Standing in a circle on the first day of football practice at Ross Field on Aug. 20, the first-ever football players at New Mission High learned the difference between jumping jacks and Titan Jacks.
“No, no, that’s so soft now, when we say it, say it like you mean it,” screamed assistant coach Jeff Anderson, interrupting the drill moments after head coach Michael Pittman Forman explained how to spell out T-I-T-A-N-S while doing jumping jacks in sync.
“Come on fellas, this sets the tone, you are the first team from this school, let them know.”
The 13-players in the circle didn’t get past ‘I’ when Anderson interrupted again.
"This is the foundation of what we do,” Anderson said before the players tried and failed once more before finally getting it down.
Learning how to do jumping jacks in unison might not seem like much. But it truly was the seeds of a high school football program for the 14-year-old pilot school that is no stranger to starting from scratch.
This fall, the school moved from its old building in Mission Hill to the former Hyde Park Education Complex.
“We try to give a total high school experience at New Mission High School and for some reason it doesn’t have same the same feel unless you have a football team," New Mission athletic director and basketball coach Cory McCarthy said. "And when you have a football team you have kids buying into a system; football is not an individual sport so everyone has to play a part.
“It’s actually one of our biggest accomplishments to put a football team on the field. It signifies that a small school, even though we’re going to be combined with [Boston Community Leadership Academy] can get anything done if you have the right kids to commit to it.”
Since he started the school’s basketball program 11 years ago, McCarthy has won one state championship in girls’ basketball and two with the boys’ team.
“My thing is have a lot of patience, don’t listen to what other people are saying because they are the people saying we may not win a game for six years, those things fuel what we do,” McCarthy said. “I was told by people in BPS ‘Why should we get a basketball team, you may not ever win anything’ and look what happened.”
McCarthy said fifth-year headmaster, Naia Wilson, has been ‘instrumental’ in securing the team and said she is a ‘visionary’ when it comes to the school’s athletic department.
Pittman Forman said the school’s basketball culture will help nurture the football program.
“You need a total sports school; totally sports crazy, fanatical,” Pittman Forman said. "Working with Cory has been a pleasure … The thing he told me is if you build it they will come. It will take time, but it will come. Me and my staff are looking forward to the challenge of building the program from scratch.”
Pittman Forman is no stranger to building a football program in Boston.
He was the head coach at Cathedral High for five seasons but did not coach the team last year when the team's go-ahead touchdown was called back in the final minutes of the Division 4A Super Bowl due to a controversial excessive celebration call. The team's quarterback briefly raised his arm before scoring and a national controversy ensued after Cathedral lost the game.
“It was in rebuilding stages, not that great,” Pittman Foreman said of the condition of the Cathedral program when he took it over. “I had to make some changes. I made some changes for good. Last year, they were in the Super Bowl.”
Pittman Forman said he learned many lessons during his tenure at Cathedral that he can draw on in building the New Mission program.
“The big difference is you have no idea what you’re going to have for athletes even though you hear trickling’s of this that and the other,” said Pittman Foreman, who spent last season as Newton South’s defensive coordinator. “The practice facility, equipment, new uniforms, everything is in baby stages, everything is like a newborn. You have to nurture a newborn.”
Not everyone on Pittman Forman’s new team is a football newbie though. Boston Community Leadership Academy, which was part of Brighton's team last year, is now housed in the Hyde Park Education Complex and will contribute players to New Mission’s team.
And for the last few years New Mission has sent players to Boston English’s football team. At least four of the former English players are now playing for their own school.
“It helps because we’re going to be able to teach them, make them better, we have more experiences then most of them,” said junior fullback and linebacker Marcus Watson, who played for English last year. “We can help them get to the place we are and help them build on each other.”
Senior quarterback Darien Amado, who played for English the last two years, said he does feel bad about leaving his former English teammates.
“Those are also my brothers who I played with and fought in the trenches with them,” he said. “And the coaches, they propped me up and helped me become the football player I am. So I do owe them a lot of things but when we face them I’m going to have to use what they taught me against them.”
Coaches around the league, however, are saying that New Mission could be good out of the gate, given their coaching experience and the athletic culture at the school.
Pittman Foreman, who has about 26 players heading into the season, isn't buying into any hearsay until his team steps onto the field for the first time against Dorchester at 3:30 p.m. on Friday at White Stadium.
But that doesn't mean he never thinks about what it would feel like to win four or five games this season.
“It would be special,” he said. “And that’s what our expectations are. But once again, it depends on who and what and where we are.”
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- Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
- Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.