For the first few months as the new coach of the Harris County football team, Dwight Jones had quite the commute.
He woke up at 4:20 a.m. at home in Jones County, where he previously coach Jones County High to 31 wins in six seasons, so that he could leave for Harris County at 5:20 a.m. A two-hour drive had him at the school by 7:20 a.m., where he would stay until 5 p.m. When he got back home at 7 p.m., it was just about time to go to bed and get ready to do it all over again the following morning.
It was a difficult schedule that caused him to put more than 1,000 miles on his truck per week, but one he was glad he made in retrospect.
"I don't know what I would have done if I didn't start in March and have a few months to get settled," he said. "I got to know the kids in the classroom and in the hallway and they got to know me. We got to go through spring, and I'll tell you -- the first week was ugly. But the second week was a lot better, and summer has been good. So they've gotten used to me and I've gotten used to them."
Now, as the calendar prepares to turn to July, Jones feels a comfort level beginning to set in amongst the members of the football team, one that can help them continue the upward track of the past two seasons.
Harris County's final two seasons under former coach Tommy Parks, who left for Upson-Lee in February, were its best in program history. It set school records for wins in 2012 (eight) and again in 2013 (nine), winning a region title and earning a berth in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals in the former.
While philosophies, approaches and schemes may change, Jones doesn't see an alteration in the team's trajectory.
"This group can continue on that track," he said. "Potential means you have the capability to be successful, but if you don't act on that potential, you'll be in the same place. These guys have all been told they have potential, but now we have to act on it. Right now, we just want to be the best football team we can be every Friday night. If we do that, we'll reach our potential, whatever that may be."
It's a new situation, though, for Jones, who has taken over teams with losing records at all but one of his stops in his career. The lone exception is Northside High, which he coached for its first two seasons of existence.
At Harris County, he inherits a team that has had plenty of recent success and is faced with the pressure of not just maintaining it, but continuing to push it forward.
"That's the first thing I told everybody," he joked. "Most places I've gone to, I couldn't mess it up. Russell County had lost 27 straight when I got there. When we got to Hardaway, it had eight straight losing seasons. I've had a knack for turning programs around. Now I'm going to a program that I can screw up. I don't think I will, but it's just one that's already had some success recently."
Football, he said, runs in cycles. Teams go through periods of great athletes and then some down periods.
"Right now, Harris County has a good group," he said.
David Mitchell, Follow David on Twitter@leprepsports