The last couple years have been difficult for the Maple Valley football program. Bad calls, bigger teams, and lack of enthusiasm left the team feeling defeated. On Friday, Sept. 30, however, the Maple Valley boys turned their luck around, pulling out a 42-0 win over Leslie.
The win was not simply a pleasant surprise for the Maple Valley team. The seniors came into this season determined to turn things around and start a new legacy for their football program.
“It starts with the seniors. They had it in their mind to get the ship headed in the other direction,” said head coach Marty Martin.
The coach doesn’t attribute the win to anything but the hard work and positive attitude in his players. Although it was a sound win over Leslie, Martin believes Maple Valley’s win didn’t have anything to do with the team they were facing.
“We were hungry and ready to win a game,” said Martin. “It wasn’t as much about Leslie as it was about us. We could see it throughout the week at practice. The guys were ready.”
The change in the Maple Valley team hasn’t just been noticeable the week leading to the Leslie game. Martin said that he was seeing the progression through the whole season. The team had some great moments in their first five games, but they couldn’t get all the necessary pieces together.
“In our first five games we played teams that were in the playoffs last year. We knew the beginning schedule would be tough,” said Martin.
Resiliency is something that coach Martin mentioned frequently. With the losses and disappointments of the last two seasons, he reminded his players that they had to remain resilient when facing pressure and stress. The encouragement to stay resilient wasn’t just for the players, but for the whole school. Coach Martin understands what consistent losses can do for school spirit and pride.
“We’ve overcome a lot and the team has done a great job,” said Martin. “We have a mindset to set a streak, but going the opposite way.”
Setting that new mindset has taken some work, according to Martin. Changing the tone of bus rides to games, the atmosphere in the locker room, and the focus on and off the field are all factors the team has worked on. Martin also noted the importance of off-season work ethic, and individual responsibility of self-improvement.
When the changes in focus, practice, and attitude came together on Sept. 30, the Maple Valley boys claimed their prize and went home with enthusiasm. The team was merry and restless on the bus ride home, singing the fight song three times while driving through Nashville, according to Martin. The team also brought that energy to the practice field the following week.
Coach Martin knows that there’s a long road ahead. Three strong teams wait to face off with Maple Valley, and there are the following seasons to create a significant change in the Maple Valley football program. While the team and coach Martin are optimistic for the remaining season, they’ve acknowledged that this is only a first step.
In encouraging his players for the future, coach Martin has repeated to them this quote, “Blessings come to those who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone.” In their game against Leslie, the Maple Valley team took their first step to their new comfort zone of victory.