High school football, as much as any sport at that level, runs in cycles.
The majority of programs have their share of ups and downs. Successful stretches are often followed by some down seasons.
However, the downturn the Winder-Barrow High School football program has endured has certainly been longer than most.
Dating back to the 1997 season, WBHS has advanced to the postseason once. That occurred in 2003 under former coach Brian Allison. Other than that one season, the Bulldoggs have not been a participant in the playoffs since the Phil Jones era (which ended after the 1996 season.)
So why has the drought been so long and seemingly been an issue season after season? There are many factors.
In situations of this nature, no one coach and no one group of players can be to blame. The downturn has lasted too long for that to be the case here.
In some situations, lack of support has been an issue. While any program could always benefit from more funding, WBHS has good facilities and added a new fieldhouse in recent years.
During the stretch from 1997-2013, the program has gone 0-10 twice, 1-9 four times, 2-8 three times and 3-7 twice.
There have been five head coaches during the seasons from 1997-2013. Allison stayed the longest at six years, until he returned to Union County where he coached before being hired at WBHS.
All other coaches “resigned” (i.e. were relieved of their duties). Two coaches were given just two seasons (really not enough time to judge a football coach on), one had three seasons and one had four.
As we prepare for the 2014 season, there is an unusually high level of optimism for the program’s future. That level of enthusiasm rests with new head coach Heath Webb, who seemingly has pumped new life into the Bulldoggs.
It’s not unusual for a new coach to create a buzz. However, when a program has been down as long as Winder-Barrow has you have to be a little surprised at how much preseason talk there is.
Each head coach has his own style and for Webb it will be an up-tempo brand of play which should play to the strengths of the players he has. Webb has also brought in numerous new assistant coaches as the entire program has been given a facelift.
Webb has assistants who have been head coaches before and assistants who have coached in this region in the past.
Webb said recently he believes he has put together the best coaching staff in 8-AAAAA. Time will tell if that plays out for WBHS.
A winning football program at WBHS would mean so much to the school and community. The down slide has gone on way longer than anyone would have guessed back in 1997 when Jones left.
The right pieces seem to be in place from principal Al Darby to athletic director Rob McFerrin to new head coach Webb.
Hopefully, these pieces will help return WBHS football to a winning tradition, something the program — and community — have sorely missed.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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