Harris County rescued season from disaster

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comNovember 12, 2012 

The transformation appeared dramatic for Harris County.

At one moment, it was the football team that couldn't win a game. Winless through the first four games of the season, the Tigers appeared to be trending toward the doormat role in Region 1-AAAAA.

Then, almost as if the team itself had been replaced by another, Harris County (6-4, 5-0) couldn't lose. For six consecutive weeks, the Tigers left the field winners when the clock hit zeroes, including a stunning 18-12 victory over Thomas County Central last Friday for their first region championship in school history.

With that win, the team completed its incredible turnaround to clinch a 1-seed and home field in the playoffs, which begin Friday against Northgate.

Free safety Marvin James said, however, that, although the change appeared to happen overnight, it's been an ongoing process all season.

"It seems dramatic when you look at our record," he said. "We go from 0-4 to 6-4, and it looks like it happened overnight. It's actually been a long process."

A long process that has included a lot of adversity.

Coach Tommy Parks said that he never expected his team to be at its best at the beginning of the season. It was full of inexperienced players and had lost a handful of key players from last year's team, like linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who is now starting for the University of Georgia.

James said that, in the early stages of the season, a lot of players didn't understand what it took to be a part of a team.

"We had a lot of individuals," he said. "A lot of people were more focused on their stats. We wanted to come together as a team. I think things started to click when we won that first game in overtime."

Teammate, offensive tackle Dadrian Thompson said that was when attitudes began to change. Everyone felt what it was like to win again, and wanted more.

"Before, everyone was kind of sluggish, complaining about having to go to practice," Thompson said. "When we won, everyone kind of picked it up."

"It was completely different," James agreed. "It was the polar opposite. Everyone was sluggish before. Then, when we started winning, people came to practice motivated to get better."

Parks stressed that that was the reason for the team's turnaround. He has never claimed that his team is the most talented in the region, nor has he claimed to have the best coaching staff.

What he believes he has are players who are committed to improving and buying into the system in place. Once the team started winning, he said, he could tell the players and coaches were gaining confidence.

"Coaches coached harder and the kids practiced harder," he said. "We knew it was a learning process, but the kids bought in. They never swayed, and they never got their heads down. That's what is different about those guys."

Despite the success, there are still doubters. There are people who believe that, surely, the Tigers can't maintain this level of success. And the team is alright with that.

"The kids kind of like the underdog role," Parks said. "It puts a chip on their shoulders. And it puts a chip on our shoulders as coaches."

But, thanks to the early-season adversity, the individuals on the team know one important thing, no matter how many people doubt them.

"You have to keep you head up," James said. "You can never say the season's over. It's not over until it's over."

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571

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