If a book is ever written about the ‘Birds 2017 season, the title will probably be “Woulda, Coulda & Shoulda.” This was a team that had expectations & the talent to win a conference title & get a high seed for the playoffs, but the week one loss to Westby set the tone for how this season would go.
Think back to the sequence of events of that game. Up 14-12, we put the ball on the ground in the red zone, & Westby drives the length of the field & kicks a game winning FG as time expires. The final minutes of that game were a microcosm of what this team could expect during the season. Turnovers & penalties in the red zone, the inability of the defense to get off the field, miscues & missed opportunities.
This team was not that far off from victory– as mentioned before– during the 5-game losing steak. Four of those games were lost by a combined 13 points. I believe the problems within the program contributed to those losses as much as poor play or coaching did. More on that later.
There were some bright spots. Starting with the win over Cambridge, the team was focused on what was needed to make it into the playoffs & they accomplished that goal. The team seemed to click after a few position & personnel changes. There were some big plays & big yardage performances, but most important the club was playing its best football at the end of the year.
While success is measured these days with Ws & Ls, the true reason for athletics is more than just the game. Accountability, teamwork, overcoming adversity, seeing that hard work pays off, etc. These are the things that are really important. How well a player learns them & applies them will truly define the success of a season.
AROUND THE WARRIORS
Another 68 points scored, another victory. What was impressive in the Warriors route of I-G was that they stoned the Panther run game & kept Brady Peat from being a factor. Black Hawk gets Potosi/Cassville with the winner advancing to the State Semis. The Warriors defeated P/C, 30-12, in week two.
As comfortable as BH might be, bear in mind some of the top seeds who were upset this past week. Take nothing for granted & avoid mistakes. Things should be ok.
AROUND THE SWAL
Point blocked the potential game winning FG, scooped it up & scored from 75 yards out to defeat the Cubans, 14-7. Based off the Cubans 36-7 road win over the Pointers in week 7, I thought they would get by Point again. The Pointers get a crack at Markesan this week. Markesan defeated Fenny, 15-7, in game the Golden Eagles could not get any offense going. As mentioned, I-G was rolled by Black Hawk.
The key will be if the Pointers can get a solid defensive effort to slow down Markesan QB Carson Clark. If that happens, I like the Pointers in the upset. One more thought on Point– their 33-21 loss to Lake County Lutheran in week 1 does not look too bad as LCL is still alive in the D5 playoffs.
AROUND THE PLAYOFFS
So much went on, but two upsets jump off the page. Bloomer used a goal line stand late in the 4th quarter to knock off top seeded & #1-ranked Osceola, 18-12. Bloomer travels to Saint Croix Central to face the defending D4 champs. SCC’s only loss this year was to Osceola.
My other bracket buster saw Stratford roll into Stanley-Boyd & bury the Orioles, 38-0. S-B was the top seed in the bracket of death & had been ranked #2 in D5 for most of the year. S-B had defeated Stratford, 21-14, in week one. Stratford travels to top-ranked, but #2-seed Amherst.
If you want to see two of the best teams in the state square off, head to Monona Grove where MG will host Waukesha West in what should be an epic battle.
AROUND MARTENS FIELD
Since we will be following the Warriors for the next few (hopefully) weeks, we do not need to do this all at once. Describing the program as a hot mess garnered some attention. So, if the program is so bad, how did we go to 4 straight State Finals? How about that Darlington had more talent from 2013 to 2016 than any small school had a right to have had. The talent gap was such that it did not matter what the support structure, the development process, the schemes, the game prep (I could go on ad nauseam) was, we overwhelmed everyone, which makes having four straight silvers hard to explain.
As we said, we will do this in a couple of installments. Please be aware the issues within the program did not occur this year, but rather they have been in the works for a while now. This year they just manifested themselves. We will start with coaching. Not to complain about it, but to discuss the structure which puts us at a competitive disadvantage.
Darlington has had three offensive coordinators in the last four years. If you go back to 2010, we have had four in eight years. This lack of continuity has had an impact. While the base offense has remained the same, the changes in terminology, tag words, technique & other items begins to take its toll. My question is why the constant turnover?
Also we do not have enough coaches. Haven’t for quite awhile. In looking at a couple of game programs, Westby had eight coaches & Cuba City 11. Darlington has five listed. That is not enough at any level, let alone a varsity contest.
I spoke with a current high school head coach & I asked him what he thought was the minimum number of coaches to run a D6, two-level program (varsity & JV). He said eight. That is the minimum or as he said ‘bare bones’.
The break down is this– during a game you have an OC & DC (normally the head coach fills one of those roles), you have a coach responsible for special teams & depth chart/substitution, a line coach & a floater who also takes care of injuries & equipment problems. In the booth, you have an offensive coach, a defensive coach & a spotter so that you always have two sets of eyes on the game (while the other coach is in communication with their OC or DC). So that is eight in total.
The shortage of coaches impacts the ability to run team & individual work in practice, but also does a disservice to the coaches who are pulled in multiple directions. During a practice, the same coach I spoke with indicated the break should be five varsity coaches with three JV coaches (with a swing coach during JV games for at least four on the sidelines). Again, these are minimum numbers.
Since we are running out of time & space, we will talk next week.