Make no doubts about it -- that 3-6 record in 2015 for the Massac County Patriots is deceiving. Because with a three-game winning streak to close the season along with an invigorating coaching change, the Patriots are riding momentum.
The three wins for Massac last year equaled its most in a season since 2009, which came in John Warren's last year at the helm of the program. Warren spent the past two years in Florida, but is back to lead a team looking to continue its strong finish from last season.
"The first time I took over here, we were coming off a winning season. We had a good football team the next year, but they didn't know how to finish and how to experience success," Warren said. "With winning three straight games last year, these kids do. They are very eager to learn and want to learn what to do next. They are challenging the coaches to make them better."
Warren said he is trying to build the continuity of the team where everybody has each other's back. More or less, he is building the roots to make Massac County football a family.
Numbers are a little down in 2016, with around 30 players on the team, but Warren said there are plenty of athletes on which he can rely.
It starts with Darian Roundtree, a wide receiver who will be one of the focal points of the Massac offense.
"He's a jack-of-all-trades type of player. We'll have to find ways to get him the ball," Warren said.
Fellow senior Micah Skidmore will take over at quarterback, with a running back by committee behind him. Along with Roundtree, another big weapon for the Patriots will be 6-foot-3, 220-pound tight end Lane Pegram.
Warren said the offensive line could be a strength of the team, as he has plenty of big bodies to count on.
"If we can get them to move like we want, we will be just fine," he said of his offensive line. "Big guys have a tendency to be slower, but every day they are getting faster."
Pegram and Roundtree will both be key players on the defensive side of the ball, with Evan Hughes also being a top returner at receiver and defensive back.
While Massac has some size to brag about on the offensive line, it also does on the defensive side -- where Gabe Russell will look to cause havoc with his 6-foot-1, 330-pound frame.
"If we can get him to do what we want, he'll be a strong player. He's a wall," Warren said. "We want to make sure we keep his batteries fresh, so he'll mainly play on the defensive side."
It's not uncommon for a Massac football team to have its fair share of two-way players. That holds true in 2016, with Warren saying accountability will be a key.
He won't set goals for the team, but said the constant improvement of the team is all about its mindset.
"I want to see us gel together and see ourselves accountable more so than pointing the finger at someone else," he said. "We start as a team and finish as a team.
"How good we are in October compared to August, that will be how we evaluate ourselves," he added.
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