The Bulldogs of George Wythe High School had lost nearly 70 games in a row since 2003. That all changed last week. A committed coach and a running back turned QB helped the Bulldogs win their first game, and has energized a local community in the process.
The number only increased: 22…35…56. And then 67. There are several interesting facts about the number 67. There are 67 counties in the state of Florida, 67 is the largest two-digit odd number that not used in the Interstate Highway System, and we use the number to block caller identification (*67) on a telephone call.
All of these attributes of the number, however, meant little to George Wythe High School. What stood out about 67 was that in the moments before their football team took on Greensville County High School in Emporia, VA, it was the number of consecutive loses that the team had faced.
Since midway through their 2003 season, the George Wythe Bulldogs had lost every game that they played. “They could see the frustration,” says Principal Reva Green of the faculty and students who saw how distressed the players were week after week. Current quarterback Leroy Williams said that many of the players felt that the losing streak was a “curse.”
In 2009, the high school hired Gary Warren to coach the varsity football team. Warren played football from 1993-1996 at Virginia State, and was head coach at a school in North Carolina before coming to George Wythe.
“Football is a mentality,” says Warren, knowing that the losing streak undoubtedly affected the psychological makeup of his players. When asked of his approach to overcoming the dejection that his players must have felt, Warren says “I was more of a role model.” Instead of entertaining their self-pity, Warren encouraged his players to work harder.
Warren also implemented a junior varsity (JV) team to serve as a “minor league” for player training and development. “They go hand-in-hand,” says Warren, on how a JV squad will help improve the performance of the varsity team. “We needed our JV squad in order to be successful.”
Senior quarterback Leroy Williams maintains that it was “hard work and discipline” that helped focus the determination of the team, and improved their on-field abilities. Williams has played football since 5th grade, and a varsity player since his Freshman year. Although he prefers the position of running back, he says that “I could help the team out” more at quarterback. When asked about making the position change, Williams says that “it was hard at times,” and that time and effort ultimately made him more comfortable in his new position, a position that would net the Bulldogs their first victory in years.
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Friday, October 14th. The Bulldogs were playing the Greensville Eagles. The score was 0-0 at the half. In the second half, Williams went on to throw two touchdowns–a 60 yarder to Dimitrus Bird and a 70 yarder to Andre Taylor. When the game clock expired, the Bulldogs had beaten the Eagles by a score of 22-6.
It was their first win in eight years.
When asked how he felt when the game clock expired, Williams says “it kind of felt like it didn’t happen.” Coach Warren says that he was “more happy for our community,” as the win electrified both players, teachers, parents, and fans. The victory also evoked strong appreciation for the school that stuck with him during the ever-rising height of the losing streak. “They believed in me.” Warren says that after his first year coaching the Bulldogs, he never had doubts about his ability to lead his players. “I never doubted the kids” either.
“I was extremely honored,” says Principal Green, who attended the victorious game. “We’re back!” Currently administering SOL tests to its students, the high school has not had an opportune time to celebrate the momentous victory. Principal Green, however, did assure that “events are in place” to do so before the Bulldogs next game against Manchester High School in Midlothian. This is Principal Green’s first year of serving as George Wythe principal. She says that the team exemplifies the newly minted motto for the school: “Excellence in every way. No excuses.”
photo by ElvertBarnes