Einstein High School football players hope a new coach and new attitude will help them end a 33-game losing streak this fall.
"The losing streak inspires me and I think it inspires a lot of the guys," said quarterback John Phillips. "One of the things we do is try to get a positive attitude at practice--to work hard and, hopefully, it will work."
Einstein's new coach is Jamie Hunter, who came to the Kensington school after coaching Rockville junior varsity teams to five titles in seven years.
"We have a new coach and everybody wants to play a little bit harder," said center-linebacker David Verhalen. "We look a lot better than a year ago. We have a good chance of winning a couple of games."
The first chance will come Saturday at Woodward.
Hunter has no easy answers to Einstein's problems. He feels the Titans' future lies with the junior varsity and the expected closing of Northwood in two years that will add a number of athletes.
"We're trying to build a program, not a football team," Hunter said. "We have to instill in our junior varsity that they haven't lost and to get on a track of winning. There's enthusiasm in the young kids, We have some good-looking ninth-graders."
But at the moment, Hunter has little talent and a manpower problem. His best two players, both quarterbacks, will have to go both ways.
"They (Eric Shelton and Phillips) will never come off the field," said Hunter. "When one quarterbacks, the other will probably be a receiver, and they probably both will have to play defensive back, which I don't like. I don't have a choice. We have very few skilled people.
"We have to improve attendance (at practice)," Hunter said. "We don't have any depth. With the records they've had here, the inspiration isn't there. Last week, I had four offensive linemen that didn't show up for practice. What am I going to do, kick them off the team? Then who will we have?
"It's a mental thing with the kids," Hunter continued. "They think that, 'We're going to get beat, anyway, it's hot out here and my girlfriend is at home, so why should I come out and play?' We want the kids to want to come out here and play."
Einstein has another problem: no kicker. During one practice, Hunter had senior Dennis Lawson, a two-year veteran of varsity soccer, practicing field goals and punts.
"I've never kicked a football before today," Lawson said. "I just came down here to see how far I can kick it. I haven't impressed myself yet. I don't even know if I can play football."
Even if Lawson ends up on the team, Einstein still has to get the ball within field-goal range. Hunter has had to concentrate on fundamentals so much that the team is weeks behind in learning plays.
"We're probably three weeks behind as far as Xs and Os are concerned," Hunter said. "We're still working on fundamentals. We have two kids who can throw the ball, but not a blessed soul who can catch it."
Hunter is totally realistic about the upcoming season.
"We're going to try to do the best we can," he said. "I can't promise that we'll win a game. I don't even know if we'll come close."