshman, Can’t miss games: Aug. 30 at Charlotte Country Day; Sept. 6 at Charlotte Latin; Sept. 12 at Providence Day; Oct. 11 at Charlotte Christian.
2013 schedule • Aug. 23 at Lake Norman Charter • Aug. 30 at Charlotte Country Day • Sept. 6 at Charlotte Latin • Sept. 12 at Providence Day • Sept. 21 vs. Virginia Disciples • Sept. 27 vs. Carolina Gladiator • Oct. 4 vs. Carolina Day • Oct. 11 at Charlotte Christian • Oct. 18 at First Assembly • Oct. 25 vs. Raleigh Titans • Nov. 1 TBD
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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