Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

SPORTS >>Falcon seniors can be pioneers

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

North Pulaski coach Tony Bohannon stated last week that you have to be optimistic this time of year, because if youíre not, you may as well fold it up and head home. That was before the Falcons lost to Dumas 28-6 in the season opener, but thereís still good reason to be optimistic. Eliminating mistakes would have made a big difference for North Pulaski in the outcome of last Fridayís game, and can still make a big difference in the rest of the season.
This yearís NP team has just a few seniors and a lot of sophomores and a junior class thatís in between, but this team has potential. Thereís no doubt about it.

At times last Friday, that potential showed. What this team has to avoid is the thing that has plagued past North Pulaski teams Ė the willingness to give up. Past teams have been full of bravado in the preseason, only to fold it up and go home when things began to go awry. Things arenít going to change completely overnight. The Falcons will probably lose more than they will win the rest of the season, but the overall attitude must be one of making progress, not making it to the state championship game. And the optimism should remain as long as there is progress, despite the scoreboard.

Sure, winning is great, and goes a long way in improving the attitude and outlook of a group of teenagers, but it isnít the be-ball, end-all for a football program thatís just trying to get off the ground. Recent North Pulaski classes, ones that have also possessed a lot of talent, fell apart when things went wrong. Team leaders at the beginning of the year turned into malcontents and the leadership disintegrated. The underclassmen had only a shadow of an example of leadership from which to draw from and exhibit the next season, and so the cycle continued.

If this senior class at North Pulaski can keep their heads up, keep pumping up the underclassmen and keep giving it their all, those underclassmen will stand a lot better chance of taking that attitude with them into next season. Only next season, that attitude will come with another year of seasoning, maturity and playing time, and the team will be better.

If that class can do the same, the class that follows them, which is the most talented class to come through since one particular reporter started covering the school five seasons ago, will do the same. If that happens, North Pulaski would be a playoff contender in 2008. NP has had talented sophomore classes come through before, but what starts as a group of 28 sophomores seems to always become a group of 10 seniors. Players arenít sticking with it largely because leadership hasnít been prominent among players. Itís understandable logic for a 15-year old. ĎIf the guys that are starting arenít trying, and throwing fits and arguing with teammates and coaches, why should I bust my butt just to stand and watchí.

The key to changing all of that starts with this yearís senior class. The 2006-07 seniors up to this point have been good leaders. Most showed up on the first day of two-a-days. Many came and worked out all through the summer, and thatís the beginning of what it takes to build a successful program. But itís just the beginning. Other classes have done the same, but lacked the vision and fortitude to stay positive during the tough times.

Just remember, it doesnít have to all happen at once. In fact, it rarely ever does, but the process has to start with players Ė leaders Ė pioneers if you will Ė willing to take some lumps and stay positive for the benefit of the program down the road. That doesnít mean this yearís team canít get itself a couple of wins, it can. Just donít expect a nine-game winning streak and conference championship right now.

There were signs of progress last Friday. Keep noticing the progress, and keep building off it. First and foremost, you are Falcons, but you can also be pioneers.