Sunday, December 23, 2007

With hard work, Jack restored Drifter pride

With hard work, Jack restored Drifter pride
December 15, 2007 12:36 am


Jeremy Jack was able to draw on past experiences as a player to help transform the Colonial Beach football program.

The Drifters head coach played on a winless team as a sophomore and junior at Keystone High School in western Pennsylvania.

That's why Jack didn't panic when Colonial Beach went 3-17 in his first two seasons, including a winless 2003 campaign.

"Having been at the bottom," Jack said, "I knew what we had to do get better."

Jack and his teammates at Keystone won four games his senior season and the program went on to five consecutive playoff appearances after he graduated.

Since the painful 2003 season, Colonial Beach has gone 39-6.

The Drifters entered the Virginia High School League for the first time since 1974 this past season with a bang.

They [the Single-Wing Drifters] went 10-3 while capturing Tidewater District and Region A championships.

They were the only team to advance to the state playoffs in the Fredericksburg area, helping Jack earn The Free Lance-Star coach-of-the-year honors.

"He should get that award because he's put in so much effort and time," Colonial Beach senior running back Brandon Foster said. "There are so many great things you could say about the man."

Jack attributes patience, positive thinking and a coaching staff with five former Colonial Beach players with turning the Drifters around.

But he added that a team can't improve simply because it wants to get better.

"We had to work hard and do things that are manifestations of winning itself," Jack said. "That's working in the weight room, conditioning workouts in the spring--just dedicating ourselves to winning."

The Drifters did plenty of winning from 2004-06 as an Independent school, but many people outside the program thought that would change when the Drifters entered the VHSL this season.

However, Colonial Beach--a school with just 185 students in grades 8-12--showed it can defeat schools with much larger enrollments.

When the Drifters finally bowed out of the playoffs with a hard-fought 48-39 loss to Buffalo Gap in the Group A, Division 1 state semifinals, they earned more respect from their supporters.

Colonial Beach athletic director Wayne Kennedy said he initially thought 5-5 would be a successful first season in the VHSL.

"But as I watched them work every day, I started thinking, 'I've undersold these guys,'" Kennedy said. "I knew they were good kids. I knew they were hard workers. But I don't think I realized [Jack] had developed some real intense competitors. There were a lot of kids on that team that refused to lose."

The Drifters started off the season 0-2 with close losses to Group AA King George and Goochland.

It was the 29-27 loss to the defending state champion Bulldogs on Sept. 7 that gave Colonial Beach confidence for the rest of the season.

They blitzed past their next 10 opponents, increasingly earning respect around the state with each win.

"In the long run, starting 0-2 was good for us," Jack said. "It put us in those tough games early."

The next step for Jack and the Colonial Beach program is to show it can be consistent winners in the VHSL.

That may be difficult next season because they lose several key seniors, including Foster, who has a full scholarship offer from Delaware State.

But Kennedy points back to some of the lessons Jack taught his players during the difficult times as to why the winning can continue.

After the Drifters' winless season, Jack gave his players an article about a team in California that went 2-8, but rebounded to go 10-0 the next season with just 17 players.

It reminded Jack of the Drifters.

"He said, 'They're no different than us. We can accomplish the same thing. We're the same size,'" Kennedy recalled.

Kennedy's confidence in Jack also goes back to when he first accepted the job in 2002 after a short stint as a Drifters assistant coach.

"He said he was committed to bringing back Drifter pride," Kennedy said. "He certainly made all of that come true."


The Free Lance-StarFredericksburg, Virginia

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