It couldn’t have gotten much worse on the football field last year for Carrboro.
Lacking depth from the first week on, and then decimated by injuries as they began their conference schedule, the Jaguars were forced to forfeit two of their last three games in 2015.
“I’d rather die than forfeit,” then-senior Greyson Magee said at the time. He had been a freshman when Carrboro carried a 15-0 record into the 2012 state 2A championship game, and, as Dante wrote, “There is no greater pain than to remember happy times in misery.”
Carrboro began the long slow climb out of its funk last spring with the appointment of Ken Lathan as its new head coach. He spent his previous two years at Millbrook, where he worked as a position coach under Clarence Inscore. Millbrook’s varsity went 20-7 over 2014 and 2015, reaching the 4A playoffs both years.
“The first thing we have to do is learn how to compete,” Lathan says. “I want our players to learn that they have to compete every snap, every possession, every game. When things don’t go your way, that doesn’t mean you stop competing.”
What’s the top priority?
Pure and simple, Carrboro needs to restock its team. The Jaguars were down to fewer than 15 healthy players last year when they had to admit they couldn’t take the field against Mid-State 2A champion Reidsville, a state finalist the year before.
“Getting the interest level up for more kids to come out and play is the biggest challenge right now,” Lathan says.
It will take nothing less than a complete culture change at Carrboro, he says. “If you change the culture, then people will turn out. … We have some kids still on the fence about playing. We need them to buy into what we’re doing to help make a change.”
How to cope with the present lack of depth?
The Jaguars will have to be creative, at least in the early going.
On offense, Carrboro will use multiple sets and try to confuse defenders as much as possible. On defense, they try anything that works, even if that means using two down lineman and five defensive backs.
Given a lack of depth until more people join the campaign, most players will have to line up on both sides of the ball.
What does a new coach bring to the table?
Lathan brings a completely different perspective to the 2016 Jaguars– a team in which no member has enjoyed a winning season in high school football.
He comes straight from a winning program at Millbrook, and he got his first experience working an undergraduate staffer at South Carolina, where he saw firsthand the work of people like Lou Holtz, Gamecocks defensive coordinator Charles Strong (now head coach at Texas) and running backs coach Buddy Pough (now head coach at S.C. State).
Lathan sees that football is not just Xs and Os. It’s people. And life is more than football.
“One day, these players are going to have families of their own,” he says. “When adversity comes, they won’t want their kids to quit. They will want them to go out there and keep competing to succeed every day. Effort translates from the football field to all phases of life.”
More on the Jaguars
Last year: 0-11 (0-5 Mid-State 2A)
Five-year avg: 5-5 (2-3)
Preseason N&O rank: Unranked
Offense: Multiple sets
Coaches: Ken Lathan (Head Coach/Off. Coordinator & Def. Coordinator), Mark Cash (offensive line / defensive line); Dexter Croom (defensive backs / receivers); Anthony Davis (running backs / linebackers); Josh Luecking (receivers / defensive backs).
Contributors: Jordan Riggsbee (Sr., OT/DT); Keegan Schmoock (Sr., OT/DE); Tabian Sales (Sr., WR/DB); Drew Ellis (Sr., K/P); Nathaniel Oquaye (Sr., FB/RB/DE).
The main number: 2 – forfeits in last four games of 2015.
Aug. 19 vs. Cedar Ridge 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 at East Chapel Hill, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 vs. Chapel Hill, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Northwood, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Northern Vance, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Randleman, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 BYE
Oct. 7* vs. Cummings, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14* at Bartlett Yancey, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21* at Graham, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 28* vs. Jordan-Matthews, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4* at Reidsville, 7:30 p.m.
Note: *Conference game