When the Wolverines travel to Fellowship Christian tonight, they have a chance to win their sixth game, or the total number of wins that the program had combined the last two seasons.
While a victory would make for a landmark accomplishment, Walker would prefer not to even bother thinking about what happen in the school’s past years.
“I don’t worry about anything,” Walker coach John East said. “I just worry about this year. I never talk about last year. If anyone talks about last year, I tell them that they don’t even need to talk about it.”
Still the progress happening in the Wolverines’ program is undeniable. Since the program’s inception in 2001, Walker has never won more than six games in a season. If Walker wins tonight, it will equal the best win total in school history, which has only been done twice — 2005 and ’06.
So, how does a program go from winning no more than three games in one season since 2007 become an undefeated team in just one season?
“It’s a number of things,” East said. “My trademark has always been numbers. I’ve always had numbers. It doesn’t matter if it was football, basketball or lacrosse. I coached soccer one year and we had 14-15 kids, and the next had 40-something tryout.”
Although there are more players on this year’s team, moving from 30 to 53 this year, it requires more than just numbers to create the type of turnaround that the Wolverines have seen in just one season.
“The little things are just about staying positive,” East said. “Kids today, we don’t know what’s going on in their lives. I want them to know that there are a bunch of men that love them. We’re still going to love them 20 years from now.”
East has been in coaching for 38 years, though he has not been a head coach in Georgia until this season. Still, through all of his travails as a coach and an athletic director, he has found that more important than the numbers is the attitude of a team.
“I have this saying, ‘Act like you want to be here,’” East said. “‘And if you don’t want to be here, fake it.’ What happens is, because some kids play football because they feel like they have to, I want them to get to the point to where they want to be here. And now, we have kids that want to be here. They can’t wait to get to practice now.”
So, how within one summer and the first few games of the season does a coach know that his players want to come to practice, want to play and, most of all, want to win? It’s simple. He just looks to see if they are enjoying what they do.
“The answer is, because it’s fun,” East said. “The captains are supposed to tell me that it’s not fun if they are not having fun. But they have told me that they are having a blast. If it’s not fun, then you’re not going to have numbers.”
“But fun doesn’t mean you go out and fool around. Fun to me is driving a sled with the offensive line, then giving them a water break. They’re so tired that they have to crawl to the water. The whole point of that is: Will they help each other out?
And so, in small examples like picking each other up during difficult practices, he’s seeing players that want to be there. On game days, he’s seeing a team that wants to compete.
As a result, the fans and the Walker community is finally getting to see a team that wins.