Titans bringing independent football program to Sandhills

Mar. 21, 2014 @ 05:01 AM

Former North Carolina State football player Mark Shaw calls high school football, “an iconic part, a staple of American life.”

At the same time, Shaw, who’s taken up the head coaching helm of the Sandhills Titans, says the shot to play under the Friday night lights isn’t as much a part of growing up as it used to be. With more private, home-school and charter schools as options, and even with the consolidation of smaller public high schools into larger schools over the years, the Titans can fill an important role.

“Now you’re getting to the point where fewer kids are getting the opportunity to play,” said Shaw.

The Titans, based in Raleigh from 2008-13, are moving to Fayetteville - making Reid Ross Classical School their home stadium - beginning this coming fall. The Titans have a schedule lined up. They have a tradition and record of success, off the field as well as on, Shaw is tasked to continue. Now the Titans need players.

The Titans will be holding a combine for any interested players on April 5, from 10 a.m.-noon, at Kiwanis Family Park in Sanford.

Taking on a mix of private, public and other independent football programs, the Titans have had wins and playoff berths in the past six seasons.

“The real goal though is to improve kids, to improve their character,” Shaw said.

Academic goals and tutoring services are part of the Titan program, as well as a Christian background.

“At it’s core, this program has always been a Christian ministry,” he said. “You don’t need to be a Christian to participate, but we incorporate those values into the program.”

An independent football team, which Shaw hopes will draw players from Lee, Harnett, Moore and Chatham counties, along with the Fayetteville, Fort Bragg and still the Triangle areas, has unique challenges - starting with each practice. The coaches have to accommodate and be flexible with many families’ and schools’ schedules.

A former Yellow Jacket standout, Kyle Flood, is one of Shaw’s assistant coaches.

“We’re very excited to have Kyle on board,” Shaw said.

From having seen him in action as a linebacker/safety for Lee County, Shaw said he wants Flood to bring the same intensity to the Titans.

“I saw him play and know him as a person,” he said. “So when I knew he had an interest in coaching, I knew I wanted to give him an opportunity.”

Shaw himself has experience under two legendary coaches, having played for the Wolfpack while Monte Kiffin was head coach and Pete Carroll was defensive coordinator.

There are other combine dates and sites lined up around the region. Workouts and tryouts will get going in May, Shaw said. More information on combine registration and the Titan program can by found at www.sandhillstitans.com or by calling (919) 478-3036 or emailing info@sandhillstitans.com.