Central Ohio High School Football Commentary: Struggling Teams Not Lacking Motivation

Sometimes the biggest victories a football program can experience are the ones that don’t come as a surprise but come at just the right time.

Take what Northland has been dealing with this fall.

When the Vikings beat Whetstone 30-0 on Sept. 30, it extended their winning streak in the City League-North Division series to five.

So why would second-year coach Ryan Sayers say it “felt amazing” to beat a team that most expected Northland to beat?

It’s all about perspective.

Who will win in Week 9?: Check out our predictions

Every indication heading into this season was that the Vikings, with among the highest participation numbers in the City, could return to the success they enjoyed in 2017 and ’18 when they went a combined 15-5 and won back-to-back league titles. 

A 0-3 start, followed by having a game canceled because of COVID-19 protocols, quickly left those hopes in the dust. 

Northland was outscored 219-54 as it lost its first five games and endured several personnel changes before beating the Braves for their first victory. 

“Everybody sees the scores,” Sayers said.

However, as Sayers explained, it’s his job to “keep the program positive.” 

That can be a difficult task when things aren’t going the way in which coaches and players expected.

Reynoldsburg and Olentangy Orange also can attest to what it’s like to have to recalibrate midstream. 

The Raiders gave Upper Arlington one of its toughest games of the season on opening night, losing 42-41 after entering the season believing they could be one of central Ohio’s top teams. 

Then the losses began to pile up. 

Reynoldsburg started 0-3 and then had its game Sept. 10 against Gahanna canceled because of COVID-19 protocols. 

Upon their return Sept. 17, the Raiders lost 31-30 to Olentangy, marking their third loss by two or fewer points, before bouncing back to win their first three in OCC-Buckeye Division action. 

Learning how to stay confident when things aren’t going your way is one of the biggest life lessons for any young person. Often, it is illustrated not by what happens on the field, but what happens after the dust settles on the results.

“We underestimated the effect that losing has on the kids,” Reynoldsburg coach Buddy White said. “You’ve got to really focus on keeping your team together and that you’ve got bigger fish to fry. We’ve still got a conference championship to play for and the playoffs.” 

The expansion from eight to 16 playoff qualifiers in each region should help coaches keep their teams motivated following rough starts, but sometimes keeping an eye on the big picture can feel futile as teams grapple with the idea that the season is slipping away. 

It might be a pretty empty feeling for the three teams that get left out of the postseason in Division I, Region 3. 

Think about what it must be like for a program like Newark, which went through one three-game stretch in which it was outscored 206-0 and hasn’t won more than two games in a season since 2016. 

Then imagine being Orange, which hasn’t gotten a break to go its way basically all season. 

Sure, as the cliché goes, you are what your record says you are, but the Pioneers lost by a field goal to Olentangy, lost one game in overtime and dropped another in double-overtime while playing a schedule in which six of its first eight opponents had a winning record heading into Week 9. 

The Pioneers’ 0-8 start didn’t officially eliminate them from the postseason, and it also didn’t take away their belief that they’re much better than their record. 

Still, enduring loss after loss will wear anyone down. 

“It’s frustrating because of all the work that goes into the football season,” senior quarterback Jake Werling said. “Pretty much in every single game, we’ve been winning in the fourth quarter, and that alone proves that we’re better than we are.” 

One positive takeaway, according to Werling, is that the rough moments have taught him and his teammates about the necessity of continuing to “go as hard as you can” and that there are victories that can be found even when the game isn’t won on the field. 

That might not yield immediate dividends, but the long-term implications of battling to the end – for struggling teams as they begin to look to next season and for players such as Werling as they transition into the next stage of their life – can’t be overlooked. 

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@UlreyThisWeek 

Source : https://www.dispatch.com/story/sports/high-school/football/2021/10/13/columbus-high-school-football-struggling-teams-not-lacking-motivation-northland-reynoldsburg/6014212001/

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