INDIAN LAND -- Seems like the building is never done at Indian Land High School.
The students moved into a new school last year, and there's still some cosmetic items outside that need to be tended to.
And the area on the home side of the football stadium is a parking lot for trucks, heavy equipment vehicles and mounds of rocks and dirt. The workers are putting the finishing touches on the Warriors' new fieldhouse, which coach Mike Mayer said will not be ready by the first home game on Sept. 12 against Central.
In its place, the Warriors are dressing in a portable unit on the hill next to the practice field.
It's an inconvenience, but Mayer learned long ago that you have to crawl before you can walk. Once the job is done, the Warriors will have a state-of-the-art building for meeting, dressing and storing equipment.
Mayer is doing a bit of building himself. Injuries and defections plagued his team last year, and Indian Land limped home 1-9. But there is plenty to be thankful for.
The numbers are up. There are 60 players out for the varsity and junior varsity teams, very good for a Class A school. Mayer is especially proud of his 25-strong junior class and pointed out that his 10 seniors are the most he's had since the 13 in 2005. That team was 11-2.
The players have a new weight room that opened last season and have spent the summer getting bigger and stronger. Mayer flashed a big grin when he said 18 players made 40 or more workouts this summer. There were others not far behind.
He's got a promising group of freshmen and sophomores. Mayer pointed out that those classes feature tall kids and a wealth of talented you linemen weighing in excess of 200 pounds.
"And we've got some good kids up from our JV team," Mayer said. "They were 5-4, which might not sound that good. But I've done some checking and as far as I can tell talking around, it's the first time we've ever had a winning record in JV football.
"The community is growing. Each year we have 60 to 70 new students at the high school. But it's the middle and elementary schools that are getting the most growth. Football-wise, we've got only three transfers this season."
No problem. He also has some talented players back who gained game experience last season as underclassmen. Now that they are seniors, Mayer is counting on them to lead the team.
Keyadd Miller is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound defensive end. Mayer said Miller is drawing interest from several big schools, including South Carolina.
Chad Carlton (5-9, 175) is probably the team's MVP. He can play nearly every position on the field, but will be called on mainly at fullback and linebacker.
Defensive back Luke Lambert (5-10, 150) is strong and quick. He'll also see duty at wide receiver.
"We had five or six very fast players on the '05 team," Mayer said, "but this year's team has the best overall speed I've had here.
"For our kids, it comes down to attitudes. They have worked hard and want to prove they are a lot better than 1-9. They've told me they want to improve on last year. I've told them what it will take."
Monday afternoon as the players pumped iron in their large, air-conditioned, well-lit weight room with top-of-the-line equipment, the atmosphere was electric. Players were spotting each other, waiting in line for their turn. They were encouraging each other. None were cutting corners when the coaches looked away.
Get bigger, stronger, faster and dedicated are among the requirements Mayer told his players they need to meet if they hoped to turn it around. A winning season in always-tough Region 3-A won't be easy, but the Warriors have the headlights shining in that direction.
"We are more dedicated this year," Miller said. "We want to make some noise, show other teams that our plays have the drive it takes.
"Everything feels different. We have more people than last year, we hustle more in practice and we work harder in the weight room. If we want to turn it around, it's going to take all of us doing the right things."
Carlton is the latest in the assembly line of small, hard-nosed players that Indian Land keeps pumping out. He's a lot like former player Michael Whetstone, who would have tried to bite a nail in half if he had been dared to do so.
Last season, Carlton has several games where he led the Warriors in rushing and with tackles made. He lined up at running back or fullback on offense and linebacker on defense.
"We've added some new offensive lineman this year that are pretty big," he said. "We have a ways to go up there, but our guys are getting better. We play in the toughest region in Class A, so if you want to win you better have a good line.
"Our defense is ahead of the offense right now, but it's always like that for every team. Our goal is to get 11 defenders to the ball on every play. People will see a different, a better, Indian Land team this season."
Barry Byers • 329-4099