The 2013 football season was tough, without question, for everyone involved with the Apalachee High School program.
It was tough for the coaches. It was tough for the fans. And, of course, it was tough for the players. Seasons which end 0-10 always have a way of being tough. However, if the season last fall has done anything it has fueled the desire for all involved to get back to past success. It wasn’t that long in the past that the Wildcats were capping a 10-0 season and a postseason march that ended in the third round.
To some, that may seem light years ago now, but, in reality, it wasn’t that long. Now competing in Region 8-AAAAA, AHS will have a tough task against some opponents in 2014. There’s no denying that. However, this offseason I have tried to observe closely the work ethic by the players. And make no mistake about it, the players are working just as if they were coming off a playoff campaign. There are no excuses being made. There is no finger pointing. It’s a sign, maybe more than anything else, that 2014 could be better than some expect.
In a preseason poll conducted by this newspaper, AHS has been picked to finish last in the region. That is not a surprise because most voters in the polls of this nature tend to base preseason prognostications on what happened the previous season. (It should be noted that the Wildcats were NOT picked to finish last on each ballot.)
One thing the AHS program does have going for it is stability. Coach Shane Davis enters his 10th season directing the Wildcats. Davis has been at his craft a long time and knows how to coach and knows how to make a program successful. He has done it at AHS and he was part of several winning programs before arriving at The Chee.
Several of the assistants on the AHS staff have also been with the program numerous seasons. That level of stability at the high school level means a great deal, especially in football. So what are the keys to AHS enjoying some level of success this fall?
To me, the first two games are extremely important. The Wildcats open 2014 on the road against Woodland High School of Henry County. The game is winnable for AHS although it is certainly not an automatic victory.
The following game will see the Wildcats travel to Winder-Barrow High School for the Region 8-AAAAA opener. With both programs looking to start a new winning tradition, this game has perhaps even more meaning than in past seasons. The Battle of Barrow is important for the local rivalry aspect as well as it being the first region game of the season for both squads.
However, when you are trying to get your footing in terms of having success for an entire season, this game’s importance goes up even more. What would be great to see is both teams enter the contest after wins in their respective season openers. If that happens, look for a packed W. Clair Harris Stadium Sept. 5. Fans of high school football are typically an impatient bunch. If the team is not winning every Friday night there is going to be some grumbling from those in the stands.
Patience can be a great thing although it’s often tough in the sports world.
Look for AHS to improve this fall, which hopefully will show fans the program is pointed back in the right direction. Clearly though, the Wildcat players and coaches have worked extremely hard this offseason and deserve the support of the entire Chee Nation this fall.
Chris Bridges is sports editor of the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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