The stigma is still there and it’s not going anywhere: Quitman has not won a football game since October of 2013.
The losses have mounted to 43 in a row.
Athletic Director and Head Coach Bryan Oakes, his staff and the Bulldogs are already working hard and gearing up to change course. The off-season has been busy and summer conditioning workouts have been promising.
Oakes is upbeat and confident that change is imminent.
“We have some kids who have bought into what we are trying to accomplish, and I believe this year will bring about positive changes in the program,” Oakes said. “You can tell our program is growing by the presence of our athletes. Our underclassmen have bought in to our goals whole-heartedly.
“It’s hard to see sometimes in the day to day grind, but when you remove yourself from it and take a look at it you can see the positive advances we have made.”
Oakes has been at the helm for over a year now.
“The biggest accomplishment for us in football has been the off season. We have had to create a different mind-set. The last year has been a whirlwind for me and for the kids,” Oakes noted. “We had new coaches and just a new way of doing things for our athletes. In the football program the retention of knowledge is a big factor. Now, our guys know what to expect and we don’t have to start brand new. They know how we want things done.”
Going through last year was sometimes a struggle.
“Sometimes we simply suffered from paralysis of analysis. I can see now already how much better we are, simply because of retention,” Oakes said. “We have identified our deficiencies and from that we know exactly what we must work on. We have given them things they have to work on that are harder than before. It’s a mindset to learn to work harder and to push through tough times. We are also having a lot more competition among our players.”
Oakes said his athletes are maturing.
“We were really young last year, and we still are going to be young, but I see a growing confidence in our kids we have not had in the past. We have been working hard and competing with other schools in seven on seven competition. Right now we look forward to summer workouts. We are anxious to see our growth.”
According to Oakes, the team has grown emotionally after facing adversity last year.
Tim Huggins, father of Bulldog Hunter Huggins, died just as the grind of two-a-days began. Hunter, who will be a junior this year, fought courageously through the personal pain and played varsity football. Just a few weeks later, after the Homecoming game in October, senior wide receiver Stephen Love died tragically in a traffic collision.
”These kids have been through so much with the emotions and the loss of a dad and teammate they all loved,” Oakes said. “I have watched them mature throughout the year.”
Oakes is ready for the 2018 season with a team that is experienced.
“You are looking at a group of kids and a plethora of sophomores who were forced into a varsity role and took it on the chin. We have seen them grow through all the sports because so many have played varsity level sports,” Oakes praised. “We say we are still young and hopefully in a couple of years we won’t be saying that anymore. We are still only going to have about six seniors on the team. Because of what they went through last year, I can see where they have grown and it will make a difference this fall.”
What about winning games?
“We will win this year. I don’t know if it will be early or if it will be after we play a few games, but we will win. Once we get that first one, we will be on a roll to win again and again,” Oakes said. “I was encouraged this year by our track season. In 2017 we had 11 boys on the track team and this year we had 25. We need to keep on growing in all our sports and we will be just fine.
“ Can’t is a word derived from the word can. We need to understand that we can be successful and we plan on doing that this year.”
The Bulldogs open the 2018 season on the road at Cumby, a team who went three deep in the state playoffs last season. Two-a-days begin in early August.