Jerry Faulkner made a promise to himself upon accepting the boys basketball head coaching position at Hilton Head Prep last May.
The veteran coach vowed to not watch a single minute of film from the Dolphins' previous campaign, a trying 4-23 season under former coach Bob Sulek. None of Prep's struggles -- or triumphs, for that matter -- carried much weight him.
"This is all about teaching lessons of life, and you can't live on your laurels from last year," Faulkner said. "I'm not going to put you down the ladder because you didn't perform well the year before."
Faulkner presented his new team with a clean slate entering this season. The nine-time state champion coach understood there would be some growing pains -- such as Prep's 65-49 loss to Northwood Academy on Friday night -- but has still seen a handful of moments that show the Dolphins' progress in his inaugural campaign.
"The first year is a situation of trying to put in your culture and what you feel is important," Faulkner said. "Getting them to be competitive in games."
The competitiveness, by and large, has been there. The 16-point setback at the hands of the region rival Chargers was just the second loss this season by eight or more points, with the previous one coming in a 72-46 defeat by Porter-Gaud, which is considered the heavy favorite in SCISAA Region 3-AAA.
Steady progress is what matters to Faulkner, especially considering the Dolphins' situation. Prep has just one senior on the roster -- starting guard Charlie Wilmot -- and is playing under its third head coach in three seasons.
"Usually if you've been in a program for a while, you've got some guys that know what's going on," Faulkner said, "and have some idea of how practices go, our philosophy (and) our offense. Everything is absolutely new to them."
The new system naturally causes its share of trouble every so often. Prep (10-9) trailed by one point entering the second quarter but allowed Northwood (7-11) to go on a quick 13-0 run after the break to put the game out of reach. The Dolphins -- as they have shown this season -- once again settled for too many outside shots, which in turn led to long rebounds for the Chargers, who were then able to get out on the break.
With Tayvaughn Major's 22 points leading the way, Northwood shot a whopping 64 percent (16 of 28) from the field in the first half, thanks in part to Prep's final 7 of 23 mark from 3-point range. The Chargers turned a 15-14 advantage after one quarter into a 44-24 advantage at halftime before cruising to victory.
"(With) their athleticism, they got out on the break," Faulkner said. "They could get out and run. ... That's been one of our faults, is that we sometimes settle for the outside shot rather than go inside. But they did a good job of pressuring us."
The Dolphins kept an even pace in the third quarter before winning the final period, 16-12. It's those type of moments that Faulkner seeks to build on with his new team.
"The goal was to get competitive," he said. "We've won some close games. Some of those games have gone our way. I can't say it's not been frustrating. But that's life."
Northwood Academy 65, Hilton Head Prep 49
Northwood -- Tayvaughn Major 22, Darrett Drayton 13, Will Lloyd 7, Douglas Dwight 6, Jordan Smart 6, Falcon Stewart 4, Drayton Clutters 4, Micah Londin 3
Hilton Head Prep -- John Eck 18, Shaun Topper 8, Sam McCracken 7, Will Peterkin 6, Cole Gardocki 5, Charlie Wilmot 3, Randy Young 2