the time the Mundy's Mill football team started figuring out how to win last year, the season was more than half over. Coach Peniel Dany is accelerating the curriculum in 2011.
Today, the Tigers are off at the first football camp in school history, a four-day trip to Georgia Southwestern in Americus geared toward team building and bonding. And if you happen to know a good metalsmith,
he might fit right in down there.
"We're going to sharpen our tools, polish our knives and get to working," Dany said.
The kind of weapons the Tigers needed last season weren't made of solid steel. They needed experience, confidence and double helping of skill. the time some of those things started materializing, the Tigers had lost their first six games.
One of those defeats eventually was reversed a Mount Zion forfeit, but Dany's not looking for outside help to reverse the Tigers' fortunes. Everything they need can be found within, he said, when nobody's watching.
"Games are won when the stands are empty," Dany said.
The Tigers have bonded in the weight room, during offseason workouts — when Dany said they had "100 percent" participation — and even when they visited a homeless shelter together. The coach hopes those intangibles will help the players find confidence — in themselves and in one another — when the going gets tough.
"That's one problem we had last year — whenever the other team was up two touchdowns, we started saying, ‘Oh, here we go again.' Around here, we've got to change the culture."
The culture is changing in increments. Last year's 4-6 record is an improvement on 2009's 1-9. It may change in bigger chunks if, say, the Tigers can break that habit of falling behind two touchdowns.
Dany believes his defense, now led new defensive coordinator Craig Coleman, will reduce both the frequency and the magnitude of the deficits the Tigers faced last season.
"My defensive coordinator coached in college football for over 20 years," Dany said. "He can help direct me in the way I should go. I'm not too proud to beg when I need help."
Dany's confident enough in his new offensive coordinator, Eric Robinson, that he can concentrate on special teams.
But the offense will be crucial. Now that they're two years removed from the spread offense, well versed in the Wing-T, the Tigers should be able to put more points on the board.
They will count on Toren Coombs, who rushed for 1,000 yards last season, and Jeremiah Bailey to anchor the offensive line.
"He's been here every day, working out, and he leads example," Dany said of Bailey.
They must take pressure off the defense, which didn't happen last season. In the Tigers' six losses last season, they scored a total of 15 points.
"Any time you're in a new system, you're going to struggle," Dany said. "But now, we've got the same system, the same quarterback and we're ready to roll."