October 15, 2009 8:07:00 AM
The season isn''t over for the Heritage Academy football team.
A five-game losing streak has erased a lot of the optimism from the Patriots'' 3-0 start, but coach Brad Butler doesn''t want his players to pack up the gear just yet.
With three regular-season games remaining, Heritage Academy (3-5, 1-2 AAA District 1) still has a chance to put itself in the mix for the two playoff spots from its division, depending on how ties between teams are broken.
The Patriots will try to take care of their business at 7 p.m. Friday when they travel to Greenwood to take on Pillow Academy (6-1, 3-1).
Heritage Academy will need to beat Pillow Academy and district rivals Washington School (6-1, 4-0) and Lee Academy (2-6, 0-4) and have a host to have a shot at one of the district''s top two spots.
Butler and the Patriots practiced Wednesday at the Magnolia Bowl on Wednesday for two and a half hours on one of the few dry fields in the area. The first-year said his team has practiced at the longtime field, which saw its final high school game played in the 1998 season, several times in the past three weeks.
"I think it''s the only dry field in the area," Butler said. "I don''t know how this field stays so dry. When we re-do ours we are going to need to find out who did it and get the recipe."
Butler hopes to find a way this week to break the Patriots out of their funk. Opponents have outscored Heritage Academy 98-21 in the past three weeks.
Six interceptions doomed the Patriots last week in a 33-0 loss to Jackson Academy. Butler said those mistakes have to end if his team wants to play in the postseason.
More importantly, he said the Patriots have to believe their season is still alive and have to play with more passion to reverse their fortunes.
"The time to quit is not now," Butler said. "We have been through too much and worked too hard to quit now. The season is not over, and I hope the kids realize that. If we win this week we are still very much in the hunt."
Butler said he was bothered by his team''s lack of focus Monday at practice. He said he then took time to stress to his players that their desire to finish the regular season strong will help determine if the Patriots end their losing streak.
Butler said he saw a better performance from his players the past two practices, and he hopes he convinced some of them that they need to emerge as leaders to help the Patriots regroup.
"You are going to have adversity during the season and during every ballgame," Butler said. "You have to find a way to fight through it instead of thinking here we go again. We haven''t found a way to do it. Last week, it was 12-0 before the water got hot. From the sideline and just seeing how the kids reacted what went through their mind instead let''s do something about it was here we go again. Somebody has to step up and lead this group or make a play to overcome what they have done.
"The time is now. The time is running out, and the sands of the hour glass are getting rather thin."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.