There may be a new high school football power emerging in Baltimore City.
Green Street Academy, a public charter school located just south of Route 40 in West Baltimore, is off to a winning start in its first varsity season. The Chargers opened the year with five straight victories, outscoring opponents 161-56.
Green Street Academy, which opened in 2010, fielded a JV football team in 2016, which lost its first three games before winning four straight to close out the season.
"Our motto from our first meeting in May of 2016 has been 'we're carrying the bricks," head coach Darrell Alt said. "Our school is a beautiful brick building, and we often refer to it as carrying the bricks to build our football program. It's a neat concept to be the first to try something, and I stress that to our guys. They're carrying the bricks so that someone else down the line will get to enjoy being a part of this tradition."
Alt has 18 years of coaching experience, including a stint as head coach at the collegiate level for Juniata College from 2004-2008.
It was Alt's time at Juniata that ultimately led him to Green Street Academy. Jay Leonard, who played quarterback for Alt at Juniata, was named Green Street Academy's athletic director in 2014 and thought his former coach would be perfect for the job.
"He's easily one of the most influential people I've come across in my life," Leonard said. "I knew he was a character man -- someone that wouldn't just worry about wins, but building character into our athletes and teaching good values."
Green Street Academy, which uses the old Gwynns Falls Park Junior High School building, is a coed school for grades six-12, with about 450 students in middle school and 400 students in high school.
The turnout for the team has been encouraging, with 34 players currently on the Chargers' roster, including many who have never played organized football before.
"I'd always played football in my community with friends, but by getting to play for the school's football team, I've gotten to feel like I'm a part of something," senior center and defensive tackle Darrien Langhorn said. "Our group is a strong family -- we always help each other bounce back and keep grinding."
The team's season has already been filled with exciting moments, starting with the season-opener against Model Secondary School for the Deaf from Washington, D.C. Green Street Academy won, 53-8, in front of an electric crowd at Babe Ruth Field -- the Chargers' home field, which used to be Cardinal Gibbons' home.
"To play in our first home varsity game is pretty incredible," senior wide receiver and defensive end Lavon Weathers said. "It's really cool to look back on it and think about how we all got to be a part of school history."
The school is currently an independent, meaning the Chargers aren't eligible to win a state title or league championship.
That also means Green Street Academy had a tougher time filling out its schedule than the typical high school team. This year, the Chargers are playing teams from all over, including out-of-state opponents from D.C. and West Virginia.
The team's only matchup against a Baltimore City School will come Nov. 3 against Douglass, which will be the Chargers' first opportunity to play in a rivalry atmosphere.
"A lot of Baltimore teams still aren't sure who we are," Weathers said. "When we play Douglass, we're going to be prepared and ready to play our best so that people can get to know our name more."
That seems to be a sentiment that surrounds the Green Street Academy football program -- being a newer institution, there's hope that football, and athletics in general, can provide a way to spread the word about the school.
The behavior of the players away from the field also plays into that. Leonard said the school has seen tremendous improvement in terms of attendance, discipline and overall academic performance from the football team.
If the Chargers continue to win on the field and excel off it, people all around Maryland will soon know about Green Street Academy.
"It's only going to continue to grow," Alt said. "My goal is for when I drive to work to pass kids in the street wearing Green Street Academy shirts. Our goal is to continue to work hard. If we do that, our name will get out there and good things will keep coming our way."
Issue 238: October 2017