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Sweet 16 prep football preview: Myers Park hoping for bounce back season after drama filled spring

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 8/11/2022 Varun Shankar, The Charlotte Observer
Myers Park wide receiver Khamil Archie runs the ball during practice at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. © Alex Slitz/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS Myers Park wide receiver Khamil Archie runs the ball during practice at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

Sweat soaked through Jason McManus’s green sweatshirt, darkening the green hoodie by one full shade.

Despite the sweltering heat, the Myers Park football coach wears the hoodie to protect his skin after seeing numerous coaches come down with skin cancer due to exposure. The sleeves serve another purpose: they help the coach get a sweat during practices.

McManus’ enthusiasm stands out during Myers Park’s preseason practices, that sweat coming from the heat but also from his energetic motions. He steps into a program racked by last year’s scandal that ended with coach Curtis Fuller leaving and the team forfeiting games. McManus hopes his experience helps reshape the program and rebuild its culture.

“We need to develop an intensity and a pace that breeds toughness,” he said. “Young men … they need to be motivated, they need to feel engaged, they need to be a part of an environment that they want to come back to.”

Doing so meant addressing the scandal, which McManus did in his first team meeting with parents and players. After that, it was time to move on, a message that Myers Park’s players echoed.

“We try not to talk about it, just move on,” quarterback Wendell Thompson said. “We don’t think about it, that’s for sure … it is what it is, past is the past, we’re just looking at what’s ahead.”

Thompson’s battling with Jaemyn Smith to be the team’s starting quarterback. The two have played together since middle school and are both former Myers Park ballboys.

“We’re pals, we’re friends so we’re just keeping each other accountable and just competing,” Smith said.

The decision will come back to who McManus trusts more, he said. He added that he wants an efficient player who continues to function well in chaotic and intense environments.

McManus coached in college and in 7A Georgia football and hopes to bring many of the principles he saw to Myers Park.

“I was able to learn a lot there, seeing it done at a 7A program at the highest level in the country and I brought a lot of that here,” he said.

Those lessons include a four-quarter weight room program that limits the time players spend standing around. That ethos carries itself into practice, where McManus tries to emulate college programs by transitioning from drill to drill.

His players have embraced it, with multiple players saying they loved their new coach’s energy.

“I just love it that I can get behind him and as a team, I mean, we just all want to be around him and support him,” defensive lineman Max Schmidly said. “It’s a new change and we love it and we’ve adapted really well.”

But despite McManus’s vigor and the players’ response, there are still ways to go for the Mustangs. The coach told parents at a preseason cookout that the team may take “some lumps early” because of the team’s lack of experience and the resulting mistakes.

He hopes however, that by the middle of the season, his team’s work ethic and culture start to show on the field and that players without experience start to play their best and bring Myers Park to its ideal form.

Inside Look: Myers Park Mustangs

Head Coach: Jason McManus (1st year as Myers Park head coach).

2021 Record: 0-12, due to forfeit of the season.

Returning Starters: 9

Returning Lettermen: 25

Key Returning Starters: Tyson Austin, Sr., DB (5-8, 181) Donyea Coleman, Sr., TE (6-4, 200); Thomas Wilson, Sr., OL (6-2, 250); Derrick McKnight, Jr. RB (5-9, 160); Davis Becker, Sr., TE (6-4, 215); Tavion Neal, Sr., WR (5-9, 160); Win Beverly, Sr,, K/P (6-3, 180); Max Schmidly, Sr., LS/DE (6-3, 185); Nick Legrande, Sr., OL (6-2, 305); Solomon Young, Jr., DL (6-3, 265); Tariq Monroe, Sr, OL (6-4, 370); Latrell Goodwin, Sr., RB (5-8, 185); Parks Cromwell, Jr., DB (5-11, 160); Reggie Browder, Sr., DL (5-11, 220).

Fresh Faces: Wendell Thompson, Jr., QB (6-1, 180); Jake Bell, Jr., LB (6-0, 170).

©2022 The Charlotte Observer. Visit charlotteobserver.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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