August 21, 2009 9:13:00 AM
One coaches at a private school, and the other coaches at a public school.
One coaches at an academy that has a student body that is nearly all white, while the other works at a predominately black school.
But when it comes to coaching high school football, the coaches face similar situations.
Oak Hill Academy''s Leroy Gregg and West Oktibbeha''s Adam Lowrey are trying to rebuild programs in their second year at their respective schools.
Both seek better results this year after going 1-9 in their initial campaigns last season.
Oak Hill Academy was 0-10 in 2007 and hasn''t had a winning record since 2006.
You have to go back to the same year for the last time West Oktibbeha won more games than it lost.
Both coaches look to build from the ground up to establish their programs.
"You have to take one block at a time," Lowrey said. "You have to take the one or two things you do good and emphasize that and focus on that. It''s like a snowball. Once you keep packing on, good things happen after awhile."
Both coaches are committed to seeing their programs turn the corner, especially after last season when Oak Hill scored only 82 points and West Oktibbeha scored 53.
"We have a lot of kids who are ready to change things at Oak Hill," Gregg said. "Our practices have been real good. Our participation has been real good. The kids are ready for something different. If we''re able to get great effort in the ballgames, that''s really all you can ask of your kids. I hope our plan is good because we''re getting good effort out of the kids."
Both teams are limited in numbers, which puts even more pressure on Gregg and Lowrey to generate interest in their programs and to create a winning atmosphere.
Gregg said building a winning atmosphere starts long before playing the games.
"You have to do is teach them how to practice correctly and then how to focus during practice whether they''re hurt or they''re tired or they''re sick or the coach is fussing at them," Gregg said. "They have to learn to focus.
"We try to practice right. We treat the kids the way we would want our children to be treated. We''re trying to create a good football atmosphere for the kids. I think we''ve done that. It''s not a perfect environment, but we''re trying to create an environment where the kids are close with each other and they enjoy each others company as well as the coaching staffs."
Oak Hill has just 26 players and is down a player after losing Carter Burns to a head injury last season.
It''s even worse at West Oktibbeha. Lowrey has 15 players.
Nearly all of West Oktibbeha''s players play offense and defense, and Lowrey said he calls timeouts just to give his players a rest.
"My boys really have to play two games because they play offense and defense," Lowrey said. "If an average play is six seconds and there''s 60 plays in a game one way, that means there''s 120 plays if you''re playing both ways. That''s roughly two hours of solid running. It''s wild, but it''s something Maben is used to. It''s easier when you know what to expect.
"It''s not the boys'' fault. I just stay positive and encourage them. I have to find ways to let them rest. We''re trying to make it the best we can."
Not only is West Oktibbeha low in numbers, Lowrey has an inexperienced team. The Wolverines have just one senior (Quadaris Thompson) and seven freshmen.
Because players have to play entire games, Lowrey wants them to be in top condition.
"Being in shape is the No. 1 thing to playing football," Lowrey said. "It''s like taking a test. You can''t answer the question if you can''t read. You can''t run the play right in the fourth quarter if you''re tired, so that''s my main objective. We run and we run, and I run with them. I bet our running is at least 45 minutes solid, close to an hour."
Lowrey believes West Oktibbeha is capable of competing with limited numbers because he''s seen it before. His eighth-grade team last season went undefeated despite having 11 players.
"They never came off the field and we won every game," Lowrey said. "We played West Lowndes last year in eighth grade and we played East Oktibbeha and they didn''t stand a chance. That''s because the boys were together."
Both coaches feel good about working with the players and the people in the community to build a program that everybody can be proud of.
"We had team suppers last year every Thursday night," Gregg said. "All our team met at somebody''s house and had a meal together. We''re getting the kids together where they can cut up a little bit and have a little fun and have a nice meal and enjoy each other''s company. We do that through our parents. Our parents are a big part of our program. They all help and they''re all concerned about how their kids turn out."
Gregg said the players ate like kings.
"It''s not a ham sandwich and bag of potato chips," he said.
Gregg and Lowrey believe their programs are going in the right direction.
They get a chance to see if they can start their seasons right Friday night. Oak Hill Academy will play at Heritage Academy, while West Oktibbeha will play host to West Lowndes.
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