There's a certain swagger surrounding the West football team that hasn't been there in a while.
It's not cockiness, or a sense of entitlement — the Pioneers have gone 3-15 over the last two seasons — but players and coaches involved in the program have a feeling that this year could be different.
And a lot of that feeling stems from the leadership of second-year starting quarterback Dorian Flournoy.
"Everybody around the school asks me everyday how the football team is looking," Flournoy said. "I tell them I think we're going to be pretty good this year. It makes me feel good to tell them that we're going to be better and it will actually show on the field."
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Flournoy, a senior, led West to a 2-7 record last season after playing wide receiver for the varsity as a sophomore. The team struggled, but Flournoy did things to earn the respect of coaches and teammates.
He prepared for each game harder than anyone else on team. He played hurt. He carried himself like a winner. The juniors and underclassmen noticed that drive to succeed despite trudging through a losing season.
Now, Flournoy is the team's unquestioned leader. And the example that he set in 2009 has led to a different mentality for a team hungry for some wins.
"It's like we've been champions for years going by how the energy is at practice," running back Arnez Jones said. "It used to be all dull with people just going through the motions. Now we want to stay out there for at least four hours. That's how our mindset is. That's how Dorian and the seniors are setting off the energy."
Flournoy played seven games with a torn meniscus and a hernia last season. He had surgeries to correct the injuries in March and May. Even with that, Flournoy pointed out a few sacrifices teammates were willing to make in the off season.
"We've had a 6-2, 260-pound running back sacrifice his skill position and move to the D-line just because he wants to help us win," Flournoy said. "We've got seniors who are finally starting to understand what it means to be a team and play as a team."
West coach Heath Henderson said that Flournoy's dedication is rubbing off on other players.
"Anytime your best players are your hardest workers it makes the coaches' job a lot easier," Henderson said. "Usually it's one of those things where the best players have the most talent so they don't work the hardest. We've got a circumstance were we've got a guy who came from a little talent and made it into more talent. He developed himself through work ethic. He did that and other kids see how far he's come and they know how far they can come now. That's one of the things that Dorian's done well. He's not a real vocal guy. He just leads by example."
West opens the season against South on Friday at Carpenter Stadium.
"The talent level on this team is head and shoulders above any team that I've had," Henderson said. "I believe that we're going to be competitors. I think we're not going to be overmatched athletically in any game."