By Kyle LoJacono
The last few years the Gaither football team hasn’t had much to hang its 10-gallon hat on.
The Cowboys won just eight games from 2008-10, a three-year stretch that saw the program lose 23 contest including 10 straight. However, the current Gaither squad has a new level of confidence in its ability to win every time it takes the field.
With its 38-30 victory against Durant on Nov. 18 in the Class 7A regional quarterfinals, the Cowboys improved their record to 8-3, the most wins in a season since the program posted 10 in 2000. It also marked the first time Gaither has taken a postseason contest since 2007.
After defeating Durant, Cowboys senior cornerback Tyler McCollum said it was like the last few years of torment flashed before his eyes.
“It feels like my whole mind is just rushing with all the work we’ve had to put in the last four years to get here,” McCollum said.
Gaither junior athlete Shug Oyegunle added, “I can’t even explain it in words right now. We’ve come so far and worked so hard for this day.”
Oyegunle’s first year as a Cowboy was 2009 when the squad went 1-9 and we outscored 335-66. He said the players had been doing the things they needed to win the last few seasons, but the lack of Ws had sucked a lot of the faith out of them.
“Now we know we can win,” Oyegunle said. “It was more the belief that was can win that changed for us. We’ve worked hard at practice every day. There isn’t a day in practice we don’t give 110 percent. So we knew we were doing the right things, but once the wins started coming we started to believe and now we’re 8-3 and still playing.”
First-year Gaither coach Jason Stokes agreed with Oyegunle, saying the reputation of players from the area was less than complimentary in past years.
“You know they used to say those Northdale and Lutz boys are soft, but not no more,” Stokes said. “These kids are finding a way and learning how to win.”
Stokes has been a big part of creating that belief in the players. He brought a more balanced offense to the Cowboys and started calling the plays after Week 2.
“We got a new offense and we changed the defense a little bit and then everything just started clicking,” McCollum said. “We found some new players and everything just clicked. … Coach Stokes has really been a big part in everything coming together this year.”
For complete coverage of Gaither’s playoff win against Durant, see page 17.
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