Five years ago, Carrboro High School first opened its doors and simultaneously christened its first football team, limping to a 2-20 record during its first two painful opening seasons.
Now, in just their sixth season of operation, the Jaguars are playing for a state championship.
“Coming here my freshman year I could say we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” said senior running back Douglas Parrish. “We knew the program was struggling the first couple years and we wanted to come in and make a difference.”
Saturday night, Parrish and the rest of the resilient Jaguars (15-0) will take the field at N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium looking to stay unbeaten and compete for the 2AA state title game against South Iredell High (13-2).
“It’s a tribute to the character of the kids in this community,” coach Jason Tudryn said. “A lot of times, Carrboro, wherever you go in the state, is kind of a punch line and these guys have kind of gone across and really changed that vision.”
After posting a 6-28 record during their first three seasons, the Jaguars have since been an impressive 33-8 in the last three, including this year’s unblemished 15-0.
“Whenever you can win and not have any losses on your record it’s a great year,” said senior linebacker Tobias Sales, who helped lift the Jaguars to a narrow four-point victory two weeks ago in the third round of the playoffs.
Both Sales and Parrish point to the work they put in during the offseason as key factors in getting to Raleigh this weekend, and Tudryn is more than willing to admit the title game is entirely in his players’ hands.
“All you can do (as a coach) is prepare them,” he said. “You prepare them for the best you can, you practice hard and you embrace the environment.”
But the road to get there, Tudryn admits, has been quite the struggle.
“They’ve been through some real adverse things,” Tudryn said of the team’s nine seniors. “They had a point where they each had to make the decision about whether to play football … they stuck the course, they stayed with it, and they’ve had a phenomenal season.”
And with such a new and small program, it took every player to get to the title game.
“Every one of them — all nine of (the seniors) — have made spectacular plays at various points this season to help us be where we are,” Tudryn said.”
While Tudryn maintains the key to the team’s success has been taking each week one game at a time, he admits the championship has been in the back of players’ minds for quite some time.
“At the beginning of the season we have our team meeting and we mention — since the first day we’ve been in the program — that the state championship is the goal,” Tudryn said.
Sales knows that no matter the outcome, this season is one he’ll never forget.
“It was a journey,” he said. “It was a good journey.”
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