As the 40th anniversary of Providence Day School passes, it’s important to look back on years that were, specifically the first year of Charger Football. There hasn’t always been a football team since the school’s inception, however. But in 1978, thanks to the help of Coach Gil Murdock and Dr. Howard DeHaven, a new program was born.
As one of the newer private schools, PD’s lack of a football team was no big deal. Charlotte Christian and Country Day were the only private schools to have a football team, and there were just over 200 students in all of Upper School. But even with such small numbers, Coach Murdock and was able to field a group of 16 young men, largely thanks to Dr. DeHaven, who helped to fund the team and buy equipment out of his own pocket.
Getting enough players to field a team was a challenge of its own. The team was missing a quarterback, so Dr. DeHaven and linebacker Buddy Jordan set out to convince quarterback Bill Estridge, a childhood friend of Jordan’s, no join Providence Day School. It didn’t take long before Providence Day had found their first quarterback.
DeHaven, Jordan, Estridge, and Murdock advertised the new football team, but at the first practice, they only drew 13 players. Coach Murdock ran three practices, and then he asked the team a huge question.
“Guys, we only have 13 players,” said Murdock. “I don’t think that’s enough to field a team. Do you think we can get more players? Can we get 16 or 19 players? What do you want to do?”
Bill Estridge stood up and said, “We can find some more players, but we’ll play with 13 if we have to.”
Providence Day’s addition of a football team was key to the school, to say the least. Many of the players would have left if the program hadn’t been established. Students also had a news sense of pride with another Varsity sport to cheer. For many, Providence Day finally felt like a complete school. Other schools already had an established football program, so it was good to have a reason to cheer for football.
The start of the first season was a tough to say the least. The team almost wasn’t able to compete because of a lack of players, but the team was determined to play no matter how small they were. With such small numbers, every single player had to give it their all; almost everyone had to stay on the field the entire game. As Buddy Jordan put it, “At the end of the game, there was nothing left. That build a lot of character for those guys who played on the team; they understood what it felt to go farther then they thought they could. The only way you could get off the field was if you were really hurt, not just banged up. You had to represent your school; you were almost always underdogs.”
Without a home field to play at, the team had to take a rickety, un-air-conditioned bus to practice at the Church of God. Home games had to be played at Charlotte Catholic (which now is Holy Trinity). The field conditions were poor, their numbers were low, and the odds were against them. The year ended with an unsatisfactory 1-8 record.
Year two of Charger football was far more successful. With an extra year of experience under the players’ belt and the arrival of Coach Jay Kopel and several new players, Providence Day was in line for a huge improvement. Kopel was an offensive lineman at Davidson and brought high energy and several key assistants to Providence Day.
Before the regular season started, Coach Kopel sent several players (including then seniors Bill Estridge and Buddy Jordan) to a summer football camp at Appalachian State. The team grew closer together and the hard work paid off; the Chargers tripled their previous win total to finish the season 6-3, including all six wins coming on shutouts.
Adding a football program meant more then to Providence Day then just another game to attend. It built character in each of the players, all of whom spent most, if not all of the game, on the field, along with friendships that last still to this day. Jordan and Estridge went on to play college football together and remain friends to this day. The Chargers of today wouldn’t be here without the original Chargers, and for all of their hard work and persistence, we salute them.