Photo by Brian Paglia
Despite an undesirable 0-2 start, Luella coach Nic Vasilchek said both he and his team remain upbeat. “I think our optimism is extremely high,” he said.
Memo to the coaches who hold the keys to the Eagle’s Landing, North Clayton and Luella football programs: Don’t press the panic button — yet.
Three weeks into the new season, and the aforementioned teams, who came into the season with high aspirations and great expectations, are now dealing with the mildly unexpected sting of being 0-2.
And while the slow start has no doubt caused coaches like Luella’s Nic Vasilchek to re-evaluate some things, he says he still believes in the resiliency of his kids.
“The players came back Monday from a tough loss and had a really good attitude and enjoyed being at practice,” he said. “They were actually having fun running sprints at the end of practice. The level of optimism is still there. We realized that turning the ball over seven times, we beat ourselves.”
Vasilchek is referring to his team’s 27-7 setback against talented Langston Hughes last Friday. Combine that with Luella’s tough opener at No. 6 Lowndes where the Lions lost 50-27 and the competition has been stiff for the Lions.
Vasilchek isn’t complaining about the schedule though.
"As far as getting us better, (the schedule) definitely accomplished that goal,” he said.
“Like going down to Lowndes was a really big eye-opener for our guys. Langston Hughes was another Class 6A school. It’s good preparation. I’d rather play a really tough non-region schedule. I think it’s focused the guys more.”
It doesn’t get any easier tonight as recent Missouri commit Donovahn Jones and Dutchtown come calling. If Luella falls to 0-3, it will be a complete reversal of fortunes from last season’s team that started 3-0 and lost six of its last seven games.
After Dutchtown, things could get easier as Luella will face three 0-2 teams in its next four games.
North Clayton has perhaps shown the best signs of being a program that can get things turned around rather quickly.
The Eagles opened their season with a 21-0 loss against upstart Riverdale. But the Raiders who have jumped out to a 2-0 start, also defeating Drew 21-14, may be talked about as one of the Southern Crescent’s best teams by season’s end.
Especially encouraging for coach Max Wiltz’s bunch was a 39-35 loss to 10th-ranked Grady last Saturday. Depsite being down as much as 21-7 to the Grey Knights, North Clayton still had a shot to win it at the end of the game.
The Eagles hope to start the road to recovery tonight when they travel to Newnan to face Northgate, which is also off to a sluggish start.
“We are not carrying ourselves as an 0-2 team,” Wiltz said. “We have had good practice this week.”
Eagle’s Landing is the 0-2 team that is closest to being 2-0. The Golden Eagles opened their season with a dramatic 38-30 loss over Ola.
Eagle’s Landing held a lead through much of the game, and even after falling behind, coach Joe Teknipp’s bunch was driving in Ola territory on its way to a potential game-tying score when Ola’s JoJo Spann jumped in front of a pass from quarterback Brandon Dewberry to end all hopes of an Eagle’s Landing comeback.
Last week, the Golden Eagles hung tough with Lamar County before losing 41-30 to Class AA’s seventh ranked team.
The Golden Eagles have the toughest schedule of the three, facing Upson-Lee tonight, then games against Jonesboro, Riverdale, Stockbridge and Dutchtown in subsequent weeks.
But like Vasilchek, Teknipp said the level of competition doesn’t bother him.
“We just worry about ourselves,” Teknipp said. “We’re playing good teams and we’ve played good teams, but we’ve beaten ourselves.”
The losses haven’t dampened the Golden Eagles’ spirits, according to Teknipp. He said his team will stay up by keeping their losses in the proper perspective.
“Morale is real good with us,” he said. “In both games we had a chance to win. We came out from the gate, but now we’ve put those games behind us. They’re non-region games and we just seem them as more practice to get us ready for the real stuff in the region.”