Cary Christian headmaster Del Cook decided it was time for a change at the top of the football program. So he replaced himself as the Knights’ head coach with Jeff Bates.
“Yes, the headmaster fired the head coach,” said Cook dryly of performing double-duty last year.
Cook had previously served as the Knights’ coach from 2008 to 2012 before he handed the whistle to Rick Wharton. When Wharton was unable to continue in 2015 due to a change in his work commitments, Cook stepped in essentially on an interim basis.
Bates was promoted from assistant coach, but he has a history with the school. He coached under Cook from 2008 to 2012 and returned in 2015 as an assistant.
“A family situation took me away, but I love football,” Bates said. “It’s in my blood. I’m eager to get back on the field and hope to be on the field for a long time.”
Biggest strength and area of concern?
Bates likes his returning players’ enthusiasm, commitment and experience. The primary concern is a lack of depth. With only 13 varsity players, they need to be familiar to fill in at multiple positions when the Knights are hit by injuries. Bates has been scouring the campus for athletes to join the team.
With Cary Christian’s early start to school in mid-August, Bates hopes the added time will sway players he says are on the fence. They have until Sept. 15 to be eligible to play.
Who are some players to know?
Scott Shinn is ready for the step up from junior varsity quarterback last year to the starting role as a varsity sophomore. Bates likes his arm strength and decisions on the field.
Another key is the older players have accepted Shinn in a leadership role. Joel Green may be ready for a breakout year with his athleticism playing running back, tight end and linebacker.
What’s the biggest key this year?
Team health goes hand-in-hand with a roster short on depth. The Knights need to remain healthy, especially early in the year to allow less experienced players gain playing time and settle into roles.
More on the Knights
Last year: 3-8, first round 8-man 2A playoffs
Five-year average: 4-6
Preseason N&O ranking: Unranked
Offense: 8-man, balanced
Defense: 8-man basic
Coaches: Jeff Bates (HC/OC), James Baker (DC), John Dukes (OL/DL), Jeff Beam (LBs/DBs)
Main contributors: Josh Padgett (Sr., OL/DL), Anderson Brewer (Sr., WR/DE), Jay Thomas (Sr., OL/DL), Joel Green (Sr., RB/TE/LB), Gus Moore (Sr., WR/DB), Scott Shinn (Soph., QB)
The main number: 13 – A selling point Bates is using with only 13 players is anyone on the team will get playing time.