SIDELINE SCENE | The Windermere High football program nearly earned its first win in Week One, falling 30-27 to Cypress Creek. If the Wolverines can build on that momentum, it could be looked back on as a turning point for the program.
As Fred Priest addressed his football team after its 30-27 loss to Cypress Creek to open the regular season, he noticed something he hadn’t seen before — something he liked.
The Windermere Wolverines played their first season in 2017, going 0-10 in a campaign that included no competitive games. In fact, before the team’s three-point loss to the Bears Aug. 24, the only competitive game it had was its spring game in May — a 41-21 loss to Holy Trinity (Melbourne).
But following that game in May, Priest — who took over the team in December — didn’t notice a lot of disappointment from his team. It seemed that after the team failed to score a touchdown in 2017, the Wolverines were content to have scored three and been competitive in a game.
It was a bit of a prototypical “moral victory” — and understandably so.
But after the team’s loss to Cypress Creek, in a game where it had rallied from a 24-7 deficit to take a 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter, Priest saw a different postgame demeanor from his student-athletes.
He saw hurt in his players’ eyes — a hurt that meant the Wolverines were not content to simply be competitive or to score a few touchdowns. It was the kind of hurtful look from a team that knew it let a win slip through its fingers.
And it may represent a turning point for the program.
“We were there, took the lead and showed that grit — and then it got taken away,” Priest said afterward. “That might be the biggest learning experience of them all — that next time, we’re not going to let that happen. ... Hopefully that’s the next step in our learning curve.”
Priest and his staff addressed their players after the game while huddled together at Deputy Scott Pine Community Park and utilized the moment to impress the importance of practice.
Each coach pointed out that the team had not had its best week of practice leading up to its opener. That meant the little things that allowed the Bears to squeak out of Horizon West with a win — too many fumbles and a few key miscues on defense — could be traced to a lack of focus on the practice field from Monday through Thursday.
Windermere’s first regular-season game of the 2018 season was no moral victory. It was a lesson. The Wolverines have improved and demonstrated the ability to be competitive in a varsity football game. The program has progressed to a point where it could have — and should have — won.
But going forward, that means the little things — the details — matter more than they did when the team was losing every game on a running clock.
Windermere has a bye this week, giving the team two weeks of practice before it heads on the road to face University. It remains to be seen whether that game — or any game this season — will be the game where the Wolverines earn Win No. 1.
But after the opener, it’s a good bet the Wolverines better understand the process to winning and that it is a process that almost always starts in practice on Mondays — not at kickoff on Fridays.
“I feel like we’re going to be able bounce back,” junior Dylan Palmer said. “We’re going to put in a lot more work just to get that win — the first win for this school. That means a lot to us.”