Knights football seeks more success
by Staff Writer
By Cliff Mehrtens
HUNTERSVILLE – The scoreboard at a football stadium on Friday nights tallies the score, but Lake Norman Charter coach Bob McKay thinks a game is decided long before those lights illuminate.
For his surprising Knights, their laboratory is a nondescript field next to the school gym. The grass is spotty. There are no yardage markers, stands or goalposts. Cars zoom by on N.C. 115, a few yards away.
“I think the games are won here on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays,” McKay said.
The early-week work is paying off for Lake Norman Charter. The Knights, a Class 1A school, shocked perennial 2A power Lincolnton 30-28 on Aug. 31 to improve to 3-0.
The score – finalized when J.C. Brooks kicked a 31-yard field goal with 49 seconds left – shocked many, but not the Knights.
“It lets them finally believe that if we put in the time, effort and work, they can get it done,” McKay said. “The kids told me all week ‘Coach, we can do this. We’re in better shape. We know we’re in better shape.’”
Lake Norman Charter switched to an up-tempo offense this season. Quarterback Michael Dorsainvil lines up in the “pistol” formation, about four yards behind center. A running back is a couple of yards behind him. It’s a bit different from the “shotgun,” where the quarterback is usually seven yards behind the center, and the running back stands next to the quarterback.
A “jet” player is usually in motion, and it’s similar to a wing-T offense. The Knights don’t use a huddle. They get all their plays via hand signal from McKay on the sideline.
It’s imperative for the players to be in good shape. It’s even more imperative at Lake Norman Charter, which has only 19 varsity players (junior varsity players dress for varsity games, but rarely play).
The emphasis on conditioning began early, under the searing summer sun. Players ran, then ran some more. Now, they’re seeing the results.
“It makes a huge difference,” said linebacker Jake Massey, the team leader in tackles (30). “When the other team’s tired, they’re not going to be able to run like we are.”
At practice, the Knights run 40-yard sprints called “gassers.” Actually, they’re there-and-back sprints, so they’re 80 yards apiece. Last week, they ran nine. McKay has increased the number by one each week. No one disagreed.
Last season, Lake Norman Charter lost to Lincolnton 55-7.
“I think it shocked a lot of us on the team, after they’d beat on us pretty bad,” said Alex Scearce, a senior receiver. “The difference is we came in knowing we had a chance to beat them, and we didn’t give up.”
Scearce said that during a preseason scrimmage, when coaches were subbing in second-teamers, players were begging to get back in to maintain the fast pace.
“No one complains about running gassers because we know what if felt like to not be in shape,” Scearce said.
McKay and his staff picked the fast-paced offense because the Knights aren’t loaded with 260-pound lineman who can pound opponents continually.
“As soon as the ball’s snapped, we’re pretty much getting rid of it,” McKay said. “We figured that was the best option for us. We’re not powering through people. Our goal blocking is to get is what we call ‘get a hat on a hat,’ to get a helmet on a (jersey) number.”
Dorsainvil, a senior in his third year as a starter, triggers the offense. Scearce has rushed for 189 yards on six carries, and last week scored on 89- and 80-yard runs. Tripp Smith has gained 241 yards on 24 carries, and LeMarcus Smith-Kelly has 106 yards on nine carries. Lake Norman Charter averages 8.8 yards per attempt, but isn’t all about running. Dorsainvil has five touchdown passes and zero interceptions.
Lake Norman Charter was 1-9 in its first season (2010) and went 5-6 last year. The Knights jumped into the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A conference lead by beating Lincolnton.
“It’s definitely a trademark win for the program,” Dorsainvil said. “We’ve come a long way the past three years. It shows that hard work and dedication definitely pays off on the field. If you don’t work during the week, it’s not going to work during the games.”
McKay’s message to the team was to enjoy the victory, but understand that there are plenty more games and beating Lincolnton doesn’t guarantee anything.
With a small roster, the Knights must avoid injury and overconfidence. Now, they want to maintain momentum.
“As a school, everyone really rallied around us,” Massey said. “Beating Lincolnton gives us a lot of confidence, but at the same time, we can’t be cocky. We’ve got to stay humble. Now, the target’s on us.”