Lesson learned for Waite gridiron players, coaches

J. Patrick Eaken

After Waite football started the season 4-1 last year, it looked like they had a shot at a Toledo City League championship. Then, everything went sour for the Indians, losing four of five City League games.
        This time around, second-year coach Brian Lee vows that will not happen.
        “Last year, we got caught up in the winning and we stopped working as hard. When you don’t finish the season how you start the season, you lose out like that,” Lee said.
        “The good thing is that I had a really strong group of juniors who went through that struggle with us — who understand now why we are running every practice, who understand now why we don’t get too high on ourselves, why we can’t feel like we reached the sky.
        “I don’t want to be the team that peaks early. That’s the biggest thing — everybody we have to come out here and work and we have the right mental attitude. That’s my slogan, ‘We have to have the right mindset to finish the season.’
        “Last year, it wasn’t that I didn’t have this kind of talent, it was that the kids just weren’t ready. I mean, this year my kids are ready,” Lee continued. “We worked out all offseason and they hit the schooling.”
        Lee says he learned from his first season as a head coach, too.
        “I mean, this year, we are so much more balanced,” Lee said. “For me, I’m more balanced and relaxed. I’m not so eager. I can see the game. My second year you get comfortable.
        “I’ve learned so much more from year one. How can you start out 4-1 and you compete against good teams and then you get so high, and then you just stumble and you get beat. We’ve got to learn how to face adversity. That’s my biggest thing — adversity, adversity, adversity.”
One thing Waite has going for itself is over 20 seniors are on the roster — something not seen at the east side high school in years.
        “I have 17 starters returning and this is the most explosive, physical team we’ve had over here. I have a great freshman class and great underclassmen classes. I have three freshmen who I think will play varsity as freshman. So when I tell you I have 17 returning starters that tells you the caliber of competition here on a daily basis is amazing,” Lee said.
        “I have kids coming back home, including two kids coming from St. Francis back to the east side. I mean kids want to come and play for me, they want to come and play in this stadium and that’s the big thing for me is that the kids are actually buying into the vision and understanding that I’m here for the long haul.”
        One fix in the works already this year—fortify the defense.
        “That’s one thing I know for a fact is last year my defense was, I wouldn’t say we were passive but, I mean we gave up 205 points. That’s too many points,” Lee said.
        “This year I want to cut that by 70 percent — I want to give up no more than 60 points — that’s what I tell the defense. If we give up 60 points then that’s a playoff season. I mean, Central Catholic gave up 47 points, so I give my hat off to Coach (Greg) Dempsey all the time. I say, ‘Dude, you all gave up 47 points and created 37 (per game) — that’s serious. I want to piggy back off that. So that’s something I want to look forward to.”
        Lee is thinking outside the box, too, opening up to all athletes in the school who want to provide the kicking duties.
        I’m going to have three kickers, including two females. I have a girl, Jenny, who is a senior kicker — this is her first year kicking field goals and she can kick it from 35 and in. That’s impressive,” Lee said. “I embrace this team as a family and you’ve got to treat each other the way you want to be treated.”


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