Taylor reflects on season success

Published 11:56 pm Thursday, November 20, 2008

Even though Straughn could not make it past the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs this football season, head coach Trent Taylor believes that overall that the season was a success from a team-building standpoint.

The Tigers finished 8-3 this year after falling to Slocomb in the first round of the playoffs two weeks ago.

Since that time, the players who will be playing on the team in 2009 have been hard at work in the weight room already getting in shape for next August.

Taylor said the first game of the 2008 season against Andalusia started a “snowball” effect for the team as far as confidence.

“When you look at our year, it got kicked off in a big way when you play a rival game the first game of the season,” Taylor said. “It’s scary from a coach’s standpoint because you know that your kids have put a lot in that game through the offseason. If things go well, it could catapult you. If things don’t go well, you really rely on your leadership.

“For us, it did go well,” he said. “If you’ve been winning, your kids get that confidence and then it snowballs. We didn’t know going into the year how our kids were going to react to that first ball game. Fortunately things went the way you hope they do.”

That snowball got bigger and bigger as Straughn raced through the season with seven wins against Choctaw County, Cottage Hill, Bayside Academy, Opp, Central Hayneville, Calhoun and Red Level.

Straughn 42,

Choctaw County 32

“The next week, we played Choctaw and that’s been a program where they were up, but have been down for some time for a number of years,” Taylor said. “We were able to get a win and then we were on the road for the first time to play Cottage Hill.”

Straughn 31, Cottage Hill 30

“That was a big game for us,” Taylor said. “That was Cottage Hill’s first home game. We get down there and we get ready and start getting dressed and we’re in their gym where they had their first pep rally they had all year. Taking that longer trip, we just didn’t play real well, but at the same time, they played extremely well.”

Taylor added during halftime the coaches, including himself, just reminded the players of what they needed to do.

“At halftime, we were down 24-6 on the road and that’s not a situation you want to be in,” he said. “I think that was a more pivotal game for us even than the Andalusia game was because you’ve got in the back of those kids’ minds, oh here we go again.

“It wasn’t anything like that, we just said, ‘guys, here is a situation where your character is being tested,’” he said. “Even at that, I wasn’t thinking lets come back and win this game, it was more let’s just have a better second half to have something to build on for the games that follow.”

Taylor gives credit to the players during that game, especially when opportunities went Straughn’s way.

“We made some good defensive plays in that game,” Taylor said. “We had some interceptions and fumble recoveries. Then of course, it all ended that they got the ball at the tail end. They get the ball with a 20 something yard field goal. We come through and got a blocked that field goal and I think that kind of pushed us.”

Straughn 40, Bayside Academy 20

“We played Bayside the following week at home and I think Bayside was a better football team,” Taylor said. “Again with the confidence we had, we played real well offensively.”

Straughn 35, Opp 20

“Then we go into week five against Opp,” Taylor said. “Opp jumped out 14-0. I think that was because of what happened two weeks before, but there wasn’t any panic on the sidelines. We finally stuck one in and got a big kickoff and pinned them deep with three and out and even after that we get an interception after a turnover down there in their own territory.

“Again, the defense rose up and got a big stop,” he said. “It’s 14-13 at the half and there was no doubt. We came behind 24-6 two weeks ago and we’re only down by one and we were fine.”

After winning against Central Hayneville 52-12 and Calhoun 47-14, Straughn was 7-0 and set to play against powerhouses T.R. Miller and Luverne.

Taylor said his team could have been “in the game” against Miller if the Tigers had played like they did in the second half.

“Here we are ranked 7-0 and we were ranked higher than Straughn has ever been and to be quite honest, we went down to Miller and also to give them a lot of credit, they played extremely well in the first half,” Taylor said. “We did not play well at all on either side of the ball. But, (we) came back in the second half and put up 35 points on them. To be quite honest, if we had played in the first half like we did in the second half, we would have been in the game.”

Taylor added that after the Luverne game the next week, it was the turning point of the season, because it meant the Tigers would be forced to play on the road in the first round of the playoffs.

“From that point in that next week against Luverne, we had opportunity after opportunity even late in the game,” he said. “We had a turnover and we got the ball when things looked like we didn’t have a chance. That night we had the ball inside the 25-yard line four times and just couldn’t put it in the end zone. I think that was the turning point of our year as far as what we could do in the playoffs.”

Taylor added that it was disappointment all across the board on his team after those two big games.

“I think it was disappointing for our kids,” he said. “I think it was something that we just never did recover from. We played OK against Red Level, but we didn’t play with the same intensity all year.

“Losing to Slocomb, we just didn’t play like we needed to,” he added. “Slocomb, I give them a lot of credit. We just didn’t play well.”

Taylor said the players, especially the seniors, should be “proud at what they’ve accomplished this year.”

“With all that said, I think for our seniors that are through as far as Straughn is concerned, they’ve got to be proud of what they’ve accomplished,” Taylor said. “Since I’ve been here, Straughn has had six losing seasons. It always seems to be a group of kids that have kind of got things going back the other way. That’s one of those things we tried to tell the kids after the Slocomb.

“I think what these guys have done is tremendous as far as getting us back in the right direction. I see a lot out of this group we’ve got that is coming back.”

Taylor has been the head coach at Straughn for 19 years and said that his team knows what needs to be done next year come August.

“We know what we’ve got to do and we’re going to go about doing it,” Taylor said. “I think that our kids are learning from the athletics here that work ethic is going to carry you far in life and we’ve got to continue to do that.”