John Essex, Sunshine meet in battle of winless teams

Published 9:15 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2009

For the second straight week, the Sunshine Tigers (0-4) will enter a Friday night contest with another team that is seeking its first win of the season. Last week, the Tigers fell victim to a Marengo High team that rode into Newbern winless before emerging at 1-2.

The circumstance is almost identical to the one Sunshine faced last season when it traveled to John Essex for a battle of winless teams. In that game, the Tigers needed three overtimes to walk away with their first and only victory of 2008.

“We are in a different sort of position this year,” Sunshine High head coach Jonathan Jenkins says of his team. “Our position this year is a little more psychological. My concern is that last year’s team never thought that they were going to go 1-9. This year’s team doesn’t think that they are going 1-9, but it’s from a different perspective.”

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Jenkins’ Tigers a season ago had every expectation of a winning each time they took the field. Now, only a year removed from boasting a squad with 15 players who had never previously worn a football uniform, Jenkins explains that his Tigers lack the swagger of their predecessors.

“What’s truly sad is I think we’re a lot more talented than last year,” Jenkins says of the ability that permeates his slight, but capable roster.

The challenge is one with which Jenkins’ Friday night coaching adversary, Lenoise Richey, can sympathize.

“They’re pretty athletic. Their biggest weakness seems to be lack of depth,” Richey says knowingly, “one of the main things that I have to deal with a lot of. If they are healthy, they are a pretty interesting team.”

The teams enter with similar struggles. The Tigers routinely dress 18 players. The Hornets, perennially plagued by a lack of numbers, outfitted only 14 players for last Friday’s 61-6 thrashing at Maplesville.

The biggest difference between the two teams at this juncture seems to be perspective. The Tigers have suffered lopsided losses against Maplesville, Billingsley, Holy Spirit and Marengo. Conversely, the Hornets have found themselves in tight games with A.L. Johnson and Holy Spirit as late as the fourth quarter.

It is those flashes of competitive capability that have Richey confident in his team’s upside.

“If we come out and we play with the same intensity that we played with those first two ballgames, I like our chances,” Richey says.

Still, while he is facing a team that has faced similar misfortunes and struggles, Richey is also clear on his stance that Sunshine is a capable and dangerous team. It is for that reason Richey and his staff are emphasizing fundamental assignments and execution during the days leading up to the game.

“If we can stay disciplined and stay to our assignments, I feel very comfortable about this one,” Richey says.