Football -- specifically, winning football -- begins up front, in the trenches with the offensive and defensive linemen.
Perhaps it's fitting that Westminster Catawba senior Miller Perrill will be playing both this year as the Indians return to varsity football.
"I felt we could get a lot of guys out here and build the program," said Perrill, listed as an offensive and defensive tackle. "Give them something to do on Friday nights."
Perrill drove to practice Tuesday in a green pickup with the slogan, "M.P. is the Man" scrawled in white shoe polish across the back window. He's only 17 but he's already carrying much more on his shoulders than the usual load of a high school senior.
He's the guy who wanted to restart the WCCS football team, dormant for three years. When he went to athletics director Michael Scurlock two years ago about possibly restarting the program, Scurlock told him if he could find around 30 or so guys who really wanted to play, not just putting their name down on a list, the Indians would head back out on the warpath.
Perrill found 36 guys. When it came time to actually report, a few hedged and dropped out but 27 stuck around.
They've been conditioning and weightlifting since spring, going to seven-on-seven camps and holding their own training camp. With the home season-opener against Richard Winn Academy looming, the Indians are close to being ready.
Perrill is the guy who started the resurrection, but the other 26 are enthusiastic and united in one message -- they might be new, they might be young, but they're not going to lie down.
"We're getting out here and seeing what we can do when we work as a team," Perrill said.
Scurlock, an NFL veteran of five years with St. Louis and Carolina, resumed coaching the team and was pleased to see the results of Perrill's effort. When the team last played in 2003, the Indians went 6-2 but only had 15 players.
"I'm in a better situation than I think where some coaches would be with this number of kids, because I have kids who can back up," Scurlock said. "Like (former Panthers coach George Seifert) said, 'I don't care how big you are, I just want you to run all day.'
"I've got those kinds of kids. We are where we are today because of Miller stepping up and saying, 'Hey, let's have a football team.'"
Some players to watch include quarterback Evan Andert, a multi-tool athlete who's been lighting up the basketball and baseball scoreboards during his WCCS tenure. Andert joined the team at Perrill's urging and is looking forward to adding another chapter to his resume.
"It didn't take much," Andert said. "Miller just said, 'We're going to get a team back.' We're going to try and do what we can do."
Also joining the team were a couple of transferring students, Ian Brandt from South Pointe High School and Brodrique Moore from Charlotte's Independence. Brandt, already 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds despite being only a freshman, is set at receiver and defensive end while Moore is splitting between halfback and cornerback.
Coming from a program that's won 108 straight games, Moore sees some similarities between Independence and Westminster Catawba. Obviously not physically -- Independence has so many kids wanting to play it could use a redshirt system.
But mentally, Moore says the Indians are the same as the Patriots.
"These guys got heart," Moore said. "They go out there and play, no matter what.
"Because anybody can go be 10th string on the Independence football team but when you actually play, you actually have the heart and desire."
Scurlock has called some of his old NFL cronies -- former Panthers Sean Gilbert and Tim Biakabutuka, former San Francisco player and current Middle Tennessee assistant coach Antonio Goss -- to come and instruct the Indians at some practices. The assistance has helped the Indians learn basic offensive and defensive sets, and to figure out it's not going to be as easy as slapping on a helmet and taking a handoff.
The enthusiasm helps.
"My brother played his first three years and the school canceled it so I was like, 'Yes! I get to play senior year and he didn't,'" said center/nose guard Josh Beck. "When he was out there and just playing, just having fun and playing the game, I wanted to be a part of it."
Scurlock recognizes the challenge but figures it's attainable. The Indians' 10-game slate features nine North Carolina-based Christian and/or private schools, so they're in the same boat as WCCS, albeit with more experience.
"There aren't any excuses," Scurlock said flatly. "Either we win or we don't. My expectation is to make it to the playoffs. Even as an independent school, I want to make it to the playoffs."
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