For each week of the Eagles’ football season, Carver Middle School art teacher Joanne Peterson puts together a poster with a new word inscribed on it. The poster hangs in the central hallway on campus and greets students as they arrive to school in the days following a game.
Peterson’s most recent contribution was the word “Fortitude,” and also on the poster was the score of Carver’s last football game, a 22-0 shutout of Spring Hill Middle School.
It’s part of the “Carver Culture” at the middle school, in which teachers, coaches and faculty all work towards the common goal of instilling a winning foundation in each of its students. The school’s football team has become a symbol of this central idea, and head coach James McLean believes that sports are just part of the balancing act needed to prepare a student for bigger things to come.
“We preach a total team buy-in at Carver, and when I say ‘team’ I mean the entire school itself,” McLean said. “If you can be disciplined in the classroom and are willing to help out in the community, that successful mindset will spill out onto the field.”
Of the five conference football championships won in Scotland County amongst its middle schools (Carver, Spring Hill and Sycamore Lane), four have been claimed by the Eagles. The most recent of those came four years ago, when McLean was an assistant coach under Maxwell McDonald who retired at the end of their final championship season.
Notable names on that Eagles’ squad included current and former Scotland High School standout student athletes such as Kwashaun Quick, Red Covington, Travis Wall, Derek Barnes, Isaiah Robinson, Chris Moss and Ryan Leak.
The cultural impact of football has never been more prominent in Scotland County, best evidenced by the Fighting Scots’ undefeated 4-A state championship season last year. In turn, it gives local youth a goal to strive towards and an avenue that teachers can utilize to help bring out the potential in their students.
“The success at the high school has helped strengthen all of the middle school sports programs in the county,” McLean said. “Kids see the Fighting Scots and want to be the next name to make a big impact in the community. But in order to do that, they have to learn a winning mentality at this level so they can be successful for life. Winning games is a result of these kids buying into what we sell them as coaches and mentors.”
After two seasons of just one combined victory, McLean along with offensive line coach Jonathan Parker and defensive coordinator Jimmy Smith have officially gotten their players to buy into the Carver Culture.
Finishing 4-1 last season, the Eagles were a coin flip away from competing for a conference championship. But the 2012 season has seen Carver win their first five games by a combined score of 148-40, including a 26-10 win over the 2011 conference championship-winning West Hoke Tigers.
Anchoring the 43-student roster that has run roughshod over the competition are perhaps the future building blocks of the Fighting Scots. And the common link amongst the players is that each has dedicated themselves to the principles ingrained in them by coaches and teachers alike.
“Playing at Carver has made me want to work harder in the classroom,” said Carver defensive end Isaiah Fields. “I’ve learned about giving a great team effort, never slacking and having confidence on and off the field.”
“I feel like I’m a team leader, and to be that I have to be a leader in the classroom as well,” said multi-positional player Ty McLaurin. In the team’s most competitive game of the season, McLaurin caught the winning touchdown pass as a wide receiver with just nine seconds left on the clock to best East Hoke Middle School 22-16.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help this team, and doing well in both football and school is very important,” he said.
Carver student athletes are constantly served reminders about the importance of fully embracing Carver Culture, perhaps best demonstrated in the school’s weight room. Filled with equipment donated to the school by SHS and St. Andrews University, inspirational quotes line the walls of the room, including the saying “hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work,” which McLean regards with particular fondness.
Work ethic and a dedication to school are the two constants in the most successful of Scotland High School’s finest athletes. And hoping to be among them someday is Carver left tackle Nick Davis, who understands what it will take to realize the potential that his coaches see in him.
Because that what’s Carver Culture is all about.
“It’s like Coach McLean tells us every day,” Davis said. “As long as we keep our heads on straight, get good grades and work our hardest, we’re all champs in the end.”
The Carver Eagles next take the field Thursday at Sycamore Lane Middle School. Should the Eagles win, it will give them their first shot at a conference championship since their last win four years ago. The game is scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m.