By DAVE SCHABELL
The Morning After The Season Before
Some Thoughts On The Inaugural 2007 Varsity Football Season....And Beyond
The opinions herein contained are strictly that of the author and in no way are meant to represent the attitudes of the school or the Bishop Brossart athletic department. Opinions are just that – opinions. Feel free to submit a response or a retort to this article.
It is not my intention to deliver a report card on the just completed football season. I’ll leave that to the more football savvy critics out there. This is just to make a few observations and deliver an opinion or two about our just-concluded season. The news that we were going to varsity competition in only our second year of any type of football competition was met with wholehearted support, and the typical Brossart athletics Can-Do enthusiasm when it was announced. Certainly the Brossart Mustangs, champions of all things Class A in Northern Kentucky, could compete with the Ludlows, Bellevues, and Daytons of the world at anything, and expectations were that the Stangs wouldn’t miss a beat in making the transition from JV football competition where we were somewhat successful throughout the 2006 season, in making the jump to Class A varsity football. Even Coach Rodney Ollier exuded cautious optimism in predicting that we had the potential to hang a few W’s in the win column during our inaugural season, and hoped that we would qualify for the post-season playoffs by notching at least one win over a district opponent. We all agreed. For better or worse we became a varsity football program.
What we failed to see through our rose-colored glasses was that while the present day Brossart Mustangs are indeed highly successful at all of our athletic endeavors, each had to go through some growing pains along the way to achieve that status. Simply wearing Brossart across the chests of our uniforms would not qualify us to compete on even terms with programs who had been plying their trades for upwards of 90 years. These veteran football teams were made up of football players who begot football players who had experience coming from the pee-wee, freshmen, junior varsity, and varsity ranks. Our fledgling Mustangs were made up of boys playing football, most for the first time, and were not veteran football players. It showed.
The first red flag went up when we traveled to Bourbon County for a pre-season scrimmage. The football Colonels had not won a varsity football game in the past three years, yet dominated our Mustangs 50-0 on that August evening. Ensuing scrimmages against Louisville Country Day and Christian Academy of Louisville yielded similar results. I remember listening to our players talk about the two Louisville schools’ dominant size the next day at the Nathan Seiter Golf Outing, and began wondering if size did indeed matter. It did.
If there is a game that I would like to have on our schedule for week twelve (next week) instead of week one (when it was played) would be the Owen County game. I’m quite confident that with the experience and maturity that the Mustangs have accrued throughout this season, particularly as of late, that the Owen County Rebels would go down in history as our first varsity football conquest. But reality is just that, and the Mustangs dropped a 30-6 decision to the Rebels on opening night. Blowouts by Shawnee and Beechwood further eroded our confidence, and by the time we faced Bellevue we were somewhat shell-shocked and expecting bad things to happen. We weren’t disappointed.
The Mustangs began a turn-around of sorts on a sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-October when Eminence came to call. The Warriors certainly don’t represent the crème-de-la-crème of high school football here in the Commonwealth, but represented a smaller school with less experience that we could relate to – and did. The first scoreless quarter was a moral victory of sorts and when the Mustangs went to the locker room tied at 8, it was as if the team was reborn. Even the Dayton game had to be earned by the Greendevils and while they gobbled up yardage in huge chunks, it took them several plays to find the end zone, as opposed to the somewhat comparable Beechwood Tigers who simply ran roughshod over the Mustangs defense. Our passing game was much improved from the aerial debacle exhibited against Ludlow just two weeks prior. Our young quarterback Jake Heil showed some poise and professionalism in delivering passes that were now being caught by guys wearing identical uniforms to that of his own. Sophomore Chris Bowman began to discover how to use his size and athleticism to his best advantage and became a weapon on both sides of the ball. Our linemen began to fight back. Brossart posted (unofficially) thirteen first-downs in the Gallatin County game – another more comparable opponent, and began to see things starting to come together – when the clock ran out on the season.
It is not easy to go to practice every day on a team destined to not win a football game, but all forty-five roster players did. They went to practice on the first day and they were all there on the final day of the season. That says something about our Brossart kind of kids. The next hurdle will be to see if they all return for the sequel next season. This is no time for defections. Thirty-four additional prospective Mustang footballers signed up as being interested in playing Brossart football at our open house. The interest is there.
The question of whether we should have gone to varsity competition this year is a mute point. We did and we are going to have to learn to cope with it. Hopefully, it will provide us with the motivation to advance at a more accelerated pace than if we were still entrenched in JV competition – all warm and fuzzy about ourselves.
They say that teams are reflections of their coaches, and I’m a firm believer in that. The Olliers are princes of men – truly nice guys with the best interest of our players at heart. They fulfill the “good cop” role which is vital in the coaching scheme, but we probably need a couple of “bad cops” to enter into the mix to balance the equation. Too often after losses, the attitude of the team was that “we’ll get ’em next time” and there didn’t seem to be any hurt, accountability, or personal offense taken that we were soundly beaten or were once again run ruled (for lack of a better term for “running clock”). Just as success breeds success, complacency also breeds complacency. Losing and sub-par performances are always unacceptable. Our basketball Mustangs learned that from coaches who practiced tough love and made us winners. The football Mustangs will eventually succeed via the same formula.
If we have come away from this season with one learning, it is that experience is the best teacher, and that there is no substitute for experienced players. Therefore our top priority needs to be the development of a junior high football team/program comprised of those prospective Mustangs from our feeder grade schools who showed an interest in playing Brossart football, in order to gain some valuable experience and insights in becoming football players. Otherwise, we are always doomed to building our program with first-year players – boys who are learning to play football rather than football players.
The message needs to be sent to present players who compete in the Red Devils program and players from our district feeders who play on other teams outside of our immediate area that WE NEED YOU!!!!
I’m not so foolish to think that we will get the upper-crust football talent from those programs, BUT we might lure some of the lesser lights to come and be big fish in our small pond rather than standing on the sidelines in a showcase program watching others play. We also need to keep players with faimily ties to Brossart here at Brossart. Our coaches need to beat down the doors of the area boosters clubs and become familiar faces, endearing themselves to the players and their parents who have the potential to become future Mustang football players.
Lastly, we have to give our players a level playing field to compete on in the way of facilities and training aids. I’ve heard over and over that we need a blocking sled. If we need a blocking sled we need to get a blocking sled and stop talking about it. We need a practice field with a marked off gridiron and at least one goal-post in the end zone. Take a page out of the baseball program’s standard operating procedures. They have a field with a turf infield, sprinklers, new dugouts, a scoreboard, an indoor practice facility, new fencing and backstop. Never ever did they concern themselves with cost or risk to accomplish any of those goals. They all managed to get paid for. People like to see results. If we are going to be serious about football – let’s get serious about football!
In closing I would like to compliment the seven seniors who have paved the way for future Mustangs who will follow in their footsteps and the other thirty-eight players and the coaching staff who made up this historic group. I envision the night in the not too distant future, when we will bring back the 2007 Inaugural Football Mustangs to be recognized when those future day Mustangs will be honored for winning a Class A or AA state football championship themselves. Work hard in the off-season. Take yourselves seriously. Accept nothing less than being the best that you can be. You’ve
got one year of varsity football under your belts. Learn from your mistakes and enhance your strengths.
Rome wasn’t built in a day – Tomorrow starts Day Two.