The Lakeside High weight room was a symphony last week.
Shouts of encouragement mixed with clanging of weights and kettlebells to form the melody Panthers football players and coaches have grown to enjoy.
You should hear it during the summer, assistant coach Jarrett Troxler said. The stereo is plugged in and real tunes blend with the heightened energy with the anticipation of football season.
Lakeside's strength program, while not unique among high school football programs, has been praised by head coach Jody Grooms for the success of his football team the past two seasons.
Lakeside won its first region football title in 2009 in large part because its players are bigger and stronger, coaches said.
The architect of the Panthers' strength program is second-year coach John Creager, who had worked with Grooms in the past before being brought on as defensive coordinator and strength coach before the 2008 season.
In Creager's first season, the Panthers went 7-3 and narrowly missed a playoff berth. This season, the Panthers won a region title and their first playoff game.
"If you go check any program around the country, the ones that have good strength programs win," Creager said.
That includes South Carolina power Byrnes and Independence High in Charlotte, N.C., Creager said. The ones running similar programs to Lakeside are strong every year, he said.
Another factor is a consistent coaching staff that will keep the strength program in place. Bobby Bentley led Byrnes for 12 seasons before leaving for a two-season stint as head coach at Presbyterian College. He is back at Byrnes as athletic director and offensive coordinator. Tom Knotts coached at Independence for 10 years and led the Patriots to a North Carolina state record 109 consecutive wins between 2000 and 2007.
Creager has been strength coach at Newberry College, East Tennessee State, Pikeville and Brevard. He was on staff with Grooms at Anson (N.C.) High School.
Creager, an Augusta native, believes the Lakeside staff could be around a while.
"Coach Grooms gives me free rein to do what I need," he said. "The touchdown club does a good job."
Lakeside's weight room is a concrete structure with no windows and is next to Panther Stadium. The building needed work when Creager arrived.
He painted the interior, laid new flooring and brought in new equipment. He then went to work selling the football team on his program.
A session last week began with a "dynamic stretch."
Ten squats. Ten good mornings. Ten wood-choppers. Ten supermen. Ten mountain-climbers.
Lakeside began a four-week program this week. Last week was to get them sore.
During the offseason, the Panthers will do many workouts similar to what they do during the season, except lift on Fridays. That's right; Lakeside lifts on game days.
It's something coaches did at Anson in response to players sitting around eating snacks and watching film before games. After Lakeside shut out Evans to start the 2009 season, the Panthers were on board.
"It helps create discipline, coming to work every day," Lakeside offensive lineman John Hardy said. "It's made us a lot better as a team. In here, we'll cheer everyone on, no matter how strong or how weak they are."
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