Pawnee Heights Tigers head coach Jeff Chambers isn’t worried about his team becoming too confident in of themselves going into the 2018 season.
“I won’t let that happen,” Chambers said. “I make sure that they’ve stayed grounded, and we worked harder in the weight room because what we have said is ‘We can’t say we’re gonna do what we did last year’ because it’s a whole new year so we have to do better than what we did last year for us to be successful.”
The reigning six-man state champions would have plenty of reasons to be confident, even outside of their 62-12 win over Cheylin in last year’s title game. Aside from their center, the Tigers return all but one of their starters.
To help rise to new heights this year, the Tigers have identified a number of things and set goals, and the players so far have bought in Chambers said.
“We’re pleasantly surprised with our young kids that are coming up because it’s then kind of a good thing for us to have,” Chambers said. “When schools start to win you get a few that jump on the bandwagon and stuff and we’re excited because we’re gonna have about 17 kids out, which’ll be our biggest team ever.”
That number adds to the coaching staff’s excitement.
“We only have 44 kids in our high school,” Chambers said. “With that we’ve got at least a third of them that’s playing football, so that is really good for us.”
With 17 kids, the coaches feel they have a little bit of the luxury to make the kids understand that no spot’s guaranteed, and that each player has to earn it, Chambers said.
“We’re gonna be senior heavy, but I’ve told them in our meetings that if I start four freshmen it’s because they’re working harder,” Chambers said. “That’s the way it works.”
The kids have enjoyed the success since they started their program two years ago after five years of not having it, he said.
The Tigers finished second in the state in their first year within the six-man classification.
“The kids have kind of dedicated themselves to want to build something that is something they’ve never had an opportunity to do,” Chambers said. “With last year being the history of the school’s first state football championship that was really a good thing, and so the kids have all gotten a taste of what it’s like and they enjoyed it.”
That ownership on the part of the kids has led to peer motivation within Pawnee Heights’ football program.
“They’ve been the ones who have pushed the kids to be in the weight room this summer and everything because they want to continue the success that they started to build,” Chambers said.”
With five seniors, 2018 looks promising for the Tigers. Not all five may always start however, despite the fact that Chambers said all of them are talented enough to.
“I may start a freshman and I will star probably a junior,” Chambers said. “Even though those seniors are there to be the leaders and to help us, we’ve got a group of underclassmen that are still pretty quality athletes that it’s gonna make our practices really competitive.”
The young kids aren’t going to shy away from competition either, Chambers said, because they know they have opportunities to play.
“All the way down to the freshman class we’ve got some great athletes coming, and I just see things continuously getting us into a situation where I think we’re gonna be pretty positive about the things that go on,” Chambers said.