Sports

Trojans working toward culture

Football season was 1 step in long process spearheaded by seniors

Fairfield’s Landen Shafer returns a kick for the Trojans. Shafer was hurt early in the season of his senior year. (File)
Fairfield’s Landen Shafer returns a kick for the Trojans. Shafer was hurt early in the season of his senior year. (File)
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FAIRFIELD — Although the Fairfield High School football team had a 1-7 record this season, it was a very successful year.

Nate Weaton finished his second year at the helm and building a program is a process. He is working toward a culture and his seniors, especially, on the squad provided invaluable intangibles, helping build toward a future. Those 11 seniors this season were Landen Schafer, Brody Angstead, Payton Cline, Logan Adam, Ethan Nebinger, Blake Metz, Brad Smithburg, Kyle Godwin, Aidan Pohren, Arya Patel and Cohen Roach.

With the threat of COVID-19 threatening the cancellation of the season, just the fact it was played was a triumph in itself.

Dealing with the uncertainty, the contact tracing and quarantines was a new chore for every football program and it was something that was crucial to the season.

“Certainly, the most daunting task for all of us, was dealing with the unknown, mostly centered around the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fairfield head coach Nate Weaton said. “We just took it day by day, and certainly increased our non-contact communication with our players.”

Communicating with players was dealt with in a new way with the addition of assistant coach Jeff Jones, whose unofficial title was attitude coach.

The Trojans, who finished 1-7, went winless last season and put that memory in the past as soon as the season began by defeating Knoxville in a rematch of last season’s opener.

“The best part of the season was that first win, not for me, but for the players,” Weaton said. “For the players, I think they’d say the best part was ringing that victory bell!”

The win was also a reward for the coaching staff in that it validated the effort that had been put forth.

The win over Knoxville was a true reward for the players’ hard work and dedication to the process,” Weaton said.

The process was spearheaded by the coaching staff and involved more than just the play on the field.

“I think our greatest moment was the dramatic shift we saw from our players, in terms of culture and commitment,” Weaton said. “They put an enormous amount of effort in.”

Weaton saw the amount of dedication in his player individually, but also as a group.

“They put all of work and effort in as a team,” Weaton said. “To put in the work that is necessary as a team, not individuals, drives the program in the right direction. As a coaching staff, that would be our greatest moment of the season.”

When there are great moments, conversely, there are bad times. The Trojans had to feel both sides.

“Injuries continued to be a low point for us, along with what we call ‘lack of transfer,’” Weaton said.

The lack of transfer is when there is no immediate result of the extra time devoted to making oneself better.

“What with all of the work they put in off the field, along with their dedication and attitude, it doesn’t transfer quick enough to the win/loss column,” Weaton said. “We treat all of this as a positive.”

It’s hard for teenagers to see positives down the road, it’s a desire to see more immediate tangible results.

“We would remind our guys that building a program takes time, it’s not a sprint,” Weaton said. “And we remind our Seniors especially that what they are doing in terms of the intangibles are equally important to wins and losses.”

While turning losses into wins is a great challenge, there were other tough situations. “

Certainly the COVID protocols and administrative tasks associated with it were the most daunting,” Weaton said. “Our kids did a GREAT job of adapting, and certainly got a good look at how dealing with adversity is part of life.”

Sports are often a great microcosm of what it takes to get through life.

“I am extremely proud of our guys in how they approached the season and got better each week,” Weaton said.