Thursday, 10 August 2017 11:30

Grier, Hartman team up again in SC

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Chad Grier and Sam Hartman during a workout with Oceanside Collegiate Academy. Hartman (below) threw for 6,388 yards and 69 touchdowns in two seasons at Davidson Day. Chad Grier and Sam Hartman during a workout with Oceanside Collegiate Academy. Hartman (below) threw for 6,388 yards and 69 touchdowns in two seasons at Davidson Day. Frankie Mansfield, Moultrie News; Ben Coon

For the second time in less than a decade, Chad Grier is trying to build an unknown into a high school football power.

The colorful coach who honed his craft at all points around Lake Norman and led Davidson Day to four state titles in six seasons had a change of scenery this offseason when it became clear there wouldn’t be enough Patriots to field a varsity team in 2017.

Grier entertained offers from all over, including at the college level, before leaving an area he’s always held dear for a new opportunity at Oceanside Collegiate Academy on the S.C. coast. He says the move has “exceeded every expectation,” and he likes what he’s seen so far from the 70 or so players on his new team, which is almost twice the size of his largest in Davidson.

“They’re young and work their tails off,” says Grier. “If I said, ‘Go jump in the ocean,’ they’d go jump in the ocean.”

Grier could actually say that now. The ocean is right there. His wife, Nila, recently walked to the water from their new home and petted a manatee. That never happened at the couple’s Lake Norman home. For Grier, saying the correct team name has been a challenge at times, especially since he so often spoke of “Patriot Values” at Davidson Day. It was engrained in him.

Just the other day, in fact, Grier spoke to his new players about what it means to be a Patriot. Then he caught himself, and quickly tried to turn course and reference the Revolutionary War-era patriot heritage of the area. The Landsharks practice on the edge of the Frances Marion National Forest, but that Swamp Fox was slyer than Grier.

“I winged it so hard,” says Grier. “I totally tried.”

The Landshark who knows him the best, though, wasn’t buying it.

“Good try,” said quarterback Sam Hartman.

Grier can’t fool Hartman, a highly regarded senior and Wake Forest recruit who also has deep Lake Norman roots. He played youth baseball for Grier, then joined him at Davidson Day in 2015.  

The two have a palpable chemistry, for Grier perhaps only rivaled by what he had with his oldest son, Will, who is now the starting quarterback at West Virginia. Hartman spent the second semester of last year at Hough High, then followed Grier to South Carolina in a somewhat stunning move, even for Grier, who says he never expected anyone from Davidson to venture 240 miles southeast. But the Hartmans bought a home on the coast, and Sam will attend OCA for the first semester before graduating early to enroll at Wake Forest. He’s fished for reds a lot this summer, including during a phone interview with a reporter.

“It’s awesome,” says Hartman. “I love it down here. My backyard is the ocean, so I just take off.”

The last two years, Hartman threw for 6,388 yards and 69 touchdowns as the Patriots won their first NCISAA Division I championship in 2015 and reached the playoffs last season. He credits Grier’s tutelage with the significant strides he’s made, beginning with the summer before his sophomore year.

“That summer was the biggest jump,” he says.

Now, Hartman is a reliable piece of the foundation Grier wants to establish at OCA, which was 0-8 in its inaugural season last year and had its coach resign midway through. Hartman gives the Landsharks the kind of big-time playmaker most startups never have.

“It’ll give us a fighting chance,” says Grier.

OCA had never played 7-on-7 football before this summer, but the Landsharks placed third in a 14-team event at S.C. power Byrnes. Grier loves the leadership he’s seen from his quarterback.

“He trains so hard,” says Grier. “He’s gotten stronger and added muscle and runs really well right now. I’m excited with what he’s doing. Developmentally, he’s making every throw.”

It was this time last year that Hartman was recovering from an infection in his chest and throat that stemmed from a birth defect in his thyroid gland. He lost 21 pounds and had surgery on his 17th birthday, July 29. He returned just in time for the season opener.

“It’s crazy to look back at that and see everything that’s changed and happened,” he says.

Hartman and Grier will be featured on the national stage this year. Grier will serve as head coach of the East team in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January, while Hartman is one of three prep quarterbacks to be chronicled on the online show QB1, Beyond the Lights. The others are Georgia native Justin Fields, considered the top dual-threat quarterback in the 2018 class and Florida recruit Matt Corral, who is also ranked in the top 10 nationally by multiple scouting services.

“I feel like that’s pretty good validation (of Sam),” says Grier.

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