The Topsail High School football team has been unable to find much success in its first two years inside the split 3A/4A Mideastern Conference, but excitement for the program continues to grow heading into the 2015 season thanks to a dedicated coaching staff, strong support from a passionate group of parents and supporters, and a core group of seniors ready to make an impact.
As Wayne Inman gets ready to begin his third year on the sidelines in Hampstead, the East Carolina Hall of Famer has used a cast of connections to get certain things accomplished, not only for the benefit of his football players, but the entire athletic department at Topsail.
“I was welcomed by the football community and the football players at Topsail from day one,” said Inman. “They don’t care if you coach them hard. They don’t care if you discipline them. They just don’t want you to mistreat them and that’s the way any parent should be.
“They understand and have been patient from a win/loss standpoint making a jump over the past five, six years from a 1A-2A league, to now competing at the 3A/4A level. The big thing here is you expect them to compete at that level with the tools of a 1A/2A school.”
Matching up against some of the premier football programs in the area, the Pirates have been focusing–over the past three seasons–on taking steps to help lay the foundation for what Inman hopes will be a breakout year for the black and gold. A committed group of seniors–nearly all of whom started as sophomores during Inman’s first year in Hampstead–have taken some licks, but ready to return the favor heading into their final high school campaign.
“When I got here we didn’t even have enough helmets,” Inman added. “The weight room was still the same. Things have changed over these last few seasons. Our first goal was to upgrade equipment, some new stuff, and the second thing was to upgrade the weight room and our field. And the next thing we’ll tackle heading into next year will be our locker room.
“I’m a ‘Field of Dreams’ guy and I believe if you build it, they will come. I think if you have the right facilities, good coaching and an academic side to be proud of, we’d compete with any school in this area.”
While the youth of the program will play an important role in helping guide the team to success, it’ll be senior leaders like offensive lineman Joseph Sculthorpe who will be called upon to step up for Inman as he relies on their experiences to help push his unit to the next level.
Sculthorpe is a skilled offensive lineman, an N.C. State commit, three-time medalist winner in wrestling and state champion.
“I’ve never coached a football team where the senior leadership didn’t play one of the most important roles of that team’s success,” said Inman. “Before you could start winning, there’s a level of commitment you need to have. We have a group now, a senior group that has been pushed around over the last few years and I tell them every day it’s your turn now.
“The kids are around each other all day and the senior leaders are the guys who keep everybody focused.”
The Pirates continue late afternoon practices this week and will be using time on the field to further move towards focusing in on week one against Trask on Aug. 21. Inman has been encouraged with the work put in during the offseason and continues to push his players to get everything he can from a group eager to prove their doubters wrong.
“I’ve made a commitment to these kids, to the parents and to this school,” said Inman. “I told them this would be my last stop before retirement and while I’ve had some offers from other schools, I made a promise to the Topsail football community to leave this program a lot better than I found it. We’re chomping at the bit to get going.
“This is a very good group and I wouldn’t put it passed these guys to surprise some people this season.”
Topsail is scheduled to play five non-conference games leading up to their league opener at Laney on Sept. 25.
Topsail 2015 schedule
Friday, Aug. 21 @ Trask
Friday, Aug. 28 vs. Pender
Friday, Sept. 4 vs. Dixon
Friday, Sept. 11 @Croatan
Friday, Sept. 18 vs. Jacksonville
Friday, Sept. 25 @ Laney
Friday, Oct. 2 vs. West Brunswick
Friday, Oct. 9 @ Ashley
Friday, Oct. 23 vs. South Brunswick
Friday, Oct. 30 @ New Hanover
Friday, Nov. 6 vs. Hoggard