Michael Bradley and the New Hope High School football team are looking for it.
With nine returning starters and plenty of experienced players from last season”s 11-win finish, Bradley knows the Trojans still have it in the locker room.
The only problem is that New Hope hasn”t delivered consistently on that potential three games into the 2010 season.
That is a concern for Bradley as he tries to get his Trojans (1-2) focused for a game at 7:30 tonight at Caledonia (0-4).
The matchup is another Lowndes County rivalry tilt for New Hope, which lost to Columbus 39-22 last week. The game was tied at 14 in the fourth quarter before the Class 6A Falcons (2-1) scored 25 unanswered points against the Class 5A Trojans.
This week, Bradley hopes his players will be able to deliver 48 minutes of focused and intense football against the Class 4A Confederates.
“We”re just trying to get back to basics,” Bradley said of the approach this week. “We tried to do a lot of soul searching to see if we want to be any good or not. Everybody knows what it takes to be successful, but you have to be willing to do it. Nobody is going to give it to you. You have to go out and earn it.”
Bradley wants all of his players to be tougher physically and mentally. He also challenged himself to do a better job setting the example and leading the team. He feels if he provides better leadership that his players will respond.
“This week, I think we were finally able to get some of the players” attention,” Bradley said. “We just have to keep doing what we know we can do and, hopefully, we will be able to turn these setbacks into comebacks.”
Bradley said it doesn”t matter whether New Hope is playing Class 6A Tupelo and Class 4A Caledonia because his team”s intensity and effort level is what is most important. The Trojans trailed 21-0 at halftime against the Golden Wave before showing signs of life in the second half. Despite beating Amory 37-6, Bradley admitted his team didn”t click on all cylinders.
Bradley said the Trojans will need to do that tonight against an improved Caledonia team led by first-year head coach Ricky Kendrick, a former assistant coach at Amory High.
“Coach Kendrick is doing a good job,” Bradley said. “You can see a noticeable improvement in their team on film. But we have to take care of us and try to get ourselves better. We”d like to win all of the non-division games because of all the notoriety and the rankings they bring, but in the grand scheme of things they don”t help you win championships. We have got to find out who we are and how good we want to be. Our mind-set is to get in a championship mind-set.”
Kendrick is trying to get the Confederates to that point, too. He felt his team played a strong second half last week in a loss to Nettleton. After tailing 25-0 at halftime, the Confederates scored early in the third quarter and then held the Tigers scoreless en route to a 25-7 loss.
“We”re still competing and playing hard, and that is all I can ask from them,” Kendrick said.
Kendrick said he and his assistant coaches have been honest with the players and have told them to be patient because the school”s losing ways will change. The coaches have emphasized it is not a matter of if it will come, it will be a matter of when it happens. Until then, he will try to keep things positive and to keep the players focused on the bigger picture.
Playing games against programs with recent winning tradition like New Hope and others on the schedule like Louisville and Noxubee County will help, Kendrick said.
“New Hope is a really good 5A football team,” Kendrick said. “They are where we want to be. They have one of the best teams they will have, and coach Bradley has done a super job. They have been in the weight room for three or four years and have had a great three or four years. They know what to expect, and they”re just a really solid football team. I don”t see any weaknesses anywhere.
“It will be quite the challenge to play somebody like them, but that is why we play the game. … It is going to take an exceptional effort to win this game, but we”re not conceding anything Hopefully we”ll look up and something wonderful will happen for us. At some point it will happen for us.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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