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.

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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!

With this in mind, we kick off our high school football preview series with a rising program that made some noise for the first time in a while last season, making it to the state playoffs. With a new, energized head coach at the helm looking to build on the success of last year, don’t count out these boys from East Chapel Hill High School.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Jonathan Sherman, the Head coach over at East Chapel Hill to discuss the state of the program and the expectations for the 2013 season.

Fresh on the job and entering his first season as the main guy, Sherman discussed how he landed this opportunity and highlighted some of his past experience.

I got the opportunity here because I was the associate head coach last year. When Coach Renner retired, I got the opportunity to interview for the job, Sherman said.

Previously, Sherman coached at Jack Britt High School where his team made it all the way to the state championship game before falling to Richmond Senior.

Sherman hopes to build on the improvements made by recently retired coach Renner to achieve big things at East Chapel Hill. He provided a comparison between himself and Renner in our chat.

In terms of his organization and as far as building a program, I think Coach Renner had the same point. We have a different offensive philosophy a little bit. I run a little more, and he is more of that five-wide philosophy. But he built a great thing here. He rebuilt it. I am just trying to keep it going and keep it established in a little different direction, Sherman said.

Although Sherman paid tribute to his predecessor, he was quick to point out that his own high-energy, high-intensity coaching style is one of his distinctive characteristics. In fact, Sherman isnt afraid to step in and participate in the practice drills himself.

I believe strongly in being involved. If I expect them to run the field and move to another station, Im moving, too. Im not going to stand still. I am going to get involved in as much as I can and do as much as I can. At least at the age I am at, I have the ability to do so, Sherman said.

Sherman is even known to compete against his own players. In one instance, he did some tire pull competitions with one of his defensive linemen, and he was looking forward to more head-to-head action with his players.

Tomorrow morning I am hopefully going to beat him out. Thats the goal. We did best out of three, he got me the first one. I slipped, thats what Ill say. I slipped a little bit. This week, Im going to get him. Im going to pull him across tomorrow, Sherman quipped.

Sherman can see a determined look in his players eyes through their intense workout program this summer. The team meets every day, but the coach sees nothing but excitement and passion in the Wildcats each and every day.

When asked about specific goals for the season, the coach empahsized the importance of not looking too far ahead. For Sherman, maintaining that energy and intensity is key to his teams success.

Keeping that high intensity. Thats our major goal-always working hard with energy and never give up. Thats the kind of mentality I bring into it, Sherman said.

Last season, the Wildcats of East Chapel Hill achieved their first playoff appearance since 2003. They tasted success. And now they want more. Sherman believes his team is building off the momentum and really thinks his players have that burning desire to truly make a name for themselves in the high school football ranks.

What I love so much about these kids is just the passion. You look them in the eye, and they want it. They want it bad. They tasted it last year, and they want to keep doing it. So thats huge, just the passion and energy of them wanting to work hard to get there, Sherman said.

The energetic passion exuded from Coach Sherman boiled over in our conversation. It was infectious-I was even fired up! Indeed, a philosophy of hard work and high energy seems to be cemented in place for the ever-improving East Chapel Hill football program. Now all we have to do is wait once again for those lights to burn bright on Friday nights.

***Coming up next on The Grid: a write-up on my conversations with a few of the standout Wildcat team members!

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