High School Football

Interim head coach? Nope. Here’s who will lead Northwestern football thru spring practice

Northwestern football back on practice field after tumultuous offseason

Rock Hill’s Northwestern High School returned to the football practice field this month after a turbulent offseason that included a school district investigation and head coach James Martin resigning.
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Rock Hill’s Northwestern High School returned to the football practice field this month after a turbulent offseason that included a school district investigation and head coach James Martin resigning.

Okay, maybe this situation would reveal something.

Northwestern’s football team was wrapping up a spring practice earlier this week. Who would blow the whistle to end the practice? That had to be the person with top authority, right?

It was Jarvis Davis that signaled the practice had ended. It was also Davis that sent the defensive unit back to the sideline twice because they didn’t run hard enough to the center of the field where they would gather to hear the coaching staff’s final thoughts.

But Davis is not the head coach.

Apparently, there is no head coach at Northwestern right now.

Davis is leading the defense, Knox Baggett is leading the offense (for the second straight year) and Mario Donato is handling behind the scenes logistics.

“It was so much for everybody,” said Donato. “(Davis has) got a full-time job around the building and then we both have three classes. With that going on, it’s kind of hard for one person to take it over.

“We’re running the schedule as it was put in already and then if we need to, the three of us meet and make adjustments.”

The head coaching position is listed on the Rock Hill Schools jobs web site and Northwestern principal Hezekiah Massey said there has been national interest. He didn’t say if candidates already on the Trojan coaching staff had applied. The next step is assembling a hiring committee, which will include Massey and athletic director Lauren West, as well as members of the community and school district.

“Timing is everything,” said Massey, who is wrapping up his first year as the school’s principal. “We’re still just in the process of seeing which candidates are out there, and hopefully will be able to move forward quickly in this process and settling some things.”

The opening at the top of the Trojan program was created when previous head coach James Martin resigned April 24. Rock Hill Schools investigated Martin several weeks earlier, following parent complaints about the team’s new weightlifting program. The investigation didn’t find Martin guilty of any wrongdoing, though it did cease several practices taking place under his watch.

Davis was hired by Northwestern in early 2019, though the move was never publicized by the school or school district. He was the head coach at West Meck from 2016 to 2018, producing a 26-11 record and sending multiple players to Power 5 college football programs.

“My main goal is just getting that effort back,” said Davis. “Because they know the game. We have some great kids. Our main thing is continue the effort, continue to work hard.”

Davis’ arrival was just one of many changes that occurred in the last five months.

Martin’s departure shortly followed that of James West, the team’s former strength and conditioning coach, who moved to South Pointe over Spring Break. Northwestern hired certified strength and conditioning coach Tyler Klipa to replace West.

The offseason drama piggybacked a subpar 2018 when the Trojans went 4-7, only their second losing season since 1984. That alone, off-field issues aside, had already ignited a fire in Trojan bellies to get back on the practice field and put things right.

“You heal and grow out here,” said Donato, smiling. “You can do all the talking in classrooms you want, all the meetings you want, but it’s out here that we get moving again, and we remember what it’s about. It’s about effort, all about getting after it, all about holding each other accountable. You can see it out here.”

High school football programs across the area are looking for widely different results from spring practice -- everything from defending state champs Chester reloading to Catawba Ridge’s first practice, ever. One of Northwestern’s primary goals is reestablishing at least one basic principle of team sports.

“The season is coming, no matter what we’ve been through, just stay together as a family,” Davis said. “Times get hard, stay together.”

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Bret McCormick joined The Herald in July, 2012. In the years since, the Charlotte native’s creative and original coverage of sports in York, Chester and Lancaster counties has won numerous state and national awards.


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