At this time last year, the Davidson Day football team had never played a varsity football snap.
Fast forward 12 months, and Davidson Day is celebrating its first N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state championship after going 11-1, capped by a 41-26 victory over Trinity Christian in the title game.
The Patriots didn't just win games, but they were dominant for most of the year, averaging 43 points and more than 400 yards of total offense per game. Davidson Day did it with a roster that had 18 of 24 players as either freshmen or sophomores, with only three juniors and three seniors.
"It's just starting to soak in, all that we accomplished in our first season," said Davidson Day football coach Chad Grier. "It's kind of surreal still how fast everything happened. But this is what our players expected. They were a very poised and confident team all year."
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Patriots were led by all-state sophomore quarterback Will Grier, who had an eye-popping 3,785 yards passing and 49 touchdowns on the season, with another 925 yards rushing and 11 scores on the ground.
But Will, who is being recruited by Clemson, Duke, Georgia and Virginia already, had a ton of weapons around him to make his life a lot easier, including three all-state wide receivers and one all-state running back. Junior Aaron Seward led the way with 65 catches for 1,075 yards and 14 touchdowns, while classmates Jordan Young (50 receptions for 675 yards, 13 touchdowns) and Evan Gates (53 receptions for 850 yards, four touchdowns) were all huge in the passing game.
Sophomore running back Jordan Brown did a little bit of everything, with 640 yards rushing and seven touchdowns, while adding 563 yards receiving and another eight scores. Brown also averaged 30 yards per kickoff return and 34 yards per punt return.
Two more Patriots earned all-state honors for their defensive efforts, including senior Tre Hunt (147 tackles, seven interceptions) and sophomore Lamar Briggs (59 tackles).
While all of the numbers are impressive, the one statistic that still bothers most of the Davidson Day players and coaches is the loss that appeared on the record, a humbling 49-20 setback at Charlotte Latin in week nine of the season.
"We saw up close what a great program like Charlotte Latin looks like," said coach Grier. "But that Latin loss still sticks out like a sore thumb for us. We don't want to be the best of the little guys, we want to be the best. We want to be talked about with the Latins, the Charlotte Country Days, the Providence Days."
While Grier and the Patriots are proud of what they accomplished, they already are looking ahead to next year, when Davidson Day football will take some big steps on and off the field.
The Patriots will get their own home football field after playing all 12 games on the road this season. That means the team will be able play and practice on a consistent field and have the benefit of playing in front of a home crowd.
"We traveled a lot this year, which was fine, but it got old at times," said Will Grier. "To have a home field that we can call our own will be really cool. I think the home-field advantage will be something that makes us even better."
The Patriots will have to be better next year as their schedule already includes games versus Latin, Country Day and Providence Day.
But with a year of varsity football under their belt and a state championship in their resume, the Patriots are excited about the future.
"I think we will be a lot better next year, because we had to learn a lot on the fly this year," said Chad Grier. "We feel like the foundation is in place now. We know what we have. Now, we just have to keep getting better every day in the offseason."
Grier's son agrees.
"We definitely will expect to win states again next year," Will Grier said. "But we still have a lot we want to prove to people. We want to prove we're not just some little, private school that had one good year."