High School Football

Coaches face balancing act in regrouping after lopsided losses

The May River High School Sharks football team plays its first ever game with its crosstown rival, the Bluffton Bobcats, at Bluffton High School on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.
The May River High School Sharks football team plays its first ever game with its crosstown rival, the Bluffton Bobcats, at Bluffton High School on Friday, Aug. 26, 2016. jkarr@islandpacket.com

On one hand, the temptation had to be strong for Rodney Summers to take last Friday’s game tape and stash it in some dark place.

With such a young team, though, it also provided the vehicle for many a teachable moment. Many, many teachable moments.

“You could take that film and teach for more than one day,” the May River coach quipped. “It was a lot.”

That’s the byproduct when you’ve found yourself on the wrong end of a 77-3 score. The riddle for any coach is how best to approach it — what to show, how much to show, when to call off the inquisition and simply get back to work.

Friday’s loss to Bluffton could have yielded a marathon session for the Sharks, but what’s the point?

“We tried to correct those things that we knew we could get better at,” Summers said. “Then we needed to get started on (next foe) Whale Branch and put Bluffton behind us. We just tried to move forward as quick as we could.”

As fortune would have it, last weekend’s results offered something of a case study in how to deal with lopsided defeat. May River was just one of four area teams that spent the weekend trying to regroup after losses of at least 30 points.

Battery Creek was blanked by Beaufort 49-0. Whale Branch got blitzed by Hilton Head Island 40-8. John Paul II was overrun by St. Andrews 62-6.

In each case, the message was essentially the same: Keep your heads up, focus on the most correctable issues first and understand success is sometimes measured by degrees. Learn from mistakes, but don’t wallow in them.

“The last thing these kids need is me yelling at them, telling them they’re not good players,” Whale Branch coach Jerry Hatcher said. “They are good players.

“Of course I’m going to point out mistakes and say if we had done certain things correctly, (bad plays) wouldn’t have happened. ... But I thought our kids played better than the score indicated.”

The Warriors suffered a critical blow a day before the game, when starting quarterback Marion Smalls broke his wrist in a freakish fall while warming up. C.J. Brown stepped in to run the offense, but the domino effect of vacating his cornerback spot proved easy pickings for two early Hilton Head touchdowns.

Likewise, an ankle injury left John Paul II missing top rusher Rashad Battiste when the Golden Warriors took on St. Andrew’s. Perhaps it wouldn’t have flipped the result, but it could have made the game a lot more competitive than it was.

In those circumstances, coaches (in the pre-digital era) might have chosen to simply shelve the film. Or even held a ceremonial burning as a way of encouraging players to wipe it from their system.

“I still think you dissect (the tape),” coach Kevin Wald said. “It may not all be good, but I saw some pieces that were pretty good. You take the not-so-good and show it, try to learn from it.”

Battery Creek coach Fred Hamilton said he makes a point of showing not just the most critical mistake on any given play, but all the mistakes that were made. It drives home the idea that it’s a team sport and everybody contributes, both good and bad.

“That doesn’t single anybody out,” he said. “It tells them why (the opponent’s) play was successful and ours wasn’t. They executed, and we didn’t.”

Said Wald: “I always tell my guys we’re not here to glorify anyone and we’re not here to embarrass anybody. We’re here to learn and get better.”

Staying positive was a big emphasis all around, too, as opposed to old-school days when coaches were more apt to hammer home every single mistake.

“A couple of guys, we dreaded going into that film room,” Hamilton recalled from his playing days. “They would embarrass you in front of your peers.”

Hamilton noted he was encouraged by the reaction from his Battery Creek players, many of whom showed up on the weekend to get an early start on picking up the pieces.

“We didn’t make them do it,” Hamilton said. “They came in the weight room and worked out while we watched film. They were able to see how many hours the coaching staff is putting in, and we put in quite a bit this weekend.”

Jeff Shain: 843-706-8123, @jeffshain