After going 3-7 in its first junior varsity season, Lake Norman Charter will field its first varsity team this fall.
First-year Knights football coach Bob McKay said he's excited about his new endeavor.
But he's realistic about the struggles his team will encounter along the way.
"You're sort of playing catch-up," said McKay. "We're just getting to know our players and finding out the best position for our kids."
McKay took over the Lake Norman Charter team in May after former coach Tommy Straham, who led the team in its inaugural football season last year, resigned in April.
The coaching change sparked controversy, as those around the program wondered why Straham suddenly stepped down.
Word circulated that the school started to look for another coach behind Straham's back and that the coach had been forced out. That forced Lake Norman Charter officials to hold a meeting with parents and players to try to dispel the rumors.
But the program wants to move on and put the focus back on the field.
The move to the varsity level could be challenging for the Knights, as they will not only be playing more talented teams, but they will also have to adjust to McKay's playbook.
McKay, who was the head coach at Coulwood Middle before moving to Hopewell last year to be a JV assistant, will implement a spread offense this season.
He said he's been impressed by the offensive line.
"They're probably going to be our strongest unit," said McKay, adding the group has demonstrated good work ethic and have been picking up his play calling fast.
McKay said Scott Graham should be the leader of that unit.
He added that wide receivers Dekwami Bowman and Petey Fabian, a freshman, have also shown potential on the defensive side.
McKay will run the 4-3 defense. He explained the linebackers will probably lead the way for that group.
"They're looking good," said McKay.
The linebackers will be led by Sam Peskin, who will also double as fullback on the offensive side, and Sean Kane.
So far this summer, McKay hasn't focused on special teams. The team has yet to find a kicker, but McKay said he won't worry about that until practice kicks off.
McKay said for his players to have any impact at the varsity level this season, the team will have to mature quickly.
The Knights have a 10-game schedule line up against other charter schools as well as private, Christian and military institutions. The team will be a 1A freelance team within the NCHSAA.
The team will be young and short-handed, with only 25 players consistantly participating in summer workouts. McKay said the size of the school limits the number of player his team can have.
"We're capped at 750 kids," he said about the amount of high school students the school can have.
Because of the small pool of possible players, McKay and his staff have had to reach out to athletes who play other sports trying to persuade them to give football a chance.
McKay, who will teach algebra and geometry at Lake Norman Charter, hopes to be able to pick up more players once tryouts begin next week and when school actually starts.
But he's happy with the core group of players from last year's JV team returns.
"They're going to step up and contribute," said McKay. "We have 12, 13 guys who are (at practice) all the time, they're ready to start playing."
McKay is also excited about facility upgrades that his football team will benefit from.
This year will mark the first time that Lake Norman Charter will feature lights on its football field, which is a requirement for a school to field a varsity program.
The Knights have also benefited from a new weight room at the school.
McKay said he's looking forward to the season.
"We know there's going to be some mistakes, but we just want to improve every week."