As his football team simply plays out the season, Troy Boeck is coaching for more than just to salvage another win.
"There's no doubt about it, I'm fighting for my job," said Boeck, whose Marion County team is 1-7 going into tonight's game at Copper Basin.
While success in high school athletics always has gone in cycles, depending on how deep the talent pool is, the sure sign of the times is just how quickly a prep coach can go from toast of the town to simply toast.
Boeck directed the Warriors to the semifinals in 2008, his first season, and the quarterfinals the next year. They finished with a losing record last year and now are in the worst season in program history, assured of not making the playoffs for only the second time in the last 28 years.
The Warriors aren't just losing games by allowing an average of 44.8 points per game; they're losing players as well.
"We started the season with 65 guys, and now we're down to 30-something," said Boeck, whose team starts six freshmen and has just two senior starters. "The season turned when we were flat in our first game, and I take the blame for that. Once we stumbled, their shoulders slumped and we never recovered. Now, whether it's injuries or just kids quitting, they're dropping like flies.
"Its the same staff we had our first two years, so it's not like we just forgot how to coach. But the first thing we have to do is just win a game. We're playing for next year, so we need to start building some confidence now."
Boeck isn't the only coach reeling through a season of futility at a program accustomed to winning. Nine area teams are winless or have just one win so far this season and seven of those had winning records in the last two years. Marion County is a four-time state champion that will miss the playoffs for only the second time in the last 28 years, while Rhea County, a program that has played for two state titles and advanced to at least the quarterfinals four times in the last decade, hasn't been winless this deep into a season since 1984.
The 0-7 Golden Eagles, who lost two games by a combined eight points, also have allowed 34-plus points five times. Next Friday they will play Walker Valley, which remained winless after a big loss to Bradley Central Thursday. The Mustangs haven't beaten a team with a winning record since knocking off Cleveland in 2008.
And while McMinn Central has just one win, that's one more than it got all of last year.
Howard (0-6), which was 8-3 last year, is off to its worst season since 2003, when the Hustlin' Tigers lost their first seven and finished 1-9. Whitwell has allowed 50-plus points five times and has given up the fourth-most points of any team in the state, regardless of classification, but that pales in comparison to the amount of points allowed by Murray County.
The Indians (0-6) set a Georgia state record by losing their first three games 70-0, 73-0 and 70-0. It hasn't gotten much better in Chatsworth the last three weeks with losses by a combined 146-24.
Murray County, Rhea County, Howard and Whitwell all have first-year head coaches, so each of those programs likely get a pass on making any coaching changes after the current disastrous season. As for the other five coaches, with precious few games remaining to make a positive impact, more than their season is in jeopardy.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...