Frankie Carroll won a Florida state title while he was at Madison County, and now he brings that same winning mentality to Pelham.
PELHAM -- Frankie Carroll spent more than three decades in Madison County, Fla., before crossing state lines and leaving home.
Oddly enough, 75 miles from Boot Hill where Carroll coached Madison County to a FHSAA state title and seven straight playoff appearances, the coach is back at home in Pelham. As he told his players Wednesday, Carroll is at home wherever there's a football field.
Now he wants to bring with him that winning magic he had across the border.
"Those boys in Madison, when they stepped on the field, they believed they were going to win," said Carroll, who lived in Madison County for 34 years. "It didn't matter who they were playing. That's what we have to get here."
Carroll takes over a Hornets program that has gone winless in three of the last five seasons. Pelham opens the season tonight at Baconton Charter with a renewed confidence that players say was missing.
"The mentality of the team has changed completely," senior Hornets quarterback Cody Godwin said. "We're moving in the right direction."
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WHO: Baconton vs. Pelham.
WHAT: Season opener for both teams.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.
WHERE: Centennial Stadium, Camilla.
FOLLOW ONLINE: For live updates, log onto twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports
As with any program that has run ashore, Carroll wants to bring a winning attitude back and his resume insists he has the ability.
He went 89-12-1 in eight years at the Cowboys helm, winning the FHSAA 2A state title in 2007 while appearing in two other state championship games. He took over that program from current Lowndes County head coach Randy McPherson.
"We want to come in here and win," Carroll said. "That's what we expect to do. I know it's going to take some time, but we can put 11 on the field as athletic as anybody."
Carroll didn't coach in 2010 after taking a year away from the game following the loss of his sister, who was killed in a car wreck. He took time to reflect on her memory and then he asked for guidance, which led him to Pelham High.
"I had a hard time with (my sister's death)," Carroll said. "She was my biggest fan at Madison. I missed her so bad so I took the year off. I missed this, too, though."
Carroll brings the Wing-T offense from Madison County and a reputation for stout defenses that stop the run. He said he feels the talent at Pelham is there to compete and dominate like his Madison County teams did in the Sunshine State.
"It's what's between their ears," Carroll said of the difference between his former and current teams. "They're athletic enough to play."
Pelham junior fullback and middle linebacker Denzel Jackson will be one of the keys this season after the Hornets lost Caleb Morrel, their quarterback and leading rusher from a year ago. Despite that, the feeling on the field this summer has been much different.
"New coach, new momentum, new motivation," Jackson said. "Everybody is getting after it and has the mindset of winning a championship."
Jackson will be joined in the backfield by senior Brandon Bostick and junior Brandon Smith. Godwin, who didn't play last year, likely won't throw much, but the southpaw "makes it all click," Carroll said.
The Hornets' offensive line will make the Wing-T go, however, and they're mostly upperclassmen, including seniors Robert Dill and Nathan Harvey.
Defensively, first-time players Steve Mango and Kenya Douglas, both seniors, are new additions who bring beef to the defensive line. Douglas can clog up the middle from his tackle spot and Mango, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound basketball player, could be dominant at defensive end.
"Before the season's over, people are going to know who Steve Mango is on the football field," Carroll said.
Pelham went 0-10 last season under former head coach Jim Morrell, despite winning two early games that had to be forfeited because Pelham used an ineligible player. With Carroll, who averaged more than 11 wins a season at Madison County, the Hornets seem to already be feeding off his winning pedigree.
"You won't talk to two more confident people than me and (Jackson)," Godwin said.
Pelham's 2011 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Frankie Carroll (first season at Pelham, 8th as a head coach overall; 89-12-1 career coaching record).
2010 RECORD: 0-10.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Shane Wheeler (defensive coordinator); John Sirmon (offensive coordinator); Justin Sirmon (offensive line); Marcus Singletary (special teams/WRs); Jeray Randall (defensive backs); Derek Lavatte (defensive line); Willie Frank (LBs) .
RETURNING STARTERS: Denzel Jackson (Jr., RB/LB); Robert Dill (Sr., OG); Nate Harvey (Sr., OT); Kyle Dawson.
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Cody Godwin (Sr., QB); Brandon Bostick (Sr., RB); Brandon Smith (Sr., RB); Corey Morgan (Jr., OG); Elijah Haywood (Sr., DB).
2011 PELHAM HORNETS schedule
Today vs. Baconton, in Camilla, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 vs. Thomasville, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Brooks County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Stewart County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Randolph-Clay, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 at Miller County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 vs. Seminole County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 vs. Terrell County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 29 at Mitchell County, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 vs. Calhoun County (1-A), 7:30 p.m.