Jahtavious Gaines

Cross defensive back Jahtavious Gaines (4) makes an interception against Stratford in a 7 on 7 game at Cane Bay High School in late June.

Shaun Wright kept the tally in his head at an informal 7 on 7 passing day at Cane Bay High School in late June and didn’t think the Trojans lost any one of their five games.

A focused effort in the weight room, combined with some natural physical growth that only age can bring, had the Cross High School football team in better position to compete for every ball.

Like every other high school football program in the state, the Trojans have turned their focus to the dawning of a new season. Friday, Aug. 2, is the first official day of football practice for high school teams. They can get in full gear on Aug. 7 and begin lining up against other squads in preseason scrimmages on Aug. 8.

Last fall, the Trojans were 0-for-the-season and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1969, according to Coach Wright. The Trojans had advanced to the second round of the playoffs every year since 2011, which included a championship run in 2012.

The futility can be traced back to simply not having enough varsity-ready players on Friday nights. Swagger was nowhere to be found, unlike seasons past when Cross was one of the better Class A programs in the state.

“They had a lack of confidence because they felt defeated before games started,” Wright said. “I didn’t see us compete for balls or run to the football. There was no type of winning spirit among us whatsoever. If you come with a different attitude, you can bring more fight to the game.”

Cross believes if it can outwork its opponents, it will have a shot to come out on top in every game. That was the mantra in the offseason.

“Each person took it upon themselves to get bigger, to get faster, to get stronger, to get more mentally into the game,” Wright said. “Doing that will allow wins to take care of themselves.”

On this particular day at Cane Bay, the gap between the Trojans and the opposition wasn’t noticeable. They more than held their own despite still being a young football team.

“We’re still babies,” Wright said. “We only have a couple of seniors. We’re probably going to start three freshmen, five sophomores and four juniors on our football team. We’re still trying to figure it out.”

That’s true for everybody as talking season turns into football season next month.