There are two positives right now for Veterans.
The Warhawks are off for a week, and the non-region schedule of the past two seasons is done (and probably won’t be repeated).
After taking on four teams that spent most of last season ranked before making the playoffs, Veterans is in the mode of regrouping, catching its breath and adjusting focus. And that is coming just in time.
“The attitude is good; we’re having good practices, spirited practices,” head coach David Bruce said. “Everybody’s working hard.”
The Warhawks, in their sixth season, are 1-3 after having played Houston County (No. 3 in GHSA Class AAAAA), Macon County (was in Class AA’s top five at the time), Washington County (defending Class AAA runner-up) and Valdosta (legendary Class AAAAAA program).
The record stood at 0-4 a year ago after losses of 21, 20, 39 and 34 points. Granted, the margins this year aren’t terribly different: 28, 32 and 49. But there’s a win in there, 38-21 at Washington County after Macon County humbled Veterans 52-20.
“Macon County, we didn’t play very well on defense,” Bruce said. “It was embarrassing.”
That’s what he called the second half of the 56-7 loss at Valdosta. A 14-7 game late in the first half started going downhill for the Warhawks after they got a turnover and then gave it right back.
“They scored right before the half,” Bruce said. “It was like the wheels fell off.”
Having a win, albeit over a rebuilding Washington County team, is a boost. So is finally preparing for Region 2-AAAA play.
Quarterback Logan Byrd said the Warhawks aren’t putting too much on themselves entering their region schedule. A year ago, the Warhawks lost their first two region games -- for an 0-6 start -- and still ended up making the playoffs. That’s where the confidence is born.
“None of the guys are taking our region for granted. ‘Oh, we’ve got a really tough out-of-region schedule; we’re not gonna play anybody as god as Valdosta or Houston County in our region, so it should be easier,’ ” Byrd said. “We’re not talking like that.
“We have a positive outlook. We think we can run the table in the region. We have a chance. But we have to step up and play.”
The offense is struggling again and took a major hit when Rochelle Dinkins, the top receiver, went out for the season in the opener with an ankle injury.
Sophomore Jeremy Horton is showing signs of potential at wideout, and Bruce said the week off will allow for some tweaks in the passing game.
“We don’t have the physical athletic ability to separate,” Bruce said of the passing game. “We can’t separate from the defensive backs.”
Desjuan Harris has been strong in the running game, with 623 yards on 115 carries, with five touchdowns.
“When he runs the ball, he runs it hard,” Bruce said of the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder. “He thinks he’s 6-2 and 220.”
The lack of speed that affects the offense does the same on defense.
“It’s hard for us to match up sometimes with those athletes,” Bruce said. “We’ve gotta do a better job of slowing people down.”
But region play awaits, and the Warhawks get a chance to watch everybody else play first. They visit Baldwin on Oct. 2 with memories of a three-point home loss in a game that got away in the final minute.
The week off comes at a good time, but soon enough, the anxiety of returning to the field and make some region noise will take over.
“They gotta get a little confidence,” Bruce said. “If we can get some confidence, then I think we can do some things.
“But we gotta have some success, some Friday night success.”