The same Cardinals team that went 1-9 in 2010, nearly made the playoffs in its first season under coach Xarvia Smith. With tough season-opening losses at Langston Hughes and Woodward Academy, Smith and the Cardinals earned their first victory of the year with a 23-7 home win over McNair in Week 3.
The win was a springboard for what followed for Osborne, which played competitively against some of the best teams in its region over the next three games. The Cardinals lost 17-7 at Hiram, dropped a 27-24 double-overtime loss at home against Pope and fell by a narrow 13-8 decision at Kell.
Winless in Region 5AAAA (N) after those three losses, Osborne logged its second victory — 42-25 at home versus North Paulding — and first region triumph of the season, to set the stage for a very interesting conclusion to the year.
The Cardinals win over the Wolfpack left Osborne, which had two region games remaining, in control of its postseason fate. A victory over Sprayberry the following week would have likely given Osborne the No. 4 playoff seed from its subregion, making it eligible for a region cross-over match for the fourth state playoff spot out of Region 5AAAA.
Despite finishing 1-5 in region play, Osborne was in playoff contention with two weeks left in the regular season, giving it a lot to build on heading into 2012.
“We’re down in numbers this spring, but we’re further ahead this season than we were last,” Smith said. “We started with about 50 kids and now we’re down to 45. But, I’m blessed with the 45 that are out there. They work hard and I believe they’ll run through a wall for me.
“They’re coachable and likeable guys that want success.”
It’s an attitude Smith is grateful to see from his players, who have supported his approach to weight training and improvement during the offseason. Additionally, Osborne has seen growth in its resources and the program’s infrastructure.
“We’ve had a great offseason,” he said. “The guys are working out have gotten a lot stronger. Our offensive line is bigger than last year, and the kids are buying into weight training and getting bigger.
“We have a brand-new weight room with around $40,000 worth of equipment. Our booster club has helped tremendously with that effort. We now have the tools to make these kids successful.”
Another element that would add to Osborne’s success is increased interest in the program from the school.
“Our next focus is we have to get our numbers up. That hurt us during the regular season. We couldn’t overcome our lack of depth when we had injuries. We need about 20 to 25 more kids into the program.
“Our plan is to take a ‘no child left behind’ approach. That should help us. If we can keep winning games, that should help, too, but the flip side is it’s hard to win without having kids in the program. It’s just one of those things we’re looking to change soon.”