INDIAN LAND — The mind can be a powerful weapon, as Indian Land coach Mike Mayer and his Warriors football team found out last year.
It appeared to be the other way around before the 2010 season began. Indian Land was coming off a 3-7 season and stayed home when the other schools were in the playoffs in 2009. Those two didn't leave the Warriors with a lot of good feelings, especially after the news they heard.
An increase in enrollment had pushed Indian Land up a classification, from A to AA. And the logical destination was Region 4-AA, which included a pair of the top football program in their classification, the Central Eagles and Cheraw Braves.
"I thought the move up was good,'' said senior Marc Morris, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound defensive tackle. "It was good for us to play new teams, ones we didn't face every year. We had been playing Chesterfield, Great Falls and Lewisville, all good teams. But we realized each game we had moving up would be more competitive.''
The Warriors became the darlings of their classification. The pollsters finally figured out, yes, they are pretty good, and the Warriors began getting ranked as their record grew to 7-0. The streak was snapped in the eighth game, a region loss to eventual state champion Central.
The loss was an eye-opener, 47-21, that gave the Warriors a taste of what other Central opponents had downed over the years
Indian Land finished the regular season with a pair of wins and had a first-round home playoff game against Columbia. Their dream season ended at 9-2 and with a 28-21 loss. The record was their best since 2005 when the Warriors were 11-2. And it broke a string of four straight sub-.500 seasons.
Mayer hopes last season washed away the past and was a sign of good things to come.
"Things worked out well and a big reason was because we had such a good group of kids,'' he said. "In past years we played a lot of games where we would kick off and be down 7-0. When that happened last year, I'd tell them to keep playing and they did.
"It was a smart group of kids and their attitudes and what we accomplished seemed to stay with the kids we have back. Our kids have confidence. The learned last year that we could come back if we got behind if they kept working hard and didn't panic.''
Morris leads a defense that has eight starters back with senior transfer Trey Eaves, a starter at cornerback for Charlotte's Independence last season. He joins a secondary that defensive coordinator David Sweem called "maybe'' one of the best in the state.
It includes the team's top offensive player, quarterback Rondreas Truesdale. Sweem is switching to a 3-4 set this season, with Morris at one DE, returning nose Curtis Groll and three players in a rotation at the other defensive end.
Truesdale is not quite another Jim Thorpe, but he's a pretty good all-around athlete. He's worked on his passing game since last year, and Mayer said the improvement is "very'' noticeable. Given his choice, Truesdale, a 5-feeoott-9, 165-pound senior, starred in three sports.
He led the football team with 154 carries for 1,573 yards and 20 touchdowns. He passed for 668 yards and 6 TDs. On defense, Truesdale had 68 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 passes broken up, 2 recovered fumbles and a caused fumble. He also runs back kicks.
Truesdale was the Class AA state runner-up in wrestling at 161 pounds. He was Class AA state track champion in the 110 high hurdles, and he won titles in the Region 4-AA meet in the 100 and 200 dashes and the 110 hurdles.
"We have to work at maximum capacity so we can be seen by college coaches and earn scholarships,'' he said. "And if we do that, we will also win games and maybe a state title.
"The hard thing for us last year was not playing harder competition. It was losing to Columbia in the first round of the playoffs. We didn't show up; something we had not let happen all season. If we played them 10 times, I believe we would win nine games. This year, no matter who we play, we won't get caught sleeping.
Morris and Truesdale are 3.0 GPA students and have met the academic requirements for college. Morris is hearing from Western Carolina and Charleston Southern for football and Appalachian State for wrestling.
Truesdale's suitors are for football. He's getting interest from Wofford, Wake Forest, Charlotte, Presbyterian and West Point.
Those affairs will work out in time. For Truesdale, Morris and the rest of the team, there is unfinished business. The Warriors will be reminded of it every day.
Last year's team motto was "Respect.'' They earned it. This year's motto is "Next Level.'' They want it.
Barry Byers 329-4099