How often do you hear a coach talk about fostering a family atmosphere for his program?

At Carrollton High School, head coach Nick Flowers doesn’t need to work too hard at it.

A look at the roster reveals this:

Brett Flowers, sophomore lineman, is a distant cousin.

Zach Flowers, a junior receiver and defensive back, is his nephew.

Hunter Flowers, sophomore quarterback, is also his nephew.

Jordan Harr – yes, a nephew – played for his uncle and has returned as a volunteer assistant coach.

And then there’s Rodney Flowers, the defensive coordinator and Nick’s brother.

The Hawks will take their 10-1 record three hours up the road to unbeaten Tuscola for an Illinois Class 1A playoff rematch. After losing last year, Carrollton hopes to win and advance into the final four.

“Athlete to athlete, we match up real well with them,” Nick Flowers said. “They have a little more depth on their offensive and defensive lines and I felt that was the difference last year.”

Carrollton football is Americana at its finest; a town with a population of 2,700 that turns out en masse to ring Hawk Field and root on the latest edition – something they’ve done for generations. While the ticket takers don’t deny entry to anyone not wearing green, those that don’t can expect to get some lighthearted grief.

“When you talk about Hawk football you hear the Flowers name a lot,” says Nick. He and his brother both played for Carrollton, and after coaching up the road at North Greene, Nick returned home.

Rodney is on his second stint coaching the defense with a stopover in Jacksonville in between. “You’ve got a lot of passion in the community, and in the county, for football in general. “When you have a belief system that you’re giving these kids a foundation to better them in life, you get a lot of backing from the people and the businesses and all the leaders in town.”

Carrollton has a junior football program that feeds the high school. Jordan Harr followed that path, when he wasn’t helping out on game days – “since the third grade, whether it was carrying the water or the balls” - and knew he wanted to one day become a Hawk. His playing career ended after high school but couldn’t cut himself off from the game so now he’s coaching. “Being a part of it again, and getting to be around my uncles and my cousins is pretty special.”

Zach Flowers agrees. “We know what each other is thinking. We can read each other’s minds.”

Hunter threw three touchdown passes in a win over Cape Point Central last week, and then team and coaches had to sweat out a failed Panthers two-point conversion that would have tied the game. As for this week’s game with Tuscola, the head coach says, “We’re going to have to get after them from the get-go. Get a lead and keep a lead because again, they have some numbers on us.”

Numbers maybe, but as Hunter Flowers is quick to point out there’s no counting out that family atmosphere.

“Family is everything.”