The losses, Greg Thomas said, aren’t the central concern.
Those happen, said Choctaw’s veteran coach, although they’ve become rarer and rare since Thomas brought his state-title résumé (four championships at Rose High in Greenville, N.C.) to the Emerald Coast eight years ago.
What Thomas hopes to eliminate headed into Friday’s trip to Rickards is the lack of discipline, the lack of execution.
What he hopes to eliminate are efforts like Friday’s 46-10 loss to Pine Forest at Joe Etheredge Stadium, a running-clock defeat that dropped the Indians to 0-2.
“We’re just not very good right now,” Thomas said. “It’s not necessarily one phase, it’s on both sides of the ball. We’re just not sound in many areas. The kids aren’t doing what they’re taught to do and we’re getting exposed right now.
“The biggest concern is we didn’t feel like we got better from Week 1 to Week 2.”
Two weeks in, the state of the program isn’t pretty.
Defensively, the Indians – who appear to be reeling from the graduation of defensive backs Chris Pickett and Richie Grant –allowed 38 points to Gulf Breeze and then 46 to Pine Forest.
“I think we’re just going through some growing pains right now,” said Thomas, who noted the Indians have committed around 350 yards in penalties. “The frustrating part is we haven’t shown up this year. We’re just trying to figure it out. We have a lot of guys back, but we don’t have a lot of starters back. You kind of see that inexperience.”
On offense, the Indians have coughed the ball up six times and are averaging just 19 points per game, well below last year’s mark of 34. Normally their strong suit, the Indians have missed having a consistent presence under center with the timeshare of Brady Ooten and Isaac Smith.
“Offensively we just have to execute,” Thomas said. “It’s been missed blocks here, missed assignments there. Those need to be addressed, and we need to execute.”
And that begins under center, where Thomas said Ooten will be the unquestioned starter.
“We need Isaac in some other situations,” Thomas said. “Brady has to overcome his mistakes and get better. I know he’ll do that, but we need him to do it sooner than (later).”
Of course snapping the losing streak hinges on more than Ooten’s play against Rickards (0-1), which has beaten the Indians three straight times by a combined six points. That includes two straight by a single point – two years ago on a 1-yard touchdown run with double zeros on the clock and last year on quarterback Marcus Riley’s two-point conversion run in overtime.
Riley returns, as does pretty much the whole team.
“They have everybody returning from last year and are very senior loaded,” Thomas said. “They’re very similar to Pine Forest – big, fast and athleticism for days.”
Hopefully for Thomas and Choctaw, the comparison doesn’t include the scoreboard.