As he walked onto the field at McDonough for La Plata's season finale last year, B.J. Conley shuddered at the insults that awaited him.
La Plata was 0-9 at that point, and even though the Warriors went on to defeat McDonough that night, Conley was in no position to brag during the offseason. It was another losing season for La Plata, its fourth consecutive, during which the Warriors won a combined eight games. Every other team in Charles County has won at least 20 over that span.
Conley got what was coming to him.
"We got it all the time from friends at other schools," Conley said. "You don't want to take it, but you have to because that's what we are."
Conley is quick to correct himself, saying, "That's what we were."
That was Chris Davidson's first goal when he was named La Plata's new coach in March. The former West Potomac coach saw no enthusiasm for the football program, not only within the team, but around school as well.
Conley knew it, too, though he didn't realize the extent of it until the offseason. He was joined by only 16 other Warriors in uniform for that game against McDonough.
"After the season, I was watching a couple of game tapes, and I was like, 'Oh my God,' " Conley said. "I know we've got a couple of rising juniors, but we don't really have [many people coming back] . . . . It rattled my mind."
Conley was one of only seven varsity players to return this season. But Davidson quickly fixed that. Last spring, he worked the hallways, trying to get every La Plata student, regardless of whether they knew a touchdown from a first down, to come out and play.
"We made a real effort to go out and get kids," Davidson said. "We want kids to take pride in football."
Davidson seems to have found plenty to buy into his system. The Warriors opened practice with nearly 60 players on the varsity and junior varsity teams and a freshman team approaching 40.
"Never seen this, certainly since I've been here," Conley said.
Conley said it would have been easy to give up on the program, seeing how interest had all but disappeared among his peers. But he remembered playing in youth leagues with La Plata senior teammates Travis McConnell and Caleb Ikner.
"I play basketball and [run] track, too," Conley said, "but football's been my love. When I was playing with Travis and Caleb, this is what we dreamed of, doing it in our senior year."