Coach Russ Isham wants to turn Osborne’s football program around, but there isn’t a standard of excellence that the players can look to. The Cardinals have not had a winning season since 1994, nor have they won a game in the last two years.
“Not only do we not have a winning tradition, we have a losing tradition,” Isham said. “It’s not like we’re in the middle.”
Isham said one of the biggest factors in Osborne’s losing culture has been the rotating cast of coaches. The Cardinals have employed 11 coaches since 2000. Before Isham was promoted from defensive coordinator last year, R.C. Helton stepped down after one season.
The players were apprehensive of new coaches since they have not had a consistent voice on the sidelines. Isham wants to change that.
“I’m trying to bring consistency and a stable atmosphere for them so they believe that I’ve got their back,” Isham said. “They know I’m here for the long haul … I think that will pay dividends.”
At spring practice, the Cardinals focused on trying to move on from last year. Osborne played Allatoona in a scrimmage to end the spring. Last year, the Cardinals lost to the Buccaneers 34-0. The talent gap between the two teams was still evident at the scrimmage.
“(Allatoona is) a very physical team,” Isham said. “I was very pleased with how we handled that physicality. I don’t know if we’re at that level yet, but I think we’re moving that way.”
Osborne has a lot of young players. Isham said there are only about six or seven seniors on a team that finished spring practice with about 35 players.
“With youth comes some mental errors and (a lack of) physical size,” Isham said.
Isham said defensive lineman Joe Soto performed well at spring practice. But there are so many young players that Isham could not name everyone who had a successful spring.
“I’ve got so many young kids, it’s hard to know which ones need to be (highlighted),” Isham said.
Isham said Osborne’s schedule will not get any easier. It plays away games at Therell and KIPP Atlanta Collegiate (teams they lost to last year) before entering its Region 6AAAAAA schedule.
The search for assistant coaches is still a work in progress. But Isham hopes that his commitment to the program and a successful spring practice lays the groundwork for a better season.
“The kids are working hard,” Isham said. “They deserve to get over the hump.”