When his peers voted Tyner as the leading candidate to win this year's District 6-AA football championship, Rams coach Wayne Turner laughed and said, "They haven't been out here with me this summer."
The comment surfaced again this week as Turner discussed the Rams' 0-4 start and their subsequent two-game win streak.
"I knew we had some problems that we had to overcome," he said. "Some of the guys had played some, but a lot were in different positions. We were young and immature and we were playing as a lot of individuals and not as a team."
The improved team play has shown in the improved performance of running back Joseph Sturkey. Almost two-thirds of his 482 yards this season have come in the last three games.
"He's carrying the load," Turner said. "He's a strong punishing runner that I originally figured would be our fullback, but the difference in Sturkey and a lot of other kids is that he works hard from the time we start practice till we come in, and then most of the time he'll go lift or watch film after that. Some of the rest don't push themselves Monday through Thursday, so they don't know how to do it on Fridays."
Sturkey sees a difference in the first four games and the last two.
"I was happy with how I played, but I wasn't happy with how the [first four] games turned out," he said. "We should've had guys being more aggressive and playing harder. The first four we were playing as individuals.
"I believe I got better in those first four weeks, and these last two weeks the line has been blocking well on every play."
Tackle to tackle, the linemen are David Powell, Collin Thul, Edward Davis, Raynard Williamson and Zachary Hutchins.
As much as he moaned in the preseason, Turner never envisioned being winless after the first month of games.
"We're 2-4 now. We probably ought to be 4-2," he said.
His sermon after a season-opening loss to Signal Mountain was that the Rams had to get better every time the ball was snapped, whether in practice or in games.
"As far as our running game, it wasn't just the line not blocking well or the backs not running well," he said. "It was a combination. At the beginning of the season we weren't throwing the ball well; we weren't blocking well in our pass protection. On our runs we didn't block well up front and we didn't block well at the fullback or wingback positions, and then when we did make blocks the backs weren't seeing the holes.
"All those things are beginning to work themselves out."
The Rams know there is a winning tradition at their school and they hadn't been accountable where that standard was concerned.
"We've got more people playing as a team now," Turner said.
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...