JOHNSTON, S.C. — Despite heading into the season loaded with senior talent, Wardlaw Academy coach Chalmers Carr felt the pressure.
The Patriots had won the South Carolina Independent Schools Association’s eight-man title in 2009, but a tumultuous and humbling 2010 season made that championship seem light years away.
This season, however, Carr made all the right moves en route to a 13-0 record and another state championship, earning him The Augusta Chronicle’s independent schools coach of the year honors.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself because of this senior group,” Carr said. “I did not want to come up short and look back and say I was not prepared or I did not make them prepared. I probably worked harder this year than I’ve ever worked out just wanting those boys to do well.”
The foundation for this season’s success was laid at the end of the 2010 season.
“We knew we had all the right tools and the pieces to the puzzle,” Carr said. “We knew that we could compete, but we knew our problem was going to be depth. We knew we had seven seniors coming back, but until a few guys joined the team we could very easily have played the season with 10 guys.”
One of those players was freshman Malik Lee, who provided depth in the offensive backfield for starter Jordan Faust.
Lee rushed for more than 1,000 yards, but he wasn’t alone.
Faust, Bailey Pendarvis and Cody Smith also rushed for more than 1,000 yards, proving depth was the difference for the Patriots in 2011.
“As the season went on we talked about unity and trust and the James Island (Christian) game was where they reached over and said, ‘We trust one another,’ ” Carr said. “At halftime it was 30-26 and that was the first time someone had taken us blow for blow (in the first half) the whole season.
“We sat down and had some nice words at halftime … they shut them out 54-0 in the second half. That was the pivotal game for me in the year. There are times when the players will challenge you as a coach, and you have to challenge them back.”
Add to that the fact that the team’s linemen (which often play both ways in eight-man football) were some of the best-conditioned players on the field, and it was a recipe for success late in games.
“Andrew Medlock and James Brumbaugh probably played more than anyone, and you are talking about guys who are over 6-foot and 230 pounds and 280 pounds,” Carr said.
“And no matter how good that guy across from you is, if you’re that big and you are in shape you are winning in the fourth quarter.”
Carr also noted two coaching additions that reaped huge rewards in 2011.
Stan Whitlock, the head of schools, previously served as a head coach. He also was a special teams player and kicker in the NFL.
“He completely revamped the special teams, and that was awesome,” Carr said.
Junior varsity coach Tim Williams was recruited to take over the defense.
“He spent just as much time on film as I did and bringing him on staff was probably the best thing I did,” Carr said. “There was a lot of chemistry and trust between he and I.”
Taken together, it was certainly a year to remember for the Patriots.
“All these things led to not just winning ballgames but shutting teams down,” Carr said.
“I was just glad to be a part of it. I went into this season with the goal for them to win state, and they accomplished their goal.”