Campbell (3-4, 1-3) was able to come back from a two score deficit against winless Pebblebrook to earn a 31-13 victory. After winning just four games total over the previous three years, the Spartans have an opportunity to win their fourth.
But more than that, more than measuring progress in wins and losses, Campbell coach Harris Rainbow has noticed something else in his program.
“(Last) Friday was the first time all year that we came together as a team and started playing for our teammates, coaches, community and stopped worrying about themselves as individuals,” he said. “That’s a huge step for us and our program.
“The biggest key for us is that, when you make a mistake on Friday night, it’s one thing to have a bad reaction, it’s another to see how kids react to him making a mistake. In the past, at Campbell, the first thing when something happens, they started blaming each other and getting mad at each other. Last week, for the first time, I feel like our team is starting to take accountability for their play and their work. That’s a big step for us.
“When I took the job over here, I knew the history (of the program) and knew where we wanted to do. It’s been a long haul, but one of those steps is working together as a team. And they are starting to do that.”
At Marietta, the process of improving is much further along. The Blue Devils (4-2, 3-1) are coming off consecutive wins over Kennesaw Mountain and Pebblebrook and are contenders at the top of Region 4AAAAAA. With those wins came added confidence.
However, there was still plenty to look at from a standpoint of getting better.
“After every game, we evaluate and look at the good, bad and the ugly,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “(The Kennesaw Mountain) game was no different. Basically, it was just more focus and attention on specific details within your own specific personality. Not unlike other high school programs, we have kids that try so desperately to make a play that they miss their assignments. It’s about doing your job, and if the guy does his job next to him, then everything will be OK.”
Against Kennesaw Mountain, the defense allowed over 250 yards on the ground, but managed to force two turnovers that directly into touchdowns. The adjustments defensively came as a result of not just the coaches telling the players what needed to happen, but adjustments made by the team’s two captains on defense: linebacker Lawton Ward and defensive end Jan Robles.
“We actually had players the other night in the game saying, just focus on your job,” Burton said. “They were recognizing that in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to get distracted. You can get off task. The players checked themselves and that’s the sign of a team that’s coming together. That’s a team that respects one another and keeps everyone on the same page.”
It’s important for Burton to have that kind of leadership on the field because, over the course of the season, the speed of the game, the doldrums of the regular season and other distractions can keep players from taking care of all of the small things that they need to.
“We want to make sure that our guys understand that as the season progresses, it’s easy to get into a pattern kind of like ]Groundhog Day,’” Burton said. “But you have to stay consistent because those things often get overlooked. Everyone has a key, a focus. Your eyes will never lie to you unless they are in the wrong place.”