Seniors drive SHS turnaround

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Senior leadership and the “will to win” are what players and coaches say are driving the Straughn Tigers football team to their success so far this season.

The Tigers are 2-0 in Class 3A, Region 1 play so far and is the only team in Covington County that is undefeated at 3-0 overall in the season. Straughn was 4-6 in the 2007 season.

Coach Trent Taylor said there are several factors that have contributed to the success of the team.

“I think there are several things,” he said. “Leadership obviously has a lot to do with it and the work ethic this whole group has had during the off season. We’re certainly a lot more physical than we have been the last couple of years.”

Another aspect of the team that has helped this year for the Tigers is playing experience.

“Obviously they’re going to be better football players and I think that’s what happened to us this year,” Trent Taylor said. “I feel like last year’s seniors did a good job trying to lead, but we were just unfortunately on a team that was very young in a lot of key spots. I think this year’s group continues to have good leadership. They’re also blessed with the fact that they are all a year older, too.”

For senior quarterback Ryne Taylor, going out and improving on the previous week’s mistakes are what is helping the team to win.

“We’re going out every Monday and forgetting about last week and building off that success,” he said. “We have film sessions on Sundays and usually on Mondays we come in and talk about all of our mistakes and then go out at practice and correct them. Tuesdays, we’ll start working towards what we’re going to do better and Wednesdays we’ll start polishing it up.”

On the progression from underclassman to a senior, Taylor added that it is a lot easier to lead and push other teammates to success.

“It’s a whole lot easier to lead as a senior because you have a lot of people looking up to you,” he said. “I just realize that you’re going to have to come out everyday. It’s not a one-day thing. You can go hard for one week and you can’t just ‘prepare for Andalusia’ and expect that to get you through the whole season. This is something you have to approach everyday.”

Every player is not perfect, but Taylor said the one thing he has improved on as a player is trusting his capability as the quarterback for the team.

“I think I’m learning to trust my linemen more to stand in there and I’ve got five guys this year that are the best linemen we’ve had at in a pretty good while at Straughn,” he said. “They do a great job of protecting me and I’ve kind of learned not to scramble as much and to stay in the pocket, find the receivers as second or third options and throw it off to them.”

On last week’s 31-30 win over Cottage Hill Christian, Taylor said the team was not prepared like they thought they were.

“I feel like we had a letdown last week and that we weren’t prepared as we thought,” Taylor said. “I think we took them lightly, but I think we’re going to go out there and approach it this week and we’ve learned the lesson that it doesn’t matter who you play, you’re going to have to approach every game if it were the last game.”

Fellow classmate and wide receiver Tyler Yelverton said that being a senior gives him the opportunity to give support to other players.

“It’s been nice because you know it’s your last year and so you’re going to do your hardest keeping everybody pumped up in the weight room and at practice,” Yelverton said. “It could be your last time you play this team and you know that it’ll be the last time you’ll go to the playoffs, so you know you’re going to play harder and practice harder so you know that you’re going to push them to their limits.”

Even winning the first three games of the season can put a lot of stress on the head coach.

Coach Taylor said there is a lot more pressure when a team is on a winning streak rather than on a losing streak.

“Because I think you’re so tied up in trying to get ready for the next game I think that there’s more pressure to win the next one when you’re winning than when you’re losing,” Taylor said. “Obviously, when you’re losing it’s miserable for everybody so the year seems to drag a little bit.”

As for another reason why the Tigers are doing so well, Taylor said all the credit goes to the players.

“Like I said I think all the credit goes to the kids because as coaches, we’re demanding the same things that we have the last two years and to be honest with you, we haven’t won as many,” Taylor said. “But, at the same time, I think that they are fortunate that they’ve come a long way. Last year, we were playing ninth graders at linebacker. They’re still young this year, but a year older.

“I think that our offensive line in the first three games of the season have played well,” he said. “I think you could ask any of those five and they’ll tell you there are still some things that they can improve on. I think that’s probably been a big difference for us as well.”