RCHS head football coach Pat Prestridge is almost definitely closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it. And he knows that his team’s unprecedented run of success may be coming to a close sooner rather than later. So it’s natural to look at the confluence of those two things and wonder what his thoughts are on the matter of the remaining longevity of his career.
“It’s hard to say. Who knows? I might wind up staying another 10 years. You don’t ever know,” he says. “But when that time comes I’ll know. When I enjoy going to the pasture and tending to the cows more than I enjoy being on the football field it’s time for me to hang it up.”
But if his current focus on this year’s team is any indication, that time might be further in the future than you might think.
“I haven’t been to the cow pasture in maybe three or four weeks,” he said. “The cows may be dead over there. I don’t know.”
Prestridge and his staff have spent the first week of practice looking to fill some of the gaping holes in his lineup left by one of the most accomplished senior classes in school history.
There are plenty of spots on the field – defensive secondary, defensive line, offensive backfield – that are proven. But the offensive line needs four new starters and the linebacker group has been ravaged by injuries.
“Really we’re just trying to get in the flow, trying to find some bodies, trying to find the best fits, the best unit on offense and defense,” Prestridge said. “We’re just trying to see what’s the best combination for everything.”
That task has been beset by a roster that is thinner than in years past.
“There’s not a lot of depth,” Prestridge said. “We’re going to have a lot of young guys backing up our starters. It’s pretty thin so far.”
That depth was hurt by the transfer of starting wide receiver and linebacker Trey McFarland, who is now at region rival Piedmont. RCHS and Piedmont have waged four epic battles over the past two seasons. Two of those matchups came in the state semifinals where RCHS won in 2017 and Piedmont avenged that loss in 2018.
McFarland’s departure is not the first time RCHS has been hurt by the transfer of an expected starter. Last year two-way starters Trent Lane and Jai Wright left over the summer.
“It hurts, but if you don’t want to be here, don’t be here. That’s the way I see it,” Prestridge said. “We’re Randolph County and we’re going to survive. We’re going to battle every game no matter who’s here or who’s not here. If you think the grass is greener on the other side, that’s your choice.”
RCHS enters this season with a chance to do something that has never happened at the school before. If the Tigers reach the postseason it will be their sixth straight year doing so. The current streak of five straight years ties the five straight from 2002-06, which was also overseen by Prestridge.
If suitable offensive linemen emerge, then the 2019 roster certainly looks like it is playoff caliber. But this year’s starting lineup will be extremely senior heavy, and after this year that playoff streak could be in jeopardy.
“On down in the younger grades we just don’t have many kids playing football. It’s going to be a little bit low,” Prestridge said. “Like next year, most of our starters skill-wise will be ninth graders. It’ll be another building time. But we’ll get those kids ready and we’ll build from there. We’re not going to run from it. We’re not going to jump to the other side of the fence and see if the grass is greener somewhere else. We’re going to live and breathe Randolph County.”
But for now there is no greener pasture – literally and figuratively – calling to Prestridge, and he’s going to keep his focus on making sure his team is ready for Friday night two weeks from now.