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First win, region 4-AAAAA momentum up for grabs

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior says he sees some improvement in his team despite its 0-4 record heading into Thursday’s game against Mount Zions, which is also winless.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior says he sees some improvement in his team despite its 0-4 record heading into Thursday’s game against Mount Zions, which is also winless.

Mount Zion coach Ervin Starr has already found something to be encouraged about regarding his 0-4 Bulldogs Thursday night matchup with 0-4 Mundy’s Mill.

“One thing about it, somebody’s going to come out of that game with their first win,” Starr said.

Of course he is hoping it will be Mount Zion in celebration mode when it’s all said and done. But Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior — also a first-year head coach — said his team is craving victory as well.

“I think our guys are pretty hungry for a win right now,” Manior said.

Though it hasn’t shown up in the win-loss column, Mundy’s Mill does seem to be closing the gap between playing well and playing well enough to win.

After a 44-6 loss to Lovejoy to start the season, the Tigers have calmed down to play decent football. Mundy’s Mill has found the endzone several times in each of its last three games, and came within five points of beating a McIntosh team that was undefeated just two weeks ago.

Behind the increased success is running back Rodney Smith. The junior has given the Tigers a formidable rushing attack, rushing for over 400 yards in his first four games,

Manior has also been high on senior defensive end Chris Holmes. Holmes, who moved over from the offensive line last year is one of Mundy’s Mill’s players that “has shown a lot of leadership on and off the field,” Manior said.

Manior said that having a coachable kid like Holmes is helping the Tigers turn the corner toward a winning mentality.

“Toughest part right now is getting kids to believe that it can happen,” he said. “We've come up short a lot of times. We've been scoring some points, but we've had a problem stopping people in critical moments. We’ve been slowly but surely putting things together.”

As for Starr, he admits his first year has been a tough one. The Bulldogs came into this season after a 3-7 campaign in 2011 feeling like they had more than enough talent to make a run at their first winning season since 2009.

But an assortment of issues — everything from injuries, players relocating and underachieving to the dismissal of a member of Starr’s coaching staff — has made for an intriguing season for the former Rex Mill Middle school coach.

Instead of getting down however, Starr said he chooses to see opportunity rather than obstacles.

For instance, Starr’s secondary — considered to be the strength of his defense in the preseason — has been plagued with season-ending injuries to safety Emmanuel Parks and cornerback Saint Crowley. But it has made way for freshmen like Timotheous Slade at safety and Norris Degree who is now starting at left tackle to step up and make plays.

Sophomore quarterback Michael Scott has also emerged, taking over starting duties from senior Montel Buchanan.

“After the second game, we said it’s fair game,” Starr said. “Everybody has a chance to play. If you look good at a certain spot, then that’s your spot until you don’t look good anymore. For me and the other coaches, we thought it best to do some things to get prepared for the future,” Starr said.

That doesn’t mean he and his Bulldogs aren’t trying to win now, however.

“The way we look at it, we’re 0-0 in the region right now,” Starr said. “Starting Thursday we have five or six games that if we play well we can make the playoffs.”

Manior said he sees the same possibilities for Mundy’s Mill.

“That’s how we’re going to look at it,” Manior said. “These are the games that count to make the playoffs. And so from here on out we’ll just take things one game at a time.”