CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Some 300,000 people have moved to North Carolina over the last four years, but according to the National Federation of High School Associations, fewer student-athletes are playing football than ever before.
Offense is the name of the game and while high school teams are scoring more touchdowns, fewer athletes are scoring than ever before.
In 2013, more than 36,000 kids played football in North Carolina. Fast forward four years and that number has dropped to just over 29,000 players, that's nearly a 20-percent drop.
"I don't think anyone is lying about their statistics," said Scott Chadwick, the head football coach at Myers Park High School.
He says there's no doubt injuries have had an impact on the game.
"I don't think we've had a practice in three years where we've taken somebody to the ground," Chadwick explained.
The degenerative and mysterious brain disease CTE has coaches across all levels blowing their whistles and calling audibles.
"We do everything we can to limit collisions," said Chadwick.
But big hits aren't the sole reason kids are staying on the sidelines. Chadwick says something else is pushing students away from football.
"We're living in an age where kids are starting to specialize more," said Chadwick, explaining that instead of playing two or three sports, many student-athletes are focusing on just one. "I've always said any coach that tells a kid that is extremely selfish. I think you're robbing kids of great opportunities and great moments."
Chadwick doesn't know what football will look like in a decade but he knows the game will continue to evolve and he thinks it's going in the right direction.
"I don't coach the same way I did 10 years ago," he said. "You come to our practices and you will see a significant emphasis on safety."
South Carolina officials say participation isn't a problem in the Palmetto State, saying they've had consistent numbers. Across the nation, football continues to be the most-played sport in high schools.