At some point last fall for Augusta coach Jason Filbeck, optimism gave way to despair.
“I think, because it was my first year and I was new in town, I just had optimism beaming out of everywhere,” Filbeck said. “I was going to convince kids to come out and play ball. We were going to win games. Simple as that.”
That optimism came into jarring contact with reality over the first month of the season as the Orioles started 1-3, capped by a 55-27 rout at the hands of Buhler.
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“It was to the point where we were all kind of getting down in the dumps,” Filbeck said. “We all had a lot of the same questions ... ‘Why can’t we just win? Why can’t we just overcome bad habits?’
“But we kept at it. Nobody lost faith, nobody lost confidence. We started building up and by the end of the year, we had some momentum.”
Augusta ended the season on a roll — after a 27-26 overtime loss to Rose Hill, the Orioles reeled off three straight wins in district play to make the playoffs, where they lost to Andover Central 38-33.
Augusta’s 5-5 record equaled one more win than the team had in the previous four seasons combined.
“Having (Filbeck) around, things were just different,” said senior offensive lineman Austin Willis. “He’s not a traditional coach ... he tries to make everything fun for us, and we understand and respect what he has to say. He’s not a guy who screams and yells a lot. He’s in there, with us, doing the work. Just to show us how everything needs to be done.”
Willis is one of three starters back on the offensive line — along with Patrick Wilhite and Scott Hooglugt — that will be charged with protecting a new quarterback. Junior Zach Barclay (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) has the edge on sophomore Chance Whitehead right now, although whoever isn’t taking snaps will be at wide receiver.
Barclay almost won the starting job as a sophomore before being injured in a scrimmage.
“I think we learned last year about the importance of paying attention to details,” Filbeck said. “Last year, we had a couple of games come down to one snap, or one little mistake. Now they have that experience to point to and learn from.”