Football coaches measure improvement from game to game, but for Michael Mayer, the head man for the Indian Land High Warriors, it was tough to calculate where his team stood on a weekly basis last season.
Indian Land improved its record to 3-8 after winning one game the previous year, and until the 34-0 loss to Great Falls in last year's finale, had an outside shot of making the playoffs. Records are only part of judging progress, and nobody understands that more than Mayer. So far, in this young season, however, Mayer can't help but like what he sees.
Indian Land opened the season with a home victory over the Buford Yellow Jackets Friday.
Warriors quarterback Josh Camerire passed for 139 yards, including touchdown passes to Ted Boston and Jarrell Robinson. Rondreas Truesdale tacked on a two-point conversion. Indian Land ran 43 plays and gained 269 yards.
The Warriors and Yellow Jackets are in Region 3-A, but the game was the first of two between the rivals this season and did not count in the region standings. Their region game is Oct. 23 at Buford.
Last year, the Warriors had a string of injuries and suspensions occur that would test any coach's patience. Mayer made a decision to sit several starters for breaking team rules in one game, and showed that he is serious about discipline on and off the field.
“Suspensions were a bigger problem than injuries last year, hopefully we will have fewer of both,” Mayer said. “So far we have stayed banged up.”
Injuries were a problem last season, but the Warriors return 22 seniors including eight on offense and five from a defense that flashed signs of consistency early last year. The depth is better and other key positions have had another season to develop chemistry and timing, providing optimism.
The defense has had a season to improve in the weight room and understanding the game plan of the coaching staff and should be better across the board. Mayer has been impressed with Roberto Rizzo, a seldom-used reserve last season. Rizzo, who improved his conditioning and lost more than 100 pounds in the off-season, starts on the defensive line.
The offense was at times the downfall for the Warriors last year, but with eight starters returning including Camerire, Boston and tackle Sam Seigler, they should be much improved. Many of the offensive lineman return from last year and look to afford Camerire more time to distribute the ball to a talented group of skill players.
“We're doing the same thing we've been doing for the past three years with the same kids so we should be getting good at it by now,” Mayer said.
There is hope that this team can contend for a playoff spot, but they have to improve on a poor performance in the Jamboree. Mayer was rightfully upset after that scrimmage, but the pieces are in place for a winning season and continued improvement.
With all of the seniors returning, this should be the year Indian Land gets itself back into playoff contention and erases memories of a one-win season in 2007. Many of these players were on that team and they remember the hard times.
The Warriors look to go 2-0 when they take on Blacksburg Friday.