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Sterling (Oct. 24, 2013) – What is success? For some, success is equated solely with championships and conquests, with unparalleled and complete victories, and nothing less. But one of life’s toughest lessons is that for every winner, there is a loser. Often it does not matter how hard each side worked. Even with equal preparation and shedding of blood, sweat, and tears, sometimes an opponent is just better than you. In high school football, this can be a harsh reality.
Until last Friday night, the Park View Patriots were living that reality. A proud and storied program that brought the first football state championship to Loudoun County in the 1980’s, the Patriots hadn’t won a game since late October 2011. Seventeen games had come and gone without a single victory, including an 0-10 season last year.
The losing streak was not born of a lack of effort. Behind the scenes, countless hours were spent by players and coaches practicing, studying film, lifting weights, and doing all of the intangible things that football teams are supposed to do to help prepare for victory.
“They work hard just like every other program,” said Park View head coach Ferris Eways, “We put them through the grinder every single week.”
Yet success eluded the Patriots, at least in the win-loss column. But the beauty of football is that even in the midst of a prolonged losing streak, it still provides ample opportunity for success and improvement, if even on a small scale.
Games are broken down into individual plays and match-ups. Each play provides an opportunity for success or failure, for improvement or stagnation, for teaching and learning. The idea that success can be had at the micro level can motivate and instill hope for a struggling team. This philosophy continued to drive the Park View players and coaches even as the losses mounted.
“The motivating factor is really ‘Can we get better from day one to the last game of the season.’ We need to get better every single day,” said Eways, “We tell our kids, try not to beat the entire team, just try to beat your one-on-one match ups. Don’t think about the entire team, just think about the guy in front of you, just beat that guy one-on-one. It’s gonna be a dog fight, you might lose some you might win some, but at the end of the night you want to beat [your opponent] in the overall battle of one-on-one battles.”
Adherence to this mantra of individual responsibility brought the Patriots close to snapping that losing streak twice earlier this season. There was a heartbreaking one-point loss to Manassas Park and a tough one score loss to Potomac Falls. Even as coaches and players saw the small improvements as the season progressed, the team needed to get over that hump as an affirmation of all of their efforts and never say die attitude.
So last Friday night, the Patriots traveled to Leesburg to take on the Heritage Pride. Buoyed by optimism spurred by several players returning from injuries over the past few weeks, there was a sense among the team that this could be the week to take micro success to the macro level.
“Going into the game, we had a lot of energy,” said linebacker Gary Stephens, one of 24 senior players that came back to the program this year despite the losing streak.
During the game, the small successes began to mount for Park View. Stephens was all over the field to lead a stout defensive effort. Senior Juan Rivera was winning his match-ups seemingly everywhere, as he returned kicks, punted, and locked down the defensive secondary for the Patriots. Running back Henry Argueta hit the holes created by his offensive line and rushed for over 100 yards, and Bryan Martinez kicked a 37-yard third quarter field goal that would prove to be the game’s decisive points, as Park View held on for the much needed 17-14 win.
“It means a lot. Our kids needed a win,” said Eways, “I don’t know what it is about the Park View kids, but the fact of the matter is they don’t quit. That’s resilience, that’s perseverance, and that shows you the type of kid we have at Park View.”
Perhaps more important than even the team’s shared philosophy of individual accountability is the coaching staff’ focus on the players as people. According to Eways, this has been the most important factor in keeping the team together and ultimately helping them to secure an elusive victory.
“Just like any other coach, it doesn’t matter if you win 100 games or lose 100 games, you have to care for the kids. I think that’s what really brings the kids back. We have a great coaching staff that really cares for the kids win, lose, or draw.”
The Patriots do not get much of a honeymoon period to savior this win, as they’ll head to Briar Woods this Friday to take on the three-time defending state champion Falcons. Even in the face of seemingly long odds, the Patriots will rely upon the same focus, drive, and lessons learned that helped the team snap its losing streak and achieve other successes throughout the season, even when team victory eluded the team.
“No matter who we face, I don’t want our guys to quit, I don’t want them to give up, I don’t want them to ever think that they can’t do it. This is why we play the game. It doesn’t matter who you play, you have to step up and play Friday night and go through the 48 minutes of a high school game.”