In just a single year, head coach Cameron Duke has taken Edgewater from the bottom to the top.
One of the most fun aspects of sports is simply not knowing what’s going to happen from season to season.
Each year, teams go into their respective seasons with a clean slate — leading to endless possibilities for the new year.
Regardless of last season’s accomplishments, or lack thereof, the top dogs and the underdogs have the same general goal — to get better and to hopefully finish with a district or state championship.
For many schools, however, coming off a difficult season and/or losing your coach can lead to either one of two paths. It can lead to a death spiral, or it can be used as motivation to get better.
After a winless 2016 season for Edgewater, and the resignation of head coach Chris Leak just five games in, the Eagles took the latter route thanks to a culture shift installed by head coach Cameron Duke and his staff.
“I think bringing the new staff in was a complete change of culture,” Duke said. “The big thing is understanding the way we’re going to do things with the program — our kids understand our culture means a way of life.
“I don’t know what was going on last year, and I never really wanted to quite know, but we knew we had a ways to go when we got over here,” he said. “Our first goal was to build relations with our players.”
To say the shift in culture has been effective in turning around the program is an incredibly huge understatement.
During the winless 2016 campaign, everything that could go wrong for the Eagles did. They were outscored 463 to 93, and often, the losses were lopsided — the worst being a 78-0 beatdown at the hands of Apopka.
This year, however, has been a total turnaround, with the Eagles sitting at 5-1. Their district record of 3-0 has them tied for first place in the Class 7A, District 4 standings with East Ridge. So far, the only loss of the season for the Eagles was in the season opener against Bishop Moore.
Although he knows his staff helped ignite a change in the atmosphere in Edgewater, it’s the players who have really stepped up and bought into the program, Duke said.
“Everything goes back to the players,” Duke said. “It’s a credit to the players who are here, and for the guys who stayed around last year.
“I’ve been so pleased at their progress academically, and their progress about learning how to practice,” he said. “A coach only does so much — football comes back to those guys (who) are playing it.”
The growth of his players may be built out on the practice fields, but it also can be seen on Friday nights. Watching the Eagles’ players during warm-ups and during games is enough to notice the change from last year. There is a swagger that lingers with each step and each play, and you can tell they are having fun with their football.
“I think they’re excited right now with having some success, and I think they’re learning to be selfless and play for one another — really learning about what it means to be a family,” Duke said.
All of the success can be best related back to this year’s motto: “Restore the pride.”
Although there still are four games left in the regular season, it’s easy to say pride is quickly being restored into a program with such a strong history in football.
“We’re not worried about the results; we’re worried about the process, and the process starts right now with getting better each and every day and the guys understand that,” Duke said.