Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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High School

Clear eyes, full hearts, still losing: Area teams battle long skids

6 high school football squads haven't won a game since 2015 season

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    Anthony Wayne RB Max Guitteau scores a touchdown against St. Francis during the fourth quarter of the Generals' win in Week 1. The Knights haven't won a game since 2015.

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    Perrysburg quarterback Trevor Hafner evades Southview's Jaren Mangham during a 2015 game. Southview was winless a season ago, last earning a victory in that season.

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    Southview head coach Jim Mayzes talks with a player.

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  • SPT-AWStFrancis26p-16

    St. Francis head coach Dan Chipka argues with an official during his first game at the helm Friday vs. Anthony Wayne.

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There’s an old sports adage that says “losing is contagious,” and six area teams are searching for an antidote for this ailment entering Week 2 of the high school football season.

Each went 0-10 last year, and all lost their 2017 openers last Friday. The losing streaks range between 11 and 19 games.

For four of these six (Scott, Evergreen, Arcadia, and Holgate), football success has been limited for decades.

FRIDAY FORECAST: The Blade’s picks for Week 2

But for two others — St. Francis de Sales and Southview — losing has been a tough pill to swallow after decades of excellence. Both teams were once perennial powers in their respective leagues, and each has experienced state championships.

St. Francis won eight City League championships during a 10-year span (1995-2004), a run that included a 13-1 Division II state championship season in 2001, followed by a 12-2 finish and state semifinal advancement in 2002 under Ohio hall of fame coach Dick Cromwell.

The Knights also won a Division I state championship in 1984 and were D-II runners-up in 1982. They went 11-2 and reached the D-II regional final in Cromwell’s final season (2009) but have gone 21-51 since.

The Knights dipped to 1-9 in 2014, were 2-8 in 2015, and suffered through the program’s first winless season at 0-10 last fall for a three-year mark of 3-27.

Under first-year coach Dan Chipka, St. Francis lost for the 11th straight time in last week’s opener, 44-7 to Anthony Wayne (Chipka’s alma mater) at the Glass Bowl.

“With a school like St. Francis, you’ve got good numbers in the program, so to me it was just a matter of working on what you can control,” Chipka said of his outlook coming in and working toward a turnaround. “Penalties, critical errors, and just executing at a higher level. If we could improve those three areas, then we could compete right away in Year 1, and then just build on that.”

What part of team required the most fixing?

“It would be difficult for me to pinpoint what area needed the most,” Chipka said. “When you go 3-27 in three years, you could argue that all three areas [offense, defense, special teams] are of the utmost importance to revamp and change.

“Right away, what stood out to me on film was to eliminating penalties and turnovers, better tackling on defense, and presnap alignment.”

As for Southview, the tenure of 24th-year coach Jim Mayzes (165-87 record) has included 11 Northern Lakes League titles won or shared in one 15- year span (1997-2011). This stretch included a 15-0 Division II championship season in 2008 and a 13-2 D-II state runner-up finish in 1999.

But the Cougars have gone 21- 30 since the start of the 2012 season, ended 0-10 last year, and lost their 11th consecutive game, 29- 26, in last week’s opener at Millington (Mich.).

“When a team knows they can win, they’re going to endure a lot more,” Mayzes said of the mental makeup. “When a team is afraid they’re going to lose, you’ve got to coax them into doing some things. It’s going to be hard on them, and they know it.”

Mayzes remains optimistic, and he expects the losing streak to end soon. He has not entertained any thought of a coaching exit.

“You start with ‘Why?’ as in ‘Why do I do this?’ ” he said. “I wanted to be a coach so that I could help kids, like my coaches helped me. That was back in the 1970s, and that’s when I made up my mind that’s what I wanted to do.

“Sometimes when you’re losing, you help kids more than when you’re winning. The great game of football teaches us all how to be better men, whether you’re coaching or you’re playing.”

