After its varsity team disbanded before last season, Centennial football hopes to bring back a complete program next fall, athletics and activities manager Jean Vanderpool said on Wednesday.
“Based on the number of kids on JV — there’s certainly the possibility that all of those kids are returning — plus some new incoming players, we expect to have a varsity and a JV team,” Vanderpool said.
This is a promising sign for a program that in August announced it was folding for the 2017 season due to a “lack of sufficient players and concern for student safety.”
After making that decision, the Eagles used the following months to rebuild the program and enhance school spirit. Juniors were granted a waiver to play on the JV team, which played a full eight-game schedule. For home games, they competed under the lights with additional performances from the cheerleaders and marching band.
Fourty-four students played on the JV team, which won one game.
Vanderpool said the school will meet with all of the JV players to gauge their interest in coming back and hopes to nail down the number of returners by March. Meetings with athletes who compete in spring sports and middle schoolers will happen later in the year, Vanderpool added.
“We’re going to have kids that are going to play football,” said Vanderpool, “and we’re going to do our very best to have a varsity team.”
During this process, Centennial has also been looking for a new head varsity coach to replace Carlos Dunmoodie, who resigned at the end of last season because the job conflicted with his other work.
But the Eagles completed that search fairly quickly and announced the hiring of Billy Martin via Twitter on Wednesday morning.
Martin, who graduated from Mt. Hebron in 2004, served as the Vikings JV coach last season. Before that, he spent five years as a varsity assistant coach at Marriotts Ridge and also led the JV team there for two of those campaigns.
Now, he’ll have the opportunity to lead a varsity program for the first time.
“It’s a challenge,” Martin said. “We’ve got to rebuild, start from scratch, try and put a staff together, get the kids back into it and go from there.”
Martin will first work to build a quality coaching staff, which will then attempt to persuade returners and potential newcomers — “there’s kids … that should be playing football that aren’t playing football” — to buy into Centennial’s revamped program. He’ll also focus on reaching out to young players that will be able to develop over the course of four years.
The current group also has potential. Martin saw it last season at Mt. Hebron when the two teams faced off on Sept. 28, a 21-14 Vikings win. He noted the Eagles’ athleticism and ability to advance the ball on the ground.
“We got a good class,” Martin said. “The kids that are there that have played, they’re into it. We’ve got some good athletes.
“It’s just going to take some time.”