Turning the Corner
by Staff Writer
by Cliff Mehrtens
An air of confidence, fun and winning surrounds the Lake Norman Charter football team.
A 2-0 record can make nearly everyone happy.
The Knights’ fast start is helping erase memories of last season’s 1-9 record. It was complete with the usual growing pains of a new team.
But offseason perseverance, mixed with experience, helped as Lake Norman Charter opened this season by beating the Lake Norman Chargers, 40-14, and Union County St. Jude, 28-7.
“People aren’t pointing and laughing,” said coach Bob McKay, who is in his second season.
There’s little reason to giggle. The Knights are balanced offensively and haven’t allowed much defensively.
The roster is bigger, and so is the overall attitude.
“The biggest difference is they believe in themselves, and last year they didn’t,” McKay said. “Just the confidence level is so much greater now than before. A true test was last week. We’re down 7-6 at halftime. Last year we had a couple of games like that, and when they were down that was it. They didn’t come back. We talked about that at halftime (last week), that we’re not going to have a repeat of that. And they came out and dominated the second half.”
LaMarcus Smith-Kelly, a freshman, has rushed for 177 yards. Nathan Windham, who missed the opener, ran for 117 yards against St. Jude.
The Knights average five yards per rushing attempt.
“The offensive line is really fast off the ball,” Windham said. “They usually get to their blocks and push them off quickly so we can get the holes.”
McKay is quick to credit offensive line coach Travis DeZordo’s troops. Having Smith-Kelly and Windham as a 1-2 punch keeps both running backs fresh, too, he said.
Quarterback Michael Dorsainvil is 16-of-29 passing for 159 yards and five touchdowns. He hasn’t thrown an interception and has rushed for two scores. Four of his scoring passes have gone to Alex Scearce, a do-it-all player who also has 12 tackles, two interceptions, a fumble recovery, a rushing touchdown and a blocked field goal.
Sean Kane, a linebacker, has a team-high 23 tackles, followed by linebacker Austin Calton (13 tackles) and defensive lineman Chris Williams (12).
Lake Norman Charter has 10 sacks in two games, led by Chase Marshall’s three and Williams’ two. The Knights have intercepted five passes, recovered six fumbles and blocked two kicks.
“We’re just filling gaps and shutting down the running game,” said Kane, a senior. “Our defensive ends have played great games, and our linebackers are filling where they’re supposed to. People haven’t been able to get through us right now.”
The sparkling play is contagious.
“When the defense plays well, it hypes up the offense,” Smith-Kelly said.
Last season, the Knights had 18 players. This year, the roster has grown to 35.
McKay said the team has benefited from an offseason of weightlifting and not having to play catch-up as a new coaching staff.
“The coaches are on the same page,” he said. “And last season, most of our starters were freshmen and sophomores. They’ve grown so much since then, just getting experience.”
Lake Norman Charter also will debut as a member of the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference. The conference opener is Friday, Sept. 2, at Lincolnton, the defending champion. The league also includes East Lincoln, Bessemer City, Cherryville, Gastonia Highland Tech, North Lincoln and West Lincoln.
“It’s a 1A/2A conference, so there definitely will be some differences there,” McKay said. “I like our chances. They’re smaller schools, just like us. Their rosters are the same as ours.”
Lake Norman Charter crowds have been larger and more boisterous, McKay said.
So far this season, there’s been plenty of reasons to cheer.
Said Kane: “People are getting a little more excited this year, a little more ready to play instead of getting down about what happened last season.”