By Brian Paglia
Jason Galt stood at midfield at Bulldog Stadium yesterday during practice watching his kickoff unit go through receiving onside kicks. Twice his kicker Ryan Kay sent a perfect onside kick toward the sideline with such precision that Galt yelled, "That's a great kick," before the ball came to rest.
But each kick bounced out of bounds, and there went Galt, twice marching over to senior Joe Stewart, the Bulldogs' dynamic athlete assigned to track down Kay's kick, to impress upon Stewart the importance of his assignment, laying the pressure squarely on his shoulders.
Galt hasn't hesitated to put pressure on his team to raise their performance beyond the dismal history of Dutchtown football in his second year as head coach. And he hasn't hesitated to be candid about the historical significance that a victory over Jonesboro today would mean to the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0).
Galt understood what this game could mean moments after Dutchtown's 21-3 victory over Stockbridge last Friday, when his team was gathered around him, the glee of the Bulldogs' first victory ever over Stockbridge still palpable. He blatantly reminded them that a victory over the Cardinals would give Dutchtown its most wins in a season, its first three-game winning streak and its most region wins in a season in the program's brief five-year existence.
"I'm not one of those coaches that downplays anything," Galt said. "I let them know. I put the pressure on them. Guys, this is what's at stake right here."
Suddenly, players who'd toiled through disappointment and ineptitude on the football field realized what's at stake.
"We're trying to make history at Dutchtown," Junior quarterback Trey Nelson said. "It's pretty exciting."
"It'd be a big accomplishment for all of us," Senior defensive end James Martin said. "A big-time accomplishment."
"They know what's at stake," Galt added.
These are the moments Galt craved when he was hired before last season. He journeyed through high schools all over Georgia as an assistant coach - Cedar Shoals, Clarke Central, Cass, Liberty, Carrollton - to get the chance to bring a school into a winning tradition as a head coach.
"As my first [head coach] job, I wanted to be at a place like this," Galt said. "You know, you go in and build something. It's easy to go somewhere with history and with tradition and win, but when you can go somewhere like this it makes it extra special. What I tell the kids all the time is, 'I've been there. I want you guys to be there. I've won football games. I want you guys to win football games.'"
And so they've begun to win football games, but not without some interesting theater. Dutchtown lost their season-opener to Northgate, 15-14, unable to overcome six turnovers and a missed extra-point. The next week Kay hit a field goal with 2 seconds left to beat Lee County, 24-21.
There's been a maddening array of penalties and turnovers, but there's also been subtle signs of Dutchtown's eight returning starters on offense and defense using their experience to take the Bulldogs somewhere unprecedented.
"Part of that was, those close games, was this program learning how to win," Galt said. "You take some of those mistakes away we made in those games, they're not as close as they were. But we made mistakes, and it's just a growing experience for a young program learning how to win."