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Mundy's Mill motivated by past struggles

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.

JONESBORO — Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior ended Monday’s practice by asking his team a question.

“Two weeks ago,” he said, “what was our record?”

“0 and four,” the team said in unison.

After back-to-back victories against Mount Zion and Drew, the Tigers are now 2-4 with a chance to improve to 3-4 when they face winless Forest Park on Friday for homecoming.

Or to put it another way:

“We were 0-4 last season and we’re 2-0 this season,” said quarterback Rodricous Gates.

The fact that the sophomore signal-caller prefers to break this season up into two parts is not just a slip of the tongue. Listen to Manior and you’ll realize the differentiation is intentional.

“They’re focused on this being the second part of the season,” said Manior who is in his first year as head coach. “I think the guys are embracing the region play in that way. This has lots of implications for these guys to be able to do some things that they haven’t done before. ”

Not only has Mundy’s Mill won consecutive games for the first time since then 2005 season when it won three straight in what was also the school’s last winning season, the Tigers have done it while flexing their muscles in the ground game.

Against both Mount Zion and Drew, the Tigers have rushed for over 300 yards with tailback Rodney Smith leading the way.

The junior — also a standout baseball player — rushed for 301yards and four touchdowns in a 32-31 win against the 4-2 Titans. He gashed Mount Zion for 320 yards and two touchdowns in the Tigers’ Region 4-AAAA, Div. A opener.

The 2-0 region start has put the Tigers in first place in the region early on. Manior also informed his team that it was the first time in school history that a Mundy’s Mill football team has been at the top of the region standings at any point in the season.

With the Tigers brimming with confidence heading into Friday night’s matchup with Forest Park, it could be tempting for Mundy’s Mill to look over the Panthers.

After slicing through a very formidable Drew defense, the Tigers will face a Forest Park unit that has given up an average of 43 points in its first six games.

But Manior said his team continues to remain focused and humble.

“I didn’t get a sense of them overlooking Forest Park,” Manior said. “One week at a time is what we keep telling them. And we know the Panthers and any team are capable of beating you any given Friday if you’re not ready.”

Although it didn’t seem like it on the scoreboard, Manior said the first four games – all losses to teams with a combined record of 24-6 – actually helped to build toughness and togetherness amongst the young Tiger squad.

In fact, junior center Daylon Thomas said the team felt no sting of defeat in those non-region contests.

“We didn’t even look at the first four as losses,” Thomas said. “It just showed us what playing with the big boys is like. Playing against the Lovejoys and Coffees of the state show you a glimpse of who you want to be.”

And despite the success, Thomas readily acknowledges that his Tigers have not yet arrived.

“That’s why we don’t overlook Forest Park,” he said. “We really don’t overlook anyone. In a lot of ways we are like Forest Park. We’ve been the homecoming opponent.

“We’ve been the easy win on the schedule. But we expect Forest Park to come out and play us like Lovejoy, and we’re going to play them like we’re playing Lovejoy.”