Stepping Up: Washington’s program can’t be rebuilt overnight

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When Jon Blank took over as Washington football coach at the end of 2016, his mission was a renewed focus on everything a program must do on its own to be successful. Two of the primary objectives have been accountability and performance in the weight room.

It’s not an overnight process. It won’t even be a one-year turnaround. It will take a few seasons for dedication to conditioning to manifest itself on the football field.

The Pam Pack got a first-hand look at what a football team can accomplish if it is disciplined and puts in the work. Tarboro, arguably the best 1-A program in the state, rolled into Washington with massive offensive and defensive lines, speedy and powerful running backs, and nary a weakness on the entire team.

Tarboro’s standard of excellence paid off in a 48-0 win. Washington simply had no answer for the size, skill and power of the Vikings. They won big on the scoreboard because of their program’s culture.

Getting manhandled in their home opener was a tough pill for the Pam Pack players to swallow, and it should be. Some may have felt dejected after the lopsided loss. It should also be a source of motivation. The Vikings are a physical representation of everything Washington wants this cultural turnaround to accomplish.

There are even more local examples of culture’s impact on a team. Wednesday marks the three-year anniversary of a win that Southside coach Jeff Carrow said helped change the direction of the program. After going 3-9 in 2013, the Seahawks edged a Rosewood team, 24-21, in their second game of the 2014 campaign. It helped ignite a 10-win season — the first of three-straight double-digit win seasons.

That game helped show that Southside group that it can win close games. Since then, the Seahawks have been deliberate in the way they develop their players. Junior quarterback Will Warren got to spend time learning the offense at the junior-varsity level. Playmakers like Demetrius Ebron and Trajan Rhome got their feet wet on defense, showing they can make plays there before being asked to shoulder greater responsibilities.

All of the upperclassmen leading this Southside group got to watch those before them not only win, but saw what it took for them to be successful. A winning mentality was instilled in them as they climbed the ranks. It has helped the Seahawks plug in new players, curbing any turnover in talent and helping them win on a consistent basis for over three years.

Washington will get there. There have already been subtle indicators of improved competitiveness. Even when the Tarboro game was out of hand, Ganeryan Parker fought every time he was handed the ball. Quashawn Gaynor ran to every ball on defense.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was a program like Tarboro. It will be some time before the Pam Pack is back to competing for state championships, but it is on the right path.