VELMA — Everyone should have a down season like the Velma-Alma Comet football team.
With only two seniors and a roster of 15 players at season’s end, the Comets posted a 9-3 record and advanced to the second round of the playoffs. In making the playoffs, Velma-Alma was the only area team to reach the postseason.
“We knew it was going to be a rebuilding year but I don’t think that we used that term,” Velma-Alma head coach Greg Gothard said. “The great thing about coaching at Velma-Alma is that when the kids walk through that door, they expect to win.”
Sure, Velma-Alma’s kids expected to win, but most of them did not know how to win at the high school level. With a majority of teams made up of sophomores, the Comets went through their growing pains. After starting the season 3-0, Velma-Alma dropped consecutive games to Maysville and Ringling. The Blue Devil loss was especially harmful as the team lost Dustin Sloan for the season with a broken leg, an injury that Gothard termed devastating.
With its dobber down, Velma-Alma began to turn it around in the second half of a 38-24 win over Bray-Doyle, and went on to ring up six wins in a row before falling to Okeene in a 48-13 playoff loss.
“At one time, we were as low as I can remember being around here,” Gothard said, “from the middle school to the town. But we turned it around and accomplished about as much as we could.
“In the Bray-Doyle game, we really didn’t believe in what we were doing. At half the light came on and that was the turning point for us. From that point on, we got better.”
The Comets did what most teams hope to do, playing their best football at the end of the season. The win against Hinton in the first round proved to be the high point of the season for the team.
“The game where I can say where we need to be is the Hinton game,” Gothard said. “It was a fun game. Even if we would have lost, I wouldn’t have had much to feel bad about.”
While the Comets enjoyed nine wins this season, Gothard feels that the year set the foundation for a strong run in 2009. The team will have to replace a two-way starters in Sam Mathews and Jacob Rankin but will have larger numbers on the team.
Gothard did feel that the lack of players on the team allowed practices to be more efficient this year.
“Practice was one neat thing about this year,” he said. “We weren’t able to do what we normally do but we tweaked and changed things. Buy the end of the year we had more efficient practices than we have had.”
Because of the size of the school, the off-season work will be limited because most of the football players participate in other sports. Something that is just fine with Gothard.
The long-time Comet head coach puts more emphasis on being ready for the football season by participating in other sports. One reason he feels that way is because of the coaching his athletes are receiving in their other pursuits.
“As far as off-season goes, we want our kids to be involved in other sports,” Gothard said. “I’d like each kid to walk in the gym. Coach Bare teaches the same things that I do. In the spring, I want the kids playing baseball and running track.
“You can improve in the off-season but to me, it’s over-rated. Do we lift in the summer? Yes we do. And we run. I just want them to be ready in the fall.”
And ready to make a deeper run in the playoffs. With most of the team returning, the Comets will have a high ceiling for success and Gothard feels that his team will be able to compete with the Okeenes and Ringlings of Class A.
“This bunch of kids will be on that side when all is said and done.”