All building projects have a foundation, a starting point that can be built upon.
For the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School football team, the foundation for being a competitive program began in the summer. Foundations, though, can crumble without reinforcement. Even the most thorough of plans can fall apart after a few setbacks.
LFO's reinforcement, its proof of progress, came last week in a 28-23 win over Ringgold. Even before this past Friday, the Warriors had tasted victory twice this season — which was twice as often as in the previous two seasons combined — but not the kind of win that suggested anything permanent.
By beating the Tigers in a game they dominated from the start, the Warriors ended a 12-game losing streak to their Catoosa County rivals a year after losing 62-20 to them. At 3-3 overall and 1-0 in the 6-AAA North subregion, LFO's program is now officially relevant when it comes to playoff talk.
Coach Bo Campbell won't go that far, but he realizes the importance of the signature victory.
"It was important for a lot of people," the third-year coach said. "It was important for our young men. I really wanted something special for them because they work so hard and they deserve every second of something like that. Ever since I got the job, I told them it was going to be a process and a hard one at that."
LFO didn't get the win with some exotic game plan or because the opponent made multiple mistakes. The Warriors won with a physical running game that produced nearly 300 yards and ate up two-thirds of the game clock, keeping Ringgold's explosive offense on the sideline.
The first drive of the game lasted eight minutes and included a pair of fourth-down conversions. By the end of the night, running back Nathan Williams and quarterback Zach Vaughn had carried a combined 58 times for 276 yards behind a senior-laden line that took the fight to the Tigers.
Vaughn, a senior and three-year starter, understood the importance of the win immediately.
"Ending that long losing streak is a big deal," he said. "I personally have never beaten Ringgold in football, so it's a huge deal. It means a lot for the whole community as well.
"To me it's a great feeling coming from 1-19 (the past two seasons) to 3-3 now and being in it. In some ways, when you have a team that's lost so much, you appreciate winning even more."
The culture of losing at the high school level can be disheartening. At LFO it had gotten to the point where some students had turned apathetic, others critical.
"Go back before last week," senior center Tyler Simpson said, "and nearly every person in the school was saying we were going to lose, that we were horrible. Now we've turned some heads, and that win tells us what we can do if we want something badly enough."
Tonight the Warriors face another Region 6-AAA North team, Coahulla Creek, trying to shed a culture of losing. Campbell said the secret, at least in the Warriors' case, revolved around not worrying too much about wins and losses.
"It has a lot to do with the guys being disciplined in what we do and them doing their jobs," he said. "Everybody talks about wins and losses for the whole football game, but for us there is a win or loss every play. You're either beating your guy and winning that down, or you are losing it."
He also said it's about perseverance and the will to succeed within the individuals in the program. Too often, he noted, losing either breeds apathy or, at worst, it can cause teenagers who have grown up playing the sport to lose interest and quit.
Those days, he hopes, are now behind LFO.
"When you haven't had as much success as you want, it's easy to quit or not work so hard," he said, "but that's why I respect this bunch so much. They knew the only way out of this was to work harder, and they didn't have to be told. It's all about heart, and this team has so much of it."
Contact Lindsey Young at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.