Design of a Dynasty
by Staff Writer
For a few precious moments, when the time on the scoreboard had clicked down to zeroes and Davidson Day’s first state championship was in hand, all that was left was the crooning of Freddie Mercury and a pack of teenagers jumping excitedly around their football coach and the head of their school.
As the words to the Mercury-led “We Are the Champions” warbled over the Johnson C. Smith University stadium public-address system late on Nov. 11, the Patriots partied the way no athletic program in their school’s history ever had.
They bounced. They cheered. And then they prayed together after Patriots coach Chad Grier handed Head of School Bonnie Cotter the game ball. Cameras flashed the way they do when paparazzi are pursuing Hollywood icons.
So this is what it feels like.
This is what it feels like to be The Little School That Could – the team that started its first season of varsity football with the improbable dream of romping all the way to a state title and grasping the prominence that comes with it.
The Patriots soaked in every unforgettable second of their post-game celebration last week, and they deserved to after clawing to their toughest victory of the season, a 41-26 decision over Fayetteville Trinity Christian.
The thing is: You get the feeling that Davidson Day will have this dance again.
This bunch is that good, folks. More important, they seem that driven, and they’ve become the collective face of a school and community that clearly is determined to see them succeed.
“It feels great to win and be a part of a family like Davidson Day,” star receiver Aaron Seward said. “When you have that kind of family behind you, you definitely can win several state championships, which is what we want to do.
“We’re going to bring more (players) in, and we’re going to teach them our ways. They’re going to be able to play as a family – with that one heartbeat. And that’s going to take us where we need to be: at the top.”
Want some perspective about what Davidson Day last week? Consider this: A mere year and a half ago, there wasn’t a single football in the whole school. Not for P.E., not for anything. Then Cotter hired Grier, and Davidson Day’s world changed.
First, in 2010, the Patriots became an undefeated JV team, even with eighth-graders on the roster. Then, this year, some people figured Davidson Day would be humbled a bit. No more JV blowouts. No more 50-point scoring outbursts. The Patriots would be playing the big boys this time.
All they did in their first varsity season was average 43 points per game and post a 11-1 record, en route to the NCISAA’s Division III championship.
That’s why they made sure they took in every moment after the game, why they bounced and hugged as if they never were going to let go of one another.
“This is what we wanted from the beginning,” said sophomore captain Will Grier, the star quarterback and coach’s son. “But we want to win more than one, and we worked really hard all summer and all through the year for this moment right here. This was the big step. You’ve got to start with one.
“It’s just such a relief to see it all pay off. When the clock strikes zero, and you’ve won, and you’re hugging all the guys you worked hard with and care about, it’s just special. There’s nothing like it. That’s why we’re going to get to work on Monday getting ready to win the next one.”
Who can doubt whether they’ll win another one after what they did this year?
In fact, with all but three players from this year’s squad returning next season, I see the Patriots winning it all next year.
Perhaps that’s some unnecessary pressure to put this tiny group of young people, including many that don’t even have driver licenses yet. But based on all the Patriots achieved against difficult odds this season, I think they can handle it.
I don’t care if the Patriots move up to the NCISAA Division II level next year, which is the plan, there isn’t a team at that level that can beat them – especially after they’ve had another year of seasoning.
They have a sophomore quarterback who already is on the fast track to having his pick of big-time college programs. They have a junior receiver (Seward) who has some of the best hands in Mecklenburg County, and they have other great pass-catchers in juniors Evan Gates, Jordan Young and sophomores Jordan Brown and Mike Stevens.
Brown also is an outstanding rusher (640 yards this season to go with his 543 receiving yards), and Will Grier nearly rattled off 1,000 yards on the ground himself.
Defensively, Brown, Gates and sophomore Lamar Briggs are playmakers, and we can expect big things from freshmen such as Jacob Robinson and 300-pounder Ronald Albritton.
It could be scary how good Davidson Day becomes, even if they one day fulfill their ultimate goal of moving up to Division I and taking on the likes of Charlotte Latin and Charlotte Country Day for state titles.
As long as Chad Grier is the coach, and as long as the team gets this kind of support, and as long as kids in Davidson Day’s lower school continue to be diehard fans, there will be plenty more nights like Nov. 11.
“I counted 25 little guys wearing Davidson Day Football T-Shirts (on game day),” Chad Grier said with a broad smile. “I’m not talking about middle-school guys; I’m talking about little guys. They stopped me in the hallways and high-fived me. I asked them, ‘Are you going to play football? And they’re like, ‘Yes, sir!’ They were all jacked up, and that’s cool. But that’s the power of having a community-oriented school and a program that wants these little guys.
“When (assistant coach) Dave (Serepca) and I started this, we wanted to build a championship-caliber program. We didn’t want to build a team for one season – it was about building a program.”
And in 18 short months, they’ve got the start of potentially perennially powerful program. The 2011 Patriots laid the groundwork for a bona fide high school football dynasty in Davidson.