DUBLIN — When Todd pait accepted the West Bladen football job and letf Tennessee to come back home, he never imagined there’d be a season like his Knights recently completed.
After two wins to open the season — over South Robeson and West Columbus — the Knights got hit hard with the injury bug and quickly turned into a high-school MASH unit and finished the season on a nine-game losing streak, including the last seven in the Four County Conference.
“It was tough,” Pait said late in the season. “We just could never get anything going consistently.”
But there were some bright spots along the way.
When quarterback Wesley Pidgeon went down with a leg injury, kicker Scott Bowen stepped in and did an admirable job over the next several games.
“I can’t say enough about Scott,” Pait said. “He asked to step in and worked really hard. He’s the kind of player I came to West Bladen to coach.”
Another broight spot for the Knights came from the backfield, where junior running back B.J. Drake surpassed 1,000 yards rushing. He finished the season with 1,080 yards.
On the defensive side, senior linebacker Hunter Pait finished his season as one of the conference’s leaders with 131 tackles.
Looking back over the season, Todd Pait has had the chance to evaluate how his first season as a head coach went — despite the unexpected challenges.
“We thought we had a really strong foundation to build on this season and be able to compete,” he said. “But when things got tough, we discovered who we could count on.
“That is something that needed to happen before we could move forward as a football program,” he added. “I have a notebook full of changes to make and areas I want every player and coach to improve in, including myself.”
Pait said, going forward, he will emphasize discipline, organization and communication — then Xs and Os.
“Those who aren’t willing to put the work in won’t have the privilege of wearing the purple and black,” he said. “And make no mistake … it IS a privilege.”
With next season in mind, Pait said he thinks better things are coming.
“I have complete confidence we can turn this program into a contender,” he said, “but we have to build that culture first.
“I want the community to rally behind us and be proud of what we are building at West Bladen,” he added, “and get excited to be a part of it.”
With about 262 days before the 2017 season-opener, Pait is already looking forward to the first real snap of the ball.
“I can’t wait to get started,” he said.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.