Westerville North seniors setting example
History doesn't always take into account the hard work put in by a group of athletes. Wins and losses usually get all the recognition.
For first-year Westerville North High School football coach Rodger Elander, he hopes he is building the foundation of a successful program. For the seniors who have stuck it out for four years and now are learning a new system, the hard work won't be done until the final game is played.
"They're just solid kids," Elander said of his seniors. "Their group is a group I would love to have four years to work with, because they're buying in and they'd be easy (for other players) to follow.
"They always want to know what the coaches want and they'd be a core group to build around."
With a 55-0 loss to Reynoldsburg on Sept. 7, the Warriors fell to 0-3 and dropped their 38th consecutive game. Their last win came Sept. 19, 2008, when they defeated Westerville Central 21-17.
North plays host to Hilliard Darby on Friday, Sept. 14, in the OCC-Cardinal Division opener.
According to Elander, the players and coaches aren't concerned about what happened before this season. However, they did lose valuable offseason workout time because Elander wasn't hired until April to replace Mike Owens, who went 0-30 in three seasons and now coaches Franklin Heights.
"The kids missed months and months of weightlifting and conditioning," Elander said. "Overall we're not as strong as some programs, unfortunately. It has nothing to do with the kids. When the kids were in there, they were working hard.
"When you're short three or four months, that's what killed them and that's tough to overcome.
We're looking at some kids who could be the same speed and could be 15 to 20 pounds heavier. I'm not faulting any efforts they made once they got in (the weight room). They just weren't in there long enough."
Seniors Peter Sandvik (C/DE) and Shane Coulter (OG/DE) were mainstays under Owens, and they have continued to lead on and off the field this season.
Sandvik has a 4.7 GPA, while Coulter's GPA is 4.4
"Pete's taking somewhere around third-level college calculus at Otterbein," Elander said. "Shane is taking multiple AP and honors classes."
Others who have played key roles for North are seniors Chris Meyer (WR/CB), Nick Perrotti (WR/LB) and Austin Smales (QB).
"We're just continuing to work hard this year," Sandvik said before the Reynoldsburg game. "The last couple days we've had some of the best practices we've ever had in this program. We've been full of energy and we're excited to get out there.
"I think our freshman year we had close to 40 start out and we're down to 10 seniors now. The experience for all of us, at least, has taught us so much, not just about football, but about life and sticking through it."
There usually is attrition within a class of athletes as it progresses through high school. But those who have persevered at North are glad they stayed with the program, Coulter said.
"For us, we're just trying to get the things we want out of this season," he said. "It's been about sticking it out with this senior class. I think all of us believe that the problem with this program isn't the people who play; it's the people who aren't playing.
"It's the people who are in the school who should be on the football field, but aren't. All of us believe that and that's why, even though it's rough being on a team that doesn't win games, we believe if we weren't here things would be worse and those younger guys wouldn't have success, either."
Sandvik believes the seniors are helping Elander set the tone for the future of the program.
"We want to get it kick started and get some momentum going," Sandvik said. "If we can just get that one win, or, it doesn't have to be a win, maybe just some good games, it's going to snowball for the rest of the year and for years to come.
"Just to get all the younger guys to see the little things we do, and how that's translating to the success and the growth throughout the year, it will translate to how they do in the future."
"We're working toward that first win and multiple wins in the future," Perrotti said. "We have big goals for the team. I go into every game believing, and I'm sure all the guys do, that we can win every game. That's a big part of what makes us keep going on and pushing through the hard times and stuff."