In a world where people want to jump quickly to the top, Kevin Smith waited for his opportunity.
After spending 18 years as an assistant at Northside and Houston County, the first-time head coach at Perry did not have to wait long for his first win with his new program.
The Panthers defeated Rutland 44-6 on Friday night giving Smith a win in his debut with the team.
“Getting that first one out of the way was very important,” said Smith, who took over a program that has not had a winning record since 2012. “The kids need to see that all the hard work we have put in has paid off, and we saw that a little bit last Friday night. We still have a long way to go, but the improvement I have seen in this football team since our first scrimmage with Dodge County in May is just drastic.
“I loved the effort we gave even then, but the results just weren’t very good. We had to get to work on things like staying on blocks and tackling at the right angles. Once we improved on the fundamentals, everything else comes a little bit easier.”
Smith is Perry’s seventh head coach since the 2000 season, and the Panthers won just three games last year. The program won just eight games from 2013 through 2016.
Tyrell Owens had 59 yards rushing and a touchdown last week, while Jay Watkins had 54 yards and a touchdown, and Davion Ross blocked two punts. The Perry defense was superb Friday, giving up only 26 yards of total offense.
The Panthers are off this week.
“They want to win, and they are willing to work hard to be a good football team,” Smith said of his players. “We actually film every practice and watch it as a team, so we don’t just tell them when they make a mistake we can show them. If you are loafing at practice, everyone is going to see it when we watch the film, and no one likes to get called out.”
The Northeast Raiders also gave Ashley Harden a win in his debut with the program, knocking off Lamar County 20-13. Northeast was 2-8 in 2016.
“We obviously needed to get that first win out of the way, but overall the transition has been very smooth,” said Harden, who took over at Northeast after turning around the Twiggs County program. “Lamar County was a great test for us, and the key for us was how we reacted when we faced adversity in the football game. I thought we did a great job for the first game.”
Northeast will look to improve to 2-0 when it faces Rutland on Friday.
“It won’t take long to motivate these kids for that game because they beat us last year,” Harden said. “The main thing for us right now is to get better every single week.”
This Week’s Area Games
This week’s games involving teams from Bibb, Houston, Peach, Monroe, Jones, Crawford and Twiggs counties:
Eagle’s Landing at Houston County
Westside at Northside
Worth County at Veterans
Warner Robins at Peach County
Howard vs. Central
Washington at Mary Persons
Rutland vs. Northeast
Manchester at Southwest
Crawford County at Glascock County
Brookstone at FPD
Landmark Christian at Stratford
Twiggs County at Cambridge Christian, Florida
Bulloch at Westfield
Trinity Christian-Sharpsburg at Windsor
Covenant at Sherwood