The call comes daily, almost without fail.
Charlotte Christian football coach Jason Estep phones starting quarterback Jared Bard to talk about anything from Bard's summer vacation to how Bard has pitched recently.
“I care about him as an individual,” Estep said. “We don't need to talk about football all the time.”
That trust allowed Estep to install a pass-heavy offense last season – his first at Charlotte Christian – which helped push the Knights to the Division I private school state championship game. That same style could serve as the key to whether Charlotte Christian can return to the title game this year.
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Charlotte Christian, which will host Mt. Zion Christian at 7:30 p.m., and most other area teams start the 2008 season Friday.
The journey back to the title game, though, could prove daunting. The number of playoff teams has dropped from eight to four, and nearby rivals remain strong. Charlotte Christian will likely have only 35 or so players in uniform for games.
The Knights do return two 2007 All-state selections – linebacker Ty Linton and kicker/punter Wil Kamin.
But it will likely be Bard who could represent the catalyst for Charlotte Christian's success. The 6-foot-3 senior passed for 1,900 yards and 22 touchdowns last year. Athletic and strong-armed, Bard will often sit in the shotgun formation with multiple receivers spread.
“It's great,” Bard said of the style. “It's what every quarterback wants.”
Of course, the Knights will also have to face three-time defending state champion Charlotte Latin at least once this year. Last year, Charlotte Latin rolled through the Knights 48-14 for the state title.
“I would say losing that game is what drives us in the weight room and drives us (training) in the summer,” said senior defensive end Willis Hall.
Estep doesn't talk about the game much anymore, choosing to focus on what's ahead.
“Our goal is to win a state championship,” he said, “not just get there.”