The Cross High School football team was 0-for-the-fall in 2018, but those struggles were expected. The Trojans were simply too baby-faced to compete at the varsity level.
From what Trojans coach Shaun Wright heard, it was the first time Cross missed the playoffs since 1969. The Trojans had advanced to the second round of the playoffs every year since 2011, which included a championship run in 2012.
However, they stuck together.
“These coaches did a wonderful job of keeping the morale as high as it could get,” Wright said. “There was no finger pointing or guys that quit. We just focused on very small, daily goals. The one thing we have taught our guys — even during the successful seasons — is to never worry about the scoreboard. Just play to the whistle.”
Wright’s bunch began building for 2019 as soon as the season was over and will return to the practice field for spring drills next month. In May, teams are permitted 20 days of practice, with a maximum of 10 in pads.
The Trojans come back a bit stronger and more resolved to get the program back on track.
“We are definitely stronger than we were last year but we have a ways to go before we can enforce our will across the board,” Wright said. “We only have five rising seniors so we are still dealing with resetting the program. What I can assure you is the attitude is improved. I never can predict wins but what I can say is, in certain spots on this team, you will have a fight on your hands dealing with us.”
Players stepping up to assume leadership roles would make the climb back up the mountain a smoother journey. Cross needs them inside and outside the lines.
“I can talk about all the talent in the world that we have but we need some players stepping up in leadership roles,” Wright said. “Most times, that comes from home. I will know after spring how I truly feel about this year’s team. If the weight room is an indication, one thing I know for sure is the team that lined up for us last year will be different this year from an attitude standpoint.”
On the offensive side, the Trojans have to be able to put some drives together. Last season, they were blanked six times in nine games. Sometimes they were simply overmatched. Other times it was a matter of not executing.
“We have several young kids that I hope will take the reins at quarterback,” Wright said. “We will look to establish toughness at the point of attack. We may not run as much option so creating some plays physically will be the challenge. We want to increase our passing percentage and number of times we throw the ball.”
The quarterback spot will likely go to a sophomore or freshman.
Trojans receivers have been getting work with a 7 on 7 team coached by Mal Lawyer, a former Berkeley and Clemson receiver.
“I really like our wide outs,” Wright said. “We could surprise there. Running should be a strength for our team offensively.”
Up front, the Trojans are mixing in some young guys with a couple veterans.
On the other side, the Trojans look the part of a good defensive front and at inside linebacker. They’re looking for some inside linebackers and a safety.
Finding playmakers on special teams is another key.
“Defensively, we want to pride ourselves on running to the football,” Wright said. “We want to spend a lot of time on special teams. We did not have anyone on the team who wanted to block a punt this past year, so we need to establish that part of our game again.”