“You begin with a vision and a hope,” Whitefield Academy coach John Hunter said. “You kind of get special groups and this was a group that had decided that they wanted to do special things.”
Special may be the best word to describe what the Wolfpack did during their 2013 season. After totaling four wins in 2011, the team rebounded with seven more victories last season — ending the year on a seven-game winning streak — to go 11-5.
This past season was like a coming out party for Whitefield, which ended the season with a 15-4 overall mark, challenged for the Area 1AAAAA-A title and earned a state playoff berth for the first time in program history.
For leading a young Whitefield squad to an impressive season, Hunter is the 2013 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb All-County Boys Lacrosse Coach of the Year.
“The honor for me to receive coach of the year is a program honor,” said Hunter, who was also chosen the Georgia Boys Lacrosse High School Coaches Council Head Coach of the Year. “It’s not a coaching honor. It’s a group of parents and a school that backs what you’re doing, it’s group of kids with a heart and a passion to do well and it’s a group of assistant coaches that are diligent to make sure good things happen. Put that all together and then get lucky sometimes and good things can happen.
“There are so many good coaches, that I’m humbled by the thought that I’m in the category with some very outstanding coaches in our county and our state. If anything we walk away from it’s that this program absorbed the vision of what we’re trying to do and bought into the things we needed to do. We were fortunate for things to come out the way they did.”
Things worked well for the Wolfpack, who won 13 of their first 15 games — including 10 in a row from mid-March to mid-April. The offense and defense clicked throughout the season as Whitefield averaged 11.9 goals per game, behind strong performances from Dallas Darling and Alex Manning, while limiting opponents to 5.8 goals per contest, following the lead of defender Chris Washington.
“This was a very good balanced team,” said Hunter, who just completed his second season at the helm. “We had a well-rounded group. I think we could always rely on our defense, and we knew kids that we had on the team could step up and score a goal. When you believe in your heart that there is an opportunity where you can take one away or put one in, then you have an opportunity to find a win. They were able to do that.”
Following last year’s 11-5 record, Hunter wasn’t sure how his team would perform in 2013, but it was clear to him after every game that his team had the focus needed to do well.
“This group had been working for this for a long time,” he said. “They’re whole mantra was finish. They wanted to finish what they started and leave no doubt that they would play hard every night.
“We talked after every game with the concept that we’re not done yet. We play one game at a time. It was more of an understanding that every game is important. Every ball possession was important. Every practice was important. Everything had a purpose for what they were trying to accomplish. If they were honest and true to what they said they wanted to do, they had to prove it on the field.”
Ultimately, that’s what Whitefield did, and Hunter hopes the trend can continue.
“Everying is a process,” he said. “Everything has a building block. To go from a non-existent program three years ago to where people recognize this as a legitimate lacrosse program, they’ve gained a lot of respect because they finished and they left no doubt. It was a good year.
“Everyday they came out and gave 100 percent and left it all out on the field. At the end of the day, they’ve left a legacy for others to follow and hopefully good things can happen.”