When Scott Chadwick came to Myers Park High before the 2014 season, he was the school’s third football coach hired in three seasons.
He inherited a program needing direction - on and off the field.
“They had fallen into a rut of doing things a certain way,” Chadwick said, “a way that wasn’t working, and they had a lot of old habits that needed to be fixed.”
Chadwick witnessed a lack of discipline. He saw players who looked at football as - he called it - a “June to November sport.” He saw the need to implement hard rules. In his first season, he suspended nine players during a 5-7 season.
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“We didn’t have the support from within the school, because the teachers and staff were hesitant to lend a lot of support to the program,” he said. “And frankly, the kids didn’t deserve it. We had kids who didn’t want to conform. So we suspended kids for games because they thought we would continue to do things the old way and we didn’t.
“About half of the nine were starters. We suspended them for big games, Butler and Independence. It wasn’t like we suspended them for (weaker competition).”
That move helped get Chadwick’s message across that things would be different. Two months after his first season, school boosters paid for a $250,000 weight room. Chadwick began convincing players they needed to focus on football year-round.
In 2015, Myers Park was 7-6. It was the school’s first winning season since 2011 and its second winning season in 10 years
Last Friday, the Mustangs beat rival Ardrey Kell for the first time in four years.
Myers Park (2-0) is off to its best start in five years and is ranked No. 14 in the Observer’s Sweet 16. The Mustangs, who will play at rival Providence (0-2) Friday night, can start the season 3-0 for the first time since 1997.
“We can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel now,” Chadwick said. “When I got here, we didn’t know where the tunnel was.”
This year’s team includes seniors who have been with Chadwick for three seasons. Quarterback Jack Davidson and linebacker Ben Norris have multiple Division I scholarship offers. Along with cornerback Kevin Alford and 6-foot-3, 305-pound four-year defensive line starter JaMykal Neal, they provide leadership for their younger but talented Mustang teammates.
Those underclassmen are playing key roles for the Mustangs. Against Ardrey Kell, here’s how some fared on defense:
▪ Freshman safety Cameron Roseman-Sinclair played every defensive snap.
▪ Sophomore cornerback Trey Bly, son of college football Hall of Famer and former NFL player Dre Bly, played most of the game.
▪ Sophomore Jordan King, a 6-3, 360-pound defensive lineman, also played quality minutes. He is the son of Shawn King, who played for the Carolina Panthers from 1995-97
Offensively, sophomore tackles Juwan Truesdale (6-5, 240) and Jaylen Nichols (6-3, 280) start. Sophomore receiver Elijah Bowen has caught 10 passes, including three for scores. Sophomore running back Jacquez Robinson is the Mustangs’ leading rusher with 176 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.
“Coach Chadwick has done a phenomenal job of incorporating everybody and realizing the younger kids are the future, the older kids are now, and the older kids set the precedent for the younger,” Davidson said. “Everything is different than when I came here four years ago.”
Davidson is 6-3, 220 pounds and turns 18 next month. This season, he’s thrown for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns. He has scholarship offers from Appalachian State, Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, East Carolina and Mercer. The Ivy League’s Brown and Yale have also shown interest in the Eagle Scout, who has a 4.5 weighted grade-point average. But Davidson said he’s not thinking about college until after this season.
Since reaching the state semifinals in 2005, Myers Park has won three playoff games. Davidson and his teammates believe this is a Mustangs team that can change the lack of playoff success.
“Judging by our crowds, you can tell that Myers Park football means a lot to everybody,” Davidson said. “It’s unbelievable. The energy our crowd provides is a motivational factor for sure. I think everybody wants this to be a special season at Myers Park.”
Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr