Carrera’s approach behind Meadowcreek’s rise

Through a positive approach, Meadowcreek coach Jason Carrera (right) has turned the Mustangs program from a perennial pushover to one that must be taken seriously.
Through a positive approach, Meadowcreek coach Jason Carrera (right) has turned the Mustangs program from a perennial pushover to one that must be taken seriously.

Credit: Natalie Pierce/NJP Photography

Credit: Natalie Pierce/NJP Photography

From transforming perennial laughingstock to dealing with pandemic, Mustangs coach’s positivity overcomes

Jason Carrera had a good career in corporate sales, but writing multi-million-dollar contracts for food companies, including Conagra Brands and Sara Lee Corporation, didn’t make him happy.

So after 20 years in his chosen profession, he decided to follow his passion and take a blind-faith leap into coaching.

“They thought I was crazy,” Carrera said of his colleagues, when he told them about the career change. “But they were supportive because they could see that it was a passion of mine.”

Carrera worked his way up the coaching ranks, first as a community coach and then as an assistant. Eventually, he landed his first head coaching gig, turning his passion into success at one of the more unlikely places — Meadowcreek High School.

The Mustangs football team compiled a 2-98 record from 2004-13. They never had reached the playoffs. By Carrera’s third season in 2017, the Mustangs went 7-4 to reach the playoffs, and the following year they went 6-4 for their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1990, when Kevin Maloof was coach.

Carrera has turned the program around and more recently attacked the coronavirus pandemic head on by summarily dismissing any negativity that comes his way. An example of that attitude came when he found the Meadowcreek opening on a job board, where in the comment section someone wrote, “Nobody wins there, and you won’t either.”

“That sounded like a pretty good challenge,” Carrera said. “That’s always been my motivation. I wanted to take a job where nobody in the state thinks you can win and turn it into something viable.”

From 1998-2014, the Mustangs had 10 winless seasons and five one-victory seasons, never winning more than three games in a year. They also had losing streaks of 53 and 43 games. After Carrera took over in 2015, it appeared — at least on paper — that the Mustangs were on the same path after a 4-16 record in his first two seasons, including 1-9 in the second year.

But behind the scenes, Carrera slowly was changing the program’s culture.

“We may hold two of the state’s longest losing streaks, but these kids still deserve nice uniforms, sponsored meals and all the things some of these other programs around here enjoy,” he said.

He assembled a staff, many of whom coached with him at various stops as he climbed the coaching ladder, which included stops at Henry County, Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy (where he used his sales background to open and operate a school store), Flint River Academy and Stockbridge.

He and his staff flooded the halls to interact with the students and started holding the players accountable when it came to practice and the weight room. Whatever excuses the players used in the past — “I don’t have a ride” or “I don’t have the energy to workout because I didn’t eat” — were eliminated. The staff began to carpool players, and Carrera again used his background to garner food donations to keep the clubhouse stocked.

The program developed consistency in its approach. By the third season, Meadowcreek was ready to turn the work into success, starting the 2017 season 6-0 and then hanging on to the No. 4 seed after beating Region 7-rival Central Gwinnett 41-34 late in the season.

Although the Mustangs took a step back last year (3-7), they are confident as ever heading into this season, with Carrera’s positive demeanor rubbing off on the players.

“The greatest thing we have is coach Carrera’s optimism and wisdom,” senior linebacker and fullback Julien Patterson said. “He’s going to do what he needs to do, and he teaches us to do what we need to do to overcome the adversity. Like with the pandemic, that’s a prime example of applying the methods we’ve been taught. We’ve stayed close through Zoom calls, practiced in position groups and did what we’re supposed to do to stay healthy.”

The Mustangs haven’t had one reported positive test for the coronavirus this year.

In their opener Sept. 4 at home against Eagle’s Landing, they won 31-21. They host South Gwinnett (1-0) on Friday.

Senior linebacker and defensive end Mukhtar Suleman said the Class of 2021 is determined to take the program to new heights.

“We all want to leave a mark,” Suleman said. “When I was a sophomore, we were so close (to making the playoffs a second year in a row), and even last year, when we didn’t make it, I felt we were close. But we want to make history this year for the most wins in a season, and I want the most consecutive wins. I want to beat the biggest schools.”

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