The Rutland Hurricanes have lost 23 games in a row, leading to back-to-back winless seasons, but there is a buzz around the program heading into this season with a new coach at the helm.
Rusty Easom, a former defensive coordinator at East Coweta High School, was hired in January to take over as head coach after Mark Daniel announced his retirement in November 2018. It is the first time in his career that Easom will have the opportunity to lead a high school football team.
Bibb County Athletic Director Barney Hester said Easom had a plan coming into the job and an energy that was unrivaled throughout the interview process.
“He has got the background. He has got something the kids can look at and see he has been successful,” Hester said. “It has worked in other places. Why not Rutland?”
That background includes a state title when he served as the defensive coordinator for Griffin High School.
For now, titles and playoff appearances aren’t even on his radar. He is looking to change a culture and start winning football games.
“I can’t tell you we are going to win five games or two games but I feel like we will have some success this season,” Easom said.“The performance will get better. We just have to focus every day on the process.”
Hester says that he has already seen an improvement in the team since Easom took over.
“The plan is in place,” Hester said. “Hopefully, those kids are going to experience those wins and we are going to turn that program around.”
The Hurricanes struggles over the last few years have stemmed from a roster shortage. The team has had most of its players pulling double duty on offense and defense. Easom has made it a point to get out in the hallways and get to know students to get them to try out for the team.
“One of the biggest challenges that I knew coming into the job was trying to get our numbers up and get more participation,” Easom said. “We currently have about 55 kids on the roster...I feel like that is a huge increase from previous seasons from what I was told.”
One of the first things Easom did when he arrived on the campus was clean the entire weight room and field house.
He also was able to get repairs and upgrades done to the school’s practice field with the help of Bibb Athletics and community donations.
He wanted to send a message to his players that he wanted to invest in their success.
“A lot of people don’t think that stuff matters but it does,” Easom said. “So the kids can see that when I tell you the people in the county and the people in the community want to see this thing (go) right. And they see (improvements) happen it helps sell that message.”
Easom says that he understands that the success won’t happen overnight and tries not to look down the road too much. But he wants them to appreciate how special that being a part of this first year will be in five to ten years when the program has been able to achieve some of their long term goals.
“That’s the exact message that I tried to preach to them is we are going to get this thing going in the right direction,” he said. “You can say, ‘I was a part of that first team that got it going.’”
The team opens the season against Hawkinsville on August 30.
“I will be nervous. Until we kick it off, then the game kind of takes care of itself,” he said. “I will be kind of antsy, especially that day.”
Easom is ready to get that first win under his belt and put that losing streak in the rear view mirror.
“It will be big. I will be happy not so much for me but for them.” he said.