CALEDONIA — Michael Kelly loves the fight and the effort he has seen from his Caledonia High School football team.
Unfortunately, the Confederates only have one win to show as proof of the progress they have made since Kelly took over the program in the middle of June.
That hasn’t stopped Kelly, a former assistant coach at Columbus High who is in his first job as a head coach, from pushing forward and encouraging his players to earn the breakthrough he believes is within their grasp.
“There is a lot of passion,” Kelly said. “You watch the film and there are kids having fun out there and enjoying what they’re doing. We just can’t find a way to push through it yet. That is still the sign of a young football team. I would go as far to say it also is a sign of a young coaching staff and a young head coach. We’re still trying to find our way and push these kids through and learn how to win. All of us. Once they get taste of it again, I think they’re going to like it, and I don’t see a better chance than this Friday.”
Caledonia (1-3) will look for that victory at 7 p.m. Friday when it takes on New Hope (0-5) in the annual Lowndes County rivalry matchup. New Hope has won the last 13 games in the series dating back to the 2004 season. That stretch includes a run of six-straight shutouts from 2008-2013. The Trojans earned a 27-24 victory in 2015, which is the closest game in the series since the teams played one-point games in 2005-07. Caledonia’s last win in the series was a 14-10 decision on Sept. 10, 2004, at New Hope.
Caledonia is coming off a 28-14 loss against Byhalia. It has lost its last three games following a 40-12 victory against West Lowndes in its season opener on Aug. 17. The Confederates had a bye week worked into the first two months of the season, but Kelly feels his team is in position to get several players back in time for the Class 4A, Region 2 opener next week against Shannon.
Kelly hopes to have a few players back this week, but he isn’t sure how much they might be able to help. He said the injuries or the losses haven’t diminished the excitement he feels in the locker room. Kelly said the Confederates need to do a better job of capitalizing on opportunities opponents are giving them.
“I think our kids understand how close we are,” Kelly said. “We spend a lot of time evaluating our film, evaluating our performance.”
Kelly also said Caledonia hasn’t played to its full potential for four quarters. He said the Confederates have been in football games despite that fact, which is encouraging, especially after he, his staff, and his players spend up to two hours every week reviewing mistakes from the previous week and getting better.
“I think our kids understand what we’re doing,” Kelly said. “I think the maturity level is coming each week, and you can see a lot of kids improving on film. You don’t see us making some of the same mistakes. Some you still see making them, but they are not quite as bad or as many, which is a positive. As a coach, you just would like to see it show up in the win column.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.