Transition may just be the theme for the Owen football team this summer.
The Warhorses are in the middle of summer workouts as they prepare for their first season under new head coach Nathan Padgett.
All-time great Warhorse Jager Gardner has taken his record-breaking rushing totals to Temple University, and Kenny Ford retired after nearly 30 years on the sideline.
But even as the football program enters a new era, the familiar faces that have long been associated with Owen football got together at the Black Mountain Golf Course last week for a tradition nearly three decades old.
More than 80 golfers were on hand for the 29th annual Warhorse Classic, an annual captain's choice tournament that benefits the high school football team.
The tournament, which has become a key fundraiser for the Warhorses during its existence, was started by Ford prior to his second season with the football team nearly three decades ago. He offered to organize this year's Warhorse Classic as Padgett, his former player and successor, adjusts to his role with the team.
“I’ve done it for 29 years now and I know what to do, and I know how to run it,” Ford said of the tournament. “Everybody that volunteers knows how to do their job, and it runs perfectly.”
Padgett, whose foursome included his brother, Black Mountain Police Chief Steve Padgett, was more than happy to accept Ford's offer as he prepares for official start of high school football season on Aug. 1.
“Coach Ford and I talked, and he agreed to organize and run the tournament for us, which I am very thankful for,” Nathan Padgett said. “I have never put on a golf tournament before. He established that tournament well over 20 years ago, and that’s been one of the main fundraisers for this area.”
Padgett felt that Ford’s continued participation with Warhorse Classic offered an ideal way for Ford to remain involved with the team following his retirement at the end of the school year.
The tournament is popular with Owen alumni, with many coming from out of town to participate, according to Ford. Following the tournament, participants gathered around the 19th Hole Grill, where mayor and former Warhorse football player Michael Sobol, along with Mike Raines, grilled ribs and chicken. Golfers filed into the restaurant with plates as merchandise was auctioned to benefit the team.
Padgett, who was participating in the event for the first time, was impressed by the amount of community support for the tournament.
“Our relationship with the community is a partnership,” he said. “I think the community and local businesses have been very supportive. I was able to go out in a couple of days and get around 10 gift certificates from local businesses for the auction.”
That backing from the public is paramount, as the costs associated with the sport of football are sizable, according to Ford.
“It costs $300 to $400 just to get the decals for the helmets,” he said. “Fundraisers like this tournament are necessary.”