When counting his blessings, Joey Price merely has to look at one of his hands … and the five rings adorning them.
Twenty years roaming the sideline in North Carolina allowed Price to become one of the state’s most decorated coaches, winning five state championships — all at Wallace-Rose Hill — and compiling a record of 238-42, a winning percentage of 86 percent.
But when it comes down to winning football games, the longtime head coach understands his past accomplishments won’t bring him any closer to another taste of glory. That can only come courtesy of hard work, belief and a trust among coaches and players.
“I can’t boil those rings … can’t fry them, can’t eat them,” Price said. “All you can worry about is this day, this team.
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“Some coaches say, ‘If I can win a state championship, then I can retire.’ For me, I like doing this, I love being with the kids. They motivate me to work harder, and for that I want to be able to give them the opportunity to taste the same.”
Winning a title remains the chief aspiration for Price as a football coach. This year, however, he’s set more modest goals for his first season at St. James.
In 2015, the Sharks celebrated their most successful year in history, winning seven games and earning the program’s first playoff win. A year later, victory would prove fleeting for the squad, going winless.
For us, it is going to take some time. We have a new offense and a new defense, but our effort and enthusiasm have been good. Hopefully, we can pull it together and win some games.
St. James football coach Joey Price
St. James was overmatched on both sides of the football, giving up more than 38 points per game while being held to an average of 8.6 points themselves. Yet as Price opened his first camp in Murrells Inlet, focus was not on what went wrong during the 2016 football campaign, instead honing in on things the team can work to make right.
“The kids are working really hard,” he said. “You can’t blame them for any of the things in the past. Wins and losses will come and go, but you can’t ask them to work any harder than they have.”
Twenty lettermen return for the Sharks. However, starting spots are assured to none of them.
“I wasn’t here last year,” Price said. “So in my mind, we have no starters here. And until we get some live game action to help us determine otherwise, it will remain that way.
“Competition has been good. (Players) respect each other, but understand the fight (for starting spots) is between them at practice. Afterward, they can be friends again, and eventually focus that same energy on beating their opponent.”
A few have shown leadership potential, though.
Seniors Patrick Murphy and Josh Marlowe are expected to produce for St. James this season, with junior running back and defensive back Chris Anderson beginning to blossom as a weapon in the team’s attack.
But the trio will not be able to spearhead this revival on their own.
“Our schedule is already mighty tough. Three of the four teams in our region will be ranked in state polls,” Price said. “Plus, I’ve seen way more spread teams here than in North Carolina. Up there, there is more of a hodgepodge of teams using the spread, but down here you see it regularly with your two-by-two and three-by-one sets, especially in 4A and 5A.
“For us, it is going to take some time. We have a new offense and a new defense, but our effort and enthusiasm have been good. Hopefully, we can pull it together and win some games. If not, we’ll live with the consequences … as long as there is a lesson we can learn from it, and use it to our advantage later.”
St. James Sharks
Coach: Joey Price (238-42 career, first year at St. James)
2016 record: 0-10, 0-4 Region VII-4A
Key players: Chris Anderson (Jr., RB/DB), Patrick Murphy (Sr., LB), Josh Marlowe (Sr., OL/DL)
The word: Frustration was a common theme for St. James during the 2016 season, the taste of victory proving rather fleeting to the Sharks. In the fallout from a disappointing gridiron campaign, Robby Brown resigned from his post at the school, being replaced by North Carolina high school football coaching legend Joey Price. The new Sharks head man confesses he is starting at ground zero in turning things around, particularly on defense where the team gave up better than 38 points per game last year.