Finishing the season with a 3-7 record isn’t what head coach Sean Arno wanted for the Wellington Dukes varsity football team — but it was a step in the right direction.
The team won one more game than it did last year and fought hard throughout the season.
“We felt we competed out there all the way through to the end,” Arno said. “We never quit and we never gave up and that was displayed in those last two weeks. Those were hard fought games. We came out on the short end but the kids never stopped playing and that’s good for the future.”
A majority of the varsity roster spots were filled by sophomores, which hurt Wellington this year but is promising looking ahead, he said: “When you look at what’s coming back it’s a real positive for us for the future because these kids have varsity experience and play time. We don’t match up well a lot of the time. Sophomores just don’t match up to juniors and seniors.”
Arno is hopeful that if the returning players train and work hard during the off-season they’ll be ready for next year.
One of the major improvements the coach noticed this season was on offense.
“We’ve got that established now and I think that’s going to pay dividends from our junior high up,” he said. “We’re going to focus on getting ourselves situated on defense this year.”
Despite a losing record — neither Arno nor his Dukes were satisfied with just three wins — he’s still proud of his team’s performance.
“It’s not like we’re losing to teams that were 2-8,” he said. “We lost to teams that were really good.”
One success Arno did note was the creation of a family-oriented team.
“I felt very close to the kids this year,” he said. “They’re going to play for each other as we move forward. And that’s hard to create overnight. It’s a huge thing to create a feeling of being welcome one and all.”
He believes creating the family environment is important to high school sports. But one of Arno’s biggest goals is getting kids to the next level: college.
Senior Devin Adler, for example, is considering playing college ball.
Arno said a huge part of playing at the next level is grades and Adler has what it takes in that capacity. But college football is much more intense than high school football.
“The next level is work,” Arno said. “It’s not as fun as it is in high school. You have to be willing to work like it’s a job.”
High-schoolers don’t get much time off before training starts again. Arno said some are still weight-lifting on their own but team conditioning starts again the first week in December.
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.