August 19, 2012 1:53:09 PM
Heritage Academy first-year football coach Barrett Donahoe is an intense person.
If the Patriots weren't already under that impression, they will be Monday in the film room and on the practice field.
"We are going to work them," Donahoe said. "We are going to work them harder this week than we did last week. We played a good first quarter and a good fourth quarter. In the middle two quarters, not so much. Two quarters won't win you many football games. That is the not kind of effort we are going to give around here."
Donahoe and his staff got the start they wanted Friday night. Parker Dunaway closed the Patriots' first defensive possession with a 58-yard interception return for a touchdown.
From there, highlights were few and far between as the visiting Lamar School Raiders scored 24 straight points and walked away from C.L. Mitchell Field with a 36-23 victory.
"The coaches do a great job of putting us in a position," Heritage Academy senior lineman Wesley Swedenburg said. "After that, it is on us players to execute. We didn't get much going. Give credit to Lamar for making more plays than we did."
After a 5-5 season a year ago, Donahoe was aware of the team he was inheriting when he came from Marshall Academy. Successful at each of his previous stops, Donahoe is convinced the Patriots can return to the elite. Heritage Academy last played in the state championship game in 2005.
"Rome was not built in a day," Donahoe said. "For people who thought they were going to see a fine-tuned football machine tonight, they were simply wrong. Some of it is mental and some of it is physical. What you do is correct the physical stuff in practice. Once the players buy in, they are ready to make that extra sacrifice in the weight room. The mental aspect of it is involves changing the culture and the belief system. That is where we are right now. We have players transitioning into wanting to make that extra effort."
The Patriots were held to 147 yards on 49 plays. Lamar's size advantage up front paid its dividends as the game wore on. Heritage Academy managed one first down in the second and third quarters.
Still, Heritage Academy led 16-12 after one quarter. It appeared the teams were on the verge of playing a game similar to last season, when Heritage Academy won 37-36 in Meridian.
"We have to find a way to stay confident when things do not go our way," Heritage Academy senior running back/defensive back Miller Puckett. "Coach is working on our mental attitude, helping us become a better team. He is very intense about coaching football. He is intense about how we go about it. All of the little details are more important."
Donahoe worked the sidelines with a passion. As the pendulum swung in the middle two quarters, the coaches coached harder. Every sideline visit was intense with a word of encouragement and strict instructions for what needed to happen next.
In a lengthy postgame visit, Donahoe challenged his squad to buy in, to be the ones that "left the program better than they found it."
Making it better will involve fewer nights like Friday, when Heritage Academy turned the ball over four times and allowed two return touchdowns. A bizarre 31-yard blocked punt return by Lamar's Peyt Mosley sealed the deal late in the third quarter.
"This team needs leadership in practice, in school, in everything," Swedenburg said. "He is a great coach and I love him to death. The coaches do everything they can. We just have to execute the players they draw up for us. We had turnovers and we didn't execute on third down.
"Now is the time for people to step up and make that commitment to make this a better team."
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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