High School Football

Northwestern football collects itself after emotional weekend

James Martin could use some sleep, but would otherwise assure you he’s doing okay.

Martin, Northwestern’s interim head football coach, is suddenly much busier. At Tuesday’s Tri-County Coaches Association meeting in Fort Mill, he looked mostly free of the initial shock from the weekend firing of former coach David Pierce and offensive coordinator Robert Hellams.

Martin oversaw his first practice as head coach Monday. He praised the Trojan football players for their effort during the practice, one of the best of the year in his estimation.

“It was exciting to see the kids fly around at practice yesterday. A lot of energy, and that’s what we’ve been wanting from the kids,” said Martin.

Northwestern has to wrestle its focus - all over the place Monday morning - onto its home game Friday against Gaffney. The Trojans (2-3) will need to be ready to play from the initial whistle against a Gaffney team that took a 21-0 first quarter lead en route to a blowout win over Hillcrest last Friday. Martin’s hope is that Northwestern will use the adverse events of last weekend to its advantage against the Indians.

READ: Northwestern fires head coach, offensive coordinator after five games

Some of the emotional residue from Pierce and Hellams’ departure could be further washed away with a strong performance Friday night at District Three Stadium. That would require a complete turnaround from Northwestern’s loss to Spartanburg last week, in which the Trojan offensive unit turned the ball over seven times and its defense allowed at least 40 points for the second straight week. Gaffney, which upset the No. 1 seed Trojans in the first round of the 5A state playoffs last season, forced punts or turnovers-on-downs on Hillcrest’s first 12 offensive possessions last week.

Away from the field, there is little to add to the initial stories about Pierce and Hellams’ firing that emerged Sunday. Rock Hill school officials cannot discuss specific personnel matters due to privacy laws.

Jim Vining, Rock Hill school board chairman, told The Herald’s Amanda Harris that the school board does not get involved with personnel decisions like this, but that he was notified for informational purposes a few hours before Northwestern principal James Blake and athletic director Lauren West met with the players and coaches Sunday afternoon to inform them of the coaching changes.

Vining said he does not know enough about the situation to comment on it, but said it is not one he has encountered in his 19 years as a board member.

“It's the first time that happened since I've been on the school board,” he said. “It's a very unusual circumstance.”