Patriots poised to break long losing streak
Fri. August 24, 2012 at 12:07 p.m. | By Kelly McElroy/Staff Writer
Safety Darrick Burel (clockwise from left), linebacker Wilshawn Jones, defensive tackle Justin James and running back Ralph Singleton are senior players the Ellender Patriots are counting on this season. (Photo by Kelly McElroy/Staff)
Whether it's in the hallways or within the football program itself at Ellender, there's not much talk about the school's 32-game losing streak on the gridiron.
But everyone knows it's there.
The Patriots are coming off three straight 0-10 seasons and have not won a game since 2008.
But under the leadership of second-year coach Terry Washington, and after a couple of close games last season, the seniors of the 2012 Patriots are determined to make sure the losing streak stops with them.
--"I feel like we have worked hard all summer, and we are ready to compete," senior linebacker Wilshawn Jones said. "Getting our first win would be real special. We are seniors now, and it's time. I think the whole atmosphere around school would change. Everyone would be proud of the football team. We just plan on competing and being in games."
--"We had a good bit of guys in our freshman class, but now we are down to just a few," senior safety Darrick Burel said. "It would be an honor for the school to break the losing streak. We are very dedicated. We knew a change would come sooner or later if we just stuck to it. We are sticking to it and sticking together."
--"The intensity is high. We go hard in practice, and in the games we want to put ourselves in the right situations to make plays and score touchdowns on offense and stop people on defense," senior running back/wide receiver Ralph Singleton said. "We have to win. There is no other choice. It's a no-lose situation. Some of the seniors have been here since we were freshmen. We stuck it out. We knew the streak would stop one day, and it's going to be this year. We're coming."
--"For us to stick around so long and experience all that losing, we are going to finally feel what it is like to win," senior defensive lineman Justin James said. "A lot of emotion will come out after that win. We just want to stay humble and focused."
The man poised to lead the Patriots to victory is Washington, who was hired just a few weeks before the start of last season, and said he is much better acclimated in Year 2.
"I am a whole lot more comfortable," Washington said. "I know the kids better, and I know the coaches better. I know what to expect. It was a work in progress last year, and we were on the run."
Ellender came closer to winning last year than in the past few seasons, dropping a four-point game to H.L. Bourgeois and being in many of its games into the second half.
"We used that momentum going into the spring and took that and asked everyone to get involved in another sport," Washington said. "Most of the guys ran track and got a little winning under their belts, and it helped out a great deal."
Washington hopes greater strength will lead to good things for Ellender this season.
"We have always had speed, but we worked hard in the weight room and now we have the combination of speed and strength," Washington said. "We are hoping that makes some difference in some games this year."
The Patriots return junior quarterback Dustin Creppel, who was second in the area last year with 1,317 yards passing despite missing time with an injury and its top playmaker in Singleton, who scored eight touchdowns.
"We must have Dustin on the field at all times," Washington said. "Last year he got banged up a little bit. We don't want to take a whole lot of licks. We are going to make a concerted effort this year to run the football a little more and take some of the pressure off him. Ralph is our big-play guy, so those two are extremely important to our offense."
Ellender has three new players on the offensive line and eight starters back on offense.
"Going into the season, we were a little concerned about the offensive line because we have three new starters," Washington said. "Those young guys are doing better than expected. It's just getting them to come together. That's the toughest thing with a young offensive line."
After the Patriots gave up 42.7 points a game last season, Washington said Ellender has put an emphasis on stopping opposing offenses in 2012 and are led on defense by Jones, James, Burel and others.
"We have some good looking players on defense," Washington said. "We have some experience there now. I think defensively we are much stronger than we were last year. We knew we could score points last year, but we gave up a lot of points. We put a lot of skill guys, athletic guys on the defensive side of the football. If you can't stop anybody, you can't win. We are very, very confident that we can stop people on defense."
And a quick start to the season always helps.
"We need to win early on to get a little momentum because football is about learning how to win," Washington said. "If we can get a couple wins early, we are hoping that can escalate to a winning season. So we are hoping we can get out to a good start."