Scott, which has not had much success during the past 20 years (56-143 record), did go 8-2 and win a share of a City League title as recently as 2014. But the Bulldogs followed that up with a 1-9 record in 2015, were winless last year, and had a season-opening 55-16 loss last week at Genoa.

Scott has now lost 19 straight games.

That matches Holgate for northwest Ohio’s longest current losing string. The Tigers, who have one of the state’s smallest enrollments (54 boys in grades 10-12) for schools that play football, opened with a 39-21 loss at North Baltimore last week.

“Realistically, I’m looking to City League play,” said first-year Scott coach Mark Weaver, who has 40 players in his program — but only three seniors. “We just don’t have the numbers to run with Genoa and Fostoria and teams like that.”

Weaver, who spent 17 years as a Bulldogs assistant, played on Scott’s back-to-back City League Shoe Bowl championship teams of 1984-85 under former coach Johnny Hutton.

These days he sees a group with a good attitude despite their difficulties on the field.

“The motivation is not a problem at all,” Weaver said. “Genoa beat us 55-16, and our guys never quit and they never hung their heads. I had seven guys on offense and eight on defense who played their first down of varsity football last year as sophomores, and they started the entire season. They understand what it is and what they want, and they know it’s just a matter of time.

“I’ve been doing this for 18 years, and I’ve never seen a group of kids more geared and ready to go. You’re going to get everything we’ve got on every play.

The team with the next longest losing streak in northwest Ohio is Arcadia with 18. The Redskins opened with a 50-35 setback at Hardin Northern.

“I have attempted to build a family atmosphere,” second-year Arcadia coach Ethan Percer said. “Every day we break it down on [a chant of] ‘family.’ I tell all the players, ‘Y’all are like brothers. Sometimes you fight, argue, and disagree, but at the end of the day you have each other’s back.’

“I feel that every time you step on the field, you should believe you have a chance to win. I think it takes everyone to believe in a win for it to happen.”

Percer remains upbeat despite battling long odds with a roster of just 22 players.

“Our work ethic is outstanding right now,” Percer said. “Our goal is to end the streak. When we start being successful, I think more kids will come out for football. I think we will see numbers grow a lot over the next few years.”

Evergreen, which has had only six winning seasons and no Northwest Ohio Athletic League titles in the last 20 years, has gone 7-34 since the start of the 2013 season, when the Vikings finished 0-10. They were 0-10 again last year.

Under first-year head coach Aaron Schmidt, Evergreen dropped its 11th straight game in last week’s opener, falling 28-14 to visiting Otsego.

“The first and foremost thing that I have done to create a positive culture around the program is to make the kids feel special,” Schmidt said. “I let them know that I care about them as people, not just football players.

“I’m also trying to make being part of the football team something special. We have new uniforms and a new turf field. That makes kids want to be a part of a program and, in turn, builds a positive culture.”

Schmidt sees the mental aspect of the game as being as on par with the physical side.

“Confidence and belief in yourself, and in your team, is of the utmost importance,” Schmidt said. “It starts with leadership. My job is to get the coaching staff to believe in our game play. Once we do that, it’s up to the coaching staff to believe in that plan and prove that belief to our players.

“Kids are more intuitive than people think. They pick up on negativity and a disbelief in the system. Everyone has to believe in the plan, and in the process.”

At St. Francis, with its great football tradition built over the program’s first 50 years, the pressure to win is inherent.

But Chipka does not feel that pressure for one main reason.

“Nobody puts greater pressure on me than myself,” he said. “The administrators couldn’t be any more supportive, and I don’t feel any pressure from the boosters or alumni.

“But, let’s make no mistake about it, this is St. Francis, and expectations are always high. I knew what I was stepping into. You’re expected to perform at a high level at all times, no matter the circumstances.”

Contact Steve Junga at sjunga@theblade.com419-724-6461 or on Twitter @JungaBlade.

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