On the Rise
by Staff Writer
by Aaron Burns
Meet the Lake Norman Chargers. Their coach, Randy Ferrell, runs a trucking company called Cargo Logistics. The offensive coordinator is former University of North Carolina quarterback and NFL wide receiver Ronald Curry. The Chargers’ roster is made up of home-schooled players and students from Pine Lake Prep, Mooresville Christian, Lake Norman, Hough and Mooresville.
Before this year, their quarterback, A.J. Carangelo, played guard. The Chargers’ home stadium is at Mooresville High, but they practice at the Community School of Davidson.
And three weeks into their maiden varsity football season, in addition to being able to call themselves the area’s most diverse team, the Chargers can call themselves winners.
The Chargers knocked off Union County St. Jude, 30-13, on Sept. 2 with plenty of help from Carangelo and fellow quarterback Akeem Barringer.
It was a relief to Carangelo, who was on the Chargers’ junior varsity team last year.
“We were pretty pumped up as a team,” said Carangelo, who attends Pine Lake Prep. “It was a good confidence booster for all the guys.”
A win in its third contest wasn’t what Ferrell expected when he decided to move the Chargers, a program he started in 2009, to junior varsity in 2010 and then to varsity this season. The Chargers were originally just a middle school team, but Ferrell wanted them to move up. Earlier this summer, he wanted just to have enough players to field a varsity squad. It didn’t look promising when fewer than 20 players initially showed up.
My, how things changed.
“I had hoped for 25 or 30 kids, but now we’re standing at 40,” Ferrell said. “We’ve cut off our registration.
“These kids don’t have a chance to play somewhere else because the private schools don’t field teams. So I told the schools, ‘Let me take the kids and we’ll start a team.’”
The first players who signed up weren’t just the trailblazers for a new football team. They also had to be recruiters.
Carangelo recalled that at the beginning of summer practice, the Chargers’ coaches told the players to ask all their friends if they wanted to play football. What that request got them, in addition to a bunch of new athletes, was a hodge-podge pool of players from different schools.
At first glance, you probably wouldn’t even notice that the team doesn’t draw from just one school, considering how much chemistry the players have with one another. What would seem to be a daunting task – getting players from different areas and backgrounds to work together and trust each other – has been easy, Ferrell said. It’s also been a catalyst for the Chargers’ success.
“We’ve had the guys go to the movies together, go shoot pool, just do whatever they can do to grow closer as a team,” said Ferrell.
“We had to break down the borders from different schools and eliminate what some guys might have thought about guys from other schools. So we’ve had meals together – some pre-game, some not – and we’ll just get together and play basketball or something. It’s been pretty cool.”
In addition to learning about quarterbacking from Curry, Carangelo has taken a leadership role with the team. Most of the Chargers have to play on both sides of the ball despite their 40-man roster because injuries can spring a player into action at any time.
But Carangelo said it’s been a fun task because, if players hadn’t built up trust before they had to learn offensive and defensive positions, that new wrinkle certainly sped up the process. That much was evident, he said, when the Chargers’ linemen paved the way for the team to knock off St. Jude.
“The offensive line – Jordan Defazio, Matt Nicholson, Edgar (Lobina), Mason (Embry) and Caleb Keller – did a really good job of holding their blocks,” Carangelo said.
“Our other quarterback, Akeem, did an awesome job as well. He can throw it or run it, and he did both.”
Having a pair of players ably perform at the game’s most important position has been a positive for the Chargers, Carangelo added. While Carangelo continues to learn the ropes of the position – he said his favorite play is “when we send two receivers deep on ‘fly’ routes and I just bomb it” – Barringer can step in and make plays as well.
Each player brings his own characteristics to the position, Ferrell said. Either Carangelo or Barringer can start on any given Friday, but it’s a certainty that both will see plenty of action.
“A.J.’s done well for us, he threw a 60-yard touchdown pass against Lake Norman Charter in our first game,” Ferrell said. “We run a spread option with Akeem, and he’s shown what he can do as well.”
Of course, alternating quarterbacks and building team chemistry aren’t the only challenges Ferrell and his staff face. There’s also the matter of limited knowledge of several of their opponents.
St. Jude is also in its first year of varsity football, and Ferrell said he wasn’t completely sure what they would bring to the table. But he gave his players as much instruction as possible and saw to it that the Chargers’ first-ever Carolinas Christian Athletic Conference game was a victory.
According to Carangelo, the Chargers had full faith that they had the talent to take down their neophyte brethren from Union County.
“I don’t think there was a doubt the whole time,” Carangelo said. “We’re confident as a team.”
Now, Carangelo added, the Chargers know what it feels like to win. And they want that feeling again. On Friday, Sept. 9, against Durham Kestrel Heights, they’ll go for win No. 2.
“We’re becoming closer and closer as a team,” Carangelo said, “and we’re getting better along the way.
“I think we’ll win some more games.”