Chris Kane can be a realist. The Pinecrest Academy athletic director knows that the Paladins aren’t even on the same playing field as most of its high school peers in Forsyth County, most of which are in the largest classification in the GHSA. And even within Class 1A, the Paladins are a good ways away from the real heavyweights there, like Holy Innocents and Wesleyan, which have close to twice the high school student body.
But the Paladins do their best to compete nonetheless, and they're largely succeeding. Pinecrest recently broke ground on a new turf field at its main stadium, which Kane hopes will be employed for both school and community use. And the Paladins continue to see success from a diverse assortment of teams.
This past year, the girls soccer program reached the cusp of a state title, falling in the finals to Wesleyan. The boys basketball team made its first state playoff appearance as a GHSA member and beat Galloway in the first round. The boys lacrosse team also made its first state playoff appearance, and the football team bounced back from a winless 2017 to get four wins in head coach Terance Mathis' second season at the helm. And in wrestling, Mark Metz won the state title at 103 pounds to give Pinecrest its first GHSA state crown in any sport.
What Kane really wants to establish is consistency, such that all of the programs can crest waves of success at the same time, rather than going in cycles. Given the talent coming back for 2019-20, he feels like Pinecrest is on the right path.
"I think this senior class is probably one of the most talented athletically that we've had in a long time," Kane said. "And that's not knocking previous senior classes, but there's just so many kids that have opportunities to go play at the next level if they want to."
Editor’s note: Responses and questions have been edited for length and clarity.
FCN: So how did the artificial turf project come together, and what kind of effect do you expect that to have on the school in general?
Kane: About a year and a half ago, we had a group of dads that had met with the leadership at that time and expressed an interest in helping us improve our athletic facilities. So it brought me in on it and we started to go through all of the needs for athletics, when it comes to facilities and the lack of a true weight room, locker room, showers and things like that. And (also) turf and lights and all different things, so we came up with a list of five projects that we wanted to do, and we handed it over to the chair of the building committee. What he did is he priced everything out, and when we looked at everything, we had a fieldhouse on there that would have been a brand new weight room, locker room, showers all that stuff that looked the most economical, the most feasible when it came to the finances. The school made a decision to try to start fundraising, so very quietly, we started fundraising for it.
Region titles: 1
Team state titles: 0
Individual state titles: 1
Director’s Cup finish: 55th in Class 1A (46th in boys, 66th in girls)
Best boys state finish: State quarterfinals in basketball
Best girls state finish: 2nd in soccer
Then there was a leadership change, and come July 12, Dr. (Edward) Spurka (the Head of School) comes on board, I meet with him, his first question to me is, 'How come we don't have turf?' And I said, 'Well, I would love to have turf, but this is how we've got it.' So after a few weeks of discussing things, he really pushed for us to really shift gears from the fieldhouse to turf because there were some different aspects to it. One, all the students would benefit from it, not just student athletes with the fieldhouse type of thing. And then we could open it up to the community and get our name out there even more, so there was a lot more to it. Plus, when we went back and redid the finances, there was a shift and it was significantly lower, and it seemed a lot more doable. As far as I was concerned as the athletic director, I was just happy to get a project being done.
So we went forward with the fundraising of it at the gala ... We were able to raise the funds, and it's going to impact athletics significantly. It was almost like divine intervention this past year with the fall and the spring and the amount of rain that we got. It sort of opened up some people's pockets a little bit more. We had entire weeks of scrambling to find fields to play varsity games on or cancelling practice, or there was so many different things. With the turf field, it's going to allow us to play all of our games in the spring, because that's the bigger impact. Football's going to be played whether it's raining or not, but soccer, lacrosse, it's going to be huge. It's going to be huge for us. Even practice-wise, it's going to allow us to get out there. We may have to move some things and have practices a little later, since (we'll be) moving people from the grass fields to everyone on the turf, but it'll allow us to get practice time, and we won't lose that. And then it's going to help the whole student body, because PE will be able to go out there when they need to, (and0 we always have field day out there, where in past years we've had to cancel because of muddy fields or saving it for playoffs or something, and we'll be able to hold those for the lower school and the middle school.
It's going to be a huge impact, and I'm over the moon. It's going to be awesome.
FCN: Do you ever compare yourself to the other high schools in the county, even with the disparity in enrollment and the differences between public and private?
Kane: Well, in some cases you can. It's always great to say, 'Here we are, we're a 1A school and we have similar facilities.' We don't need a gigantic stadium like the big school because we don't have 3500 students. But when a new family comes in from outside the area, aesthetically, it looks great.
But even moreso, it puts us on a level playing field with the teams we are competing against, the Kings Ridges, the Mt. Pisgashs, the Fellowship (Christian)s, that already have turf. And that's going to be significant. And one of the things that we're hoping, especially with the county schools, is that with us, we really look for the multi-sport athlete. We need our students to be multi-sport athletes to be able to offer all of the different sports that we have. So it'a s little bit more difficult to be a multi-sport athlete at a Lambert or even a Denmark because of the size of the school and the amount of kids coming out for a sport. Here, our coaching staff is great in that they really accommodate the student athletes and hopefully aren't putting much pressure on them to skip one thing to go to another. And to work with the student athletes so they can do different workouts and things like that.
Apples and oranges comparing us to the county schools, but when we have something the county schools have, it's like, 'Hey, we have that too! So it's nice to have.'
FCN: You and head boys and girls soccer coach Domenic Martelli have a common background, with both of you coming to Pinecrest from college soccer head coaching positions. (Kane at Marshall, Martelli at Georgia State.) With that in mind, does your relationship extend to on-field action?
Kane: Oh yeah, he'll bounce things off me, especially this last run, getting to the state championship with the girls. He's sending me clips on Hudl, and I would just say, 'Hey, what do you think about this, what if you tried this.' And not during the game or in the middle of it, but before a game, (like) 'Have you ever thought about trying her out here?' He's always receptive, he never feels, (or) I hope he doesn't feel any pressure, because we're just two old soccer coaches talking shop. (For) next year, we talk about the kids who are coming up and who we could possibly move around and all of that.
So yeah, we do talk shop. We do talk shop, because like I said, we're old soccer coaches, and it's what our kids play. It's even more normal to have that happen. But he'll talk to me about different things, and I'll ask him, 'What's the game plan against this team or what are you thinking, we're going to do this, we're going to do that.' I'll never forget: He had seen ELCA play, and I'll never forget he called me, I was out of town somewhere, and he said, 'I don't know if we can beat them.' And I was like, 'Ah, don't worry, I'm sure if we meet them you'll figure it out.' And that week, before the ELCA game, he was watching film, watching film and he sees me and he's like, 'I figured it out! I think I know how we can beat them!' I'm like, 'Cool, let's do it, man!' So yeah, we definitely do talk shop.