The inexperienced Knights squad saw several games slip away in the fourth quarter in 2010 after competing, and even gaining control, in the early stages. But that’s what happens when there are just 18 players on a varsity roster.
“There were several games where we were up, or down two or three points, after the second quarter,” says LNC coach Bob McKay. “But by the fourth quarter, the guys had nothing left. They know if our fitness would have been better, there definitely would have been some different outcomes.”
The Knights’ offseason has included intensified workouts to increase the team’s physicality, an area McKay knows hurt late in games.
“The guys are putting more time in the weight room,” he says. “We’ll definitely be more physical and better at tackling. We’re already more aggressive than we were at this time last year.”
While the Knights now have 33 players on varsity, the majority of their starting talent is back to complete the young team that opens Friday at home against the Lake Norman Chargers, a team comprised of home school and private school players (kickoff at 7:30 p.m.).
Sophomore quarterback Michael Dorsainvil returns under center with a year under his belt. After starting as a freshman, Dorsainvil has been forced to adapt to the pressure of the high school game and is focused on learning from every outing.
“The varsity experience has been great for me,” he says. “Last year will definitely give me more determination and help me to finish games.”
With Dorsainvil no longer a rookie, the expectations for his play have increased.
“He’s more mature this year, so we want to give him more freedom in running the offense,” says McKay. “We have enough confidence in him to let him make some calls at the line as he sees them.”
Also returning are sophomores Alex Scearce and Austin Calton, and senior Lee Bobo. Scearce emerged as one of the Knights’ top offensive threats from the tight end position last season, while Calton, an offensive lineman and linebacker, is perhaps the team’s hardest worker (see story, Page 16). Bobo is a threat at running back.
Without a host of experience, McKay is hopeful the extreme youth of the LNC squad will give the Knights a unique edge when it comes to improving.
“The younger guys tend to want to put in everything they have,” he says. “Our guys kind of get thrown into the fire, and it’s only making them better.”
And the fire has never been hotter, with the Knights debuting in the 1A/2A Southern Piedmont Conference this season, where they will see heavier competition against the likes of East Lincoln and Lincolnton, a prospect that excites LNC players.
“If we’re playing against teams at our level and better, it helps us to become more rounded as a team,” says Calton.
The new conference will also allow the Knights the perks of playing in a North Carolina High School Athletic Association league for the first time.
“It’s extremely exciting,” says Dorsainvil. “We have a chance to get official conference honors and go to the playoffs for the first time. But for now, we have to focus on trying to execute and win ball games.”