When Randy Grace took over as head coach for the Pacelli football team in 2011, he knew he was embarking on one of the biggest projects he was likely to face in his entire career.
The Vikings were coming off an 0-10 season. The two years prior to that had produced just six wins combined. There was a lack of interest both within the school and the community, and the players simply didn’t have the training program on the field or in the weight room to compete at a high level.
Flash forward three years to last Friday after a win over Brookstone clinched the team’s first non-losing regular season since 2007. After the game, I was immediately reminded of something Bill Parcells said after the Dallas Cowboys won their eighth game in 2003, his first season with the team following its three consecutive 5-11 records:
“You can’t call them losers anymore,” he said about the Cowboys. “You can’t call them winners, either. But you can’t call them losers anymore.”
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That about sums up where Pacelli is as a program — head and shoulders beyond where anyone in their wildest dreams could have imagined it would be in only Grace’s third year at the helm, but still standing with five wins and a handful of difficult games left to play.
At 5-0, the Vikings have had success because of a combination of factors. For one, a senior quarterback, Wyatt Peterson, has been the type of leader the team has needed. He has used his arm and legs to provide offensive success for Pacelli and has been a strong presence in the locker room.
The team has more experience aside from Peterson, as well, as it features many more juniors and seniors than freshmen and sophomores than in recent years. Finally, Grace pointed out the players’ commitment to the weight room as a much reason for the improvements.
Still, the Vikings are a long way from clinching anything in the way of a postseason berth. Grace knows that. He told his team that after its win on Friday.
So, where do the Vikings go from here?
Was last week simply one of those moments where rebuilding programs announce to everyone they are on their way?
Or, was it something more? Is this team ready to contend for a playoff spot and beyond against the best the region has to offer?
We’ll learn the answer to that in short order, as Pacelli travels to undefeated Marion County on Friday with the region lead on the line. In five games this year, all wins, the Eagles have allowed 28 points combined for an average of less than six points per contest.
It’s another opportunity for the Vikings to define their program. If it loses, Pacelli is still a program in the midst of rebuilding and growth. But if they win, the Vikings are something else entirely.
They are winners, guaranteed a winning season and looking down the road beyond the first week of November, where their season has ended each of the past five years.
Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports