Success has been so fleeting for Augusta football players in recent seasons that a small taste of it last season left a vivid memory.
“It was like a weight was lifted off our shoulders,” Orioles quarterback Tristan Finch said of the 14-6 victory over Wellington that snapped Augusta’s 12-game losing streak. “We felt like, ‘Why can’t we win more?’ after that. It seemed like we got some extra pep in our step.”
With a challenging schedule that featured five playoff teams, Augusta failed to notch another victory last fall. But as coach Roger Robben prepares for his third season, he feels like the Orioles are moving forward.
“You don’t get anything for this, but last year in three of four home games, we were leading at the half,” Robben said. “We just didn’t have enough in the tank to come out and finish those games.”
Augusta, which last posted a winning record in 2005, will try to clear those hurdles with the most experienced team Robben has fielded. Finch, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound dual threat, gives the Orioles a veteran presence in their multiple-set offense.
“Tristan is one of the most competitive kids I’ve coached,” Robben said. “He’s not flashy and speed-wise, he’s not going to make anybody do a double take. He just a guy who works hard and come game time, whatever the situation, he seems to make positive plays.”
Augusta’s offense also returns junior running back Trae Goken and senior Connor Hurst, a speedster whose abilities give the Orioles options at running back or wide receiver.
Any progress Augusta makes will hinge on improvement from a defense that yielded almost 46 points per game. Seniors Caleb Laubhan and Greg Slaton return on the line. Junior Dillon Thompson is a returning starter at linebacker, while Hurst played cornerback.
With three teams that won at least nine games and two other 2012 postseason qualifiers on the schedule, Augusta’s quest for victories figures to remain difficult. It’s a challenge Finch embraces.
“I’d rather play teams like that than lackluster teams,” he said. “We can learn things from them. We can strive to do some of the things they’ve done and see what it takes to get to that level.”
Coach: Roger Robben, third season, 1-17
League: AV-CTL Division IV
Last season: 1-8
Last five seasons: 4-41
Projected 2013 playoff team? No
Top skill players
|Sept. 6||at Circle|
|Sept. 27||at Clearwater|
|Oct. 4||at Andale|
|Oct. 11||Arkansas City|
|Oct. 18||Rose Hill|
|Oct. 25||at Trinity Academy|
Tristan Finch on his team
What Augusta does well: “I really think our defense is going to be what it should be. We have a lot of returning starters and have worked hard to make improvement. It seems like we’ve done pretty well in our summer work.”
What has to improve: “There were games that we were in where we came out in the second half and weren’t as fired up as we were at the start. Fatigue might have played a part in it. This year, we just can’t let that happen at all.”