CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — Charlie Wiggins would just as soon forget his first game as head coach of the Gordon Lee Trojans.
Not only did they lose 28-0 to rival Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, but they turned the ball over four times and had more penalty yards than yards gained. They appeared disorganized at times and clearly rattled.
A group of longtime Gordon Lee fans were overheard saying, among other things, "This is going to be a long year."
A month later, Wiggins' crew is riding a three-game winning streak during which the Trojans have scored 48, 25 and 55 points and have averaged more than 300 yards rushing per game. The difference? According to Wiggins, it has little to do with scheme changes or new starters.
"We have cleaned up a few things and some younger kids have stepped in and gotten good playing time, but the big thing is the kids started holding each other accountable," Wiggins said. "They're taking ownership with what's going on. We've got 10 or 11 seniors and we asked them, 'How do you want to go out?' This team was 4-6 the last two years, and I know they wanted more."
One of those seniors, running back/defensive back Adam Vandiver, agrees that the quick turnaround started between the ears and involved a change in goals.
"As seniors we have to set the example for everybody, and during that first game there were too many guys playing to get themselves in the spotlight instead of helping the team," said Vandiver, whose junior season was cut short due to injury. "We all had to take a look at what we were playing for. As a senior I have to go 100 percent all the time to set the example.
"The last three games we've played as a team."
Vandiver has led the way offensively with more than 400 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the three wins. He's averaged 10-plus yards per carry during that time but deflected any praise to the linemen.
"The biggest area of improvement has been with our offensive line," Vandiver said. "They've played great, and with this offense it all starts with them. The backs, me included, were trying to do too much in that first game, and now we're taking what's there instead of looking for big plays."
So for now, Gordon Lee fans are counting on it being a long season for another reason — a deep playoff run.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...