Sometimes moral victories are OK. Sometimes. And the recent history of Murray County High School’s football team probably classifies the Indians’ performance Friday night into the acceptable “moral victory” category.
But moral victories are still only moral victories, and those aren’t in Chad Brewer’s game plan.
Immediately following the game between Coahulla Creek and Murray County — a 35-9 win for the host Colts — I spoke to the losing Indians’ new head coach about what he saw from his team.
Was he happy with the first-game effort? Was he thrilled with the Indians competing well into the fourth quarter? Was he excited for the future, one that could actually include a Murray County turnaround?
His answer? Coach speak. I guess he read the manual.
“Not excited to lose a game,” Brewer said. “Never excited to lose a game. Until we get the mentality that losing is not acceptable, it’ll never turn around for us. There were some good things. There were a lot of bad things, too. It’s our job as a coaching staff to get those things fixed and addressed before we play a very good Christian Heritage team.”
The reality for the program is Friday night’s performance was the best from a Murray County team in two years. In fact, it was the closest margin of defeat in that time. By comparison, last year’s game between these two teams was a 55-7 Coahulla Creek win, and this year’s Colts team is better, and has more experience and senior leadership.
In fact, Coahulla Creek senior quarterback Blaine Williams delayed answering the first question to comment on Murray County’s improvement.
“Let me just start by saying Murray County is a completely different team,” he said. “They’re going to keep getting better.”
If you’re a Murray County fan, player or coach, don’t forget that quarterback Justin Smith had a fake punt run in the first quarter for 48 yards, and a Coahulla Creek player had to chase him down to prevent a score. Don’t forget that Smith had a 29-yard run in the second quarter, but the Indians’ drive stalled near the Colts’ 25-yard line. Don’t forget that Spencer Baggett had a 29-yard reception but was tripped up by the ankle to prevent another potential score in the fourth quarter. Don’t forget that Murray County trailed 21-9 halfway through the fourth quarter and had the ball in Coahulla Creek territory before a Smith pass was picked off by Erick Dominguez.
Don’t forget that the game was much closer than 35-9 would indicate.
Don’t forget those facts, but don’t be excited by them either. They’re almosts, near-misses and what-ifs — all ingredients of a moral victory plea.
“You can say those things about every game,” Brewer said. “We’ve got to start making those plays and we have to have a desire that losing is not an option and make those three or four plays to have a shot.”
But don’t forget that Murray County won the third quarter 9-0 and held Coahulla Creek to just six points from two minutes left in the first quarter to three minutes left in the fourth quarter. That means for nearly three quarters, the Indians were on par with the Colts, a team that won a year ago with a running clock, used when one team is ahead by 30 or more after the third quarter.
Don’t forget it, but don’t be satisfied with it.
“Like coach Brewer says, you have to win four quarters,” junior linebacker Kevin Chavez said. “Not just the third quarter. We came out blazing after halftime.”
The losing streak has reached 19 games. It would’ve been 21 had Dalton and Southeast Whitfield not used ineligible players in 2011, giving the Indians two forfeiture victories.
“It comes down to good coaching,” Chavez said. “We’re still learning. It’s still a process. Like they told us, we have baggage from the past couple of years. (Offensive coordinator) Jeff Williams told us we can’t sprint with baggage. We have to let it go. ... God did it feel good competing. It felt amazing. I loved every second of it.”
Still, losing never feels good, and moral victories are never good enough.
As long as those within Murray County’s program remind themselves of this, eventually, they won’t throw that fourth-quarter interception. Eventually, they won’t give up opening-drive touchdowns or fall behind by 21 or have four turnovers, like they did Friday.
Eventually, that losing streak will stop. This season, in fact.
If someone were to ask me what I saw Friday, that’s what I’d say. But those are moral victory-filled statements, and the Indians want none of it.
Good on them.
Devin Golden is a sports writer for The Daily Citizen. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.