CHAPEL HILL— The dog days of summer provide a definite lull in the normal buzzing of sports activity in every other season. With the unfortunate void, minds tend to wander to the end of August, when the glories of football return.

Although on a national scale, the college and professional games garner nearly all the attention, for some purists, there is nothing better than Friday night lights. Yes, high school football reigns supreme in many regions.

And if you can cast your eyes past the giant in the room that is UNC in these neck of the woods, you may just find a palpable mix of passion and performance on the gridiron that has many locals all fired up!

In this edition of our high school football preview series, I had the opportunity to catch up with Isaac Marsh, Head coach of the Tigers of Chapel Hill High School.

***Listen to the interview***

Coach Marsh seemed to have a deep understanding of his players and firm grasp on the identity of his team. And this is a quality you don’t always find in coaches.

It became evident in our conversation how much Marsh cared about each and every member of his Chapel Hill squad. Many coaches fight for wins, but Marsh fights for his players first. I must say, it was a refreshing undertone to encounter in today’s sporting world that seems consumed with the “win at all costs” mentality.

Marsh played football at North Carolina A & T in college and has amassed 15 years of coaching experience. Sculpted by his years on the football field, he shared a little bit of his coaching philosophy.

“No one piece is greater than the whole. We try to get across to the players that we are going to have each guys prepared. We are not counting on just one individual to help us win ball games, but just prepare all the players so that they will be able to contribute,” Marsh said.

Having lost in the second round of the state playoffs last season, the Tigers will be looking to build on the momentum of that 9-3 season that has Marsh pumped up about his squad’s chances in 2013.

“I definitely like our guys’ attitudes and commitment to get better each week. Looking forward to this upcoming season for guys who have been a part of the program to continue the success that others who have come before them have built,” Marsh said.

Despite all the wins, Marsh says there is something else about his current team that has him most impressed.

“Their attitude, camaraderie with one another is something that I just haven’t seen in a long time,” Marsh said.

In fact, when asked about the Tigers’ goals for the season, Marsh preferred not to focus on overall wins and losses, but rather the individual successes and accomplishments of his players.  Graduating high school and displaying improvement as a person and football player are two of the things Marsh expects at Chapel HillHigh School.

This summer, the varsity team traveled to Elon for a football camp, attended a seven-on-seven passing league in Pinecrest, and has been spending plenty of hours in the weight room and on the practice field at Chapel Hill.

Highlighting discipline, attention to detail, and having fun as keys to success for Chapel Hill on the gridiron, Coach Marsh also conceded that his experienced players like all-conference running back Darius Allen must make up for his team’s overall youth.

“We have guys that have talent, but they just lack the varsity experience. We are going to be young this year on both sides of the football. Hopefully, our youth is going to come through with a mixture of our older guys,” Marsh said.

Marsh went as far as to say that the newly formed Great 8 conference that his team will be a part of this fall, could be considered one of the very best conferences in high school football. And for this reason, he has been preaching the importance of maintaining focus to the team.

“If we can expect our opponent, that means we are going to play at our highest level. We are definitely going to get our opponent’s best,” Marsh said. “So the main thing I have been preaching to our players: respect your opponent.”

And who knows? With a little healthy respect, a focused Head coach, and a talented core of young players, the Chapel Hill Tigers may just make a run at a conference title.

Next up on The Grid, we’ll hear from Coach Tudryn and some of his players as his state runner-up Carrboro team gets geared up for another run at glory.