OPINION: Football program has the feel of heading in right direction

Disclaimer: It’s important to point out that many former Dexter football players may not have racked up a lot of wins but they all worked hard and dedicated themselves to the program. And the coaches – including and especially the one I chatted with on Wednesday – who led these young men were certainly good football coaches and great people and leaders. Their hard work and sacrifice should always be noted and celebrated.

Something was different in Dexter on Friday night. The scoreboard told the same story written for the past say 10 years – probably longer, but who really wants to do the math. Anyway, this is about the present and future, not the past.

Now the cynical could probably google my name and Dexter football and find a similar column say four years ago around this time. The feeling then was real, it just never carried over to the win column.

This time, it’s different. At least, it feels different.

Wins are coming Dexter. You can book it as easily as you can book a flight on Spirit Airlines that appears the cheapest available until you get to the airport.

While there are hidden fees with Spirit, there are no hidden messages being sent from the new Dexter football coaching staff. They realize it’s going to take some time and Friday evening was evidence that time is something they can’t control.

There was a lot to take notice of as the Dreadnaughts opened the 2017 football season with an entire new coaching staff. A staff, which unlike previous attempts, arrives from out of town. They will preach the same message as previous coaches but hopefully their voice resonates.

And maybe it will resonate because Coach Phil Jacobs arrives in Dexter with a winning attitude from a winning program built on hard work, sound fundamentals and commitment that begins before players arrive at the varsity level. Jacobs arrives surrounded by an excellent staff who not only appear to know the game of football but seem to enjoy teaching the game of football.

And they LOOK like football coaches. They were all dressed basically the same on Friday night and most of them looked like they could still run out and play. It was part of that different feel.

The big difference in the feel was the play on the field. For the most part, Dexter limited the costly penalties that seemed to haunt past teams. They didn’t have that big turnover at the wrong time. For a first game, there was discipline and a plan.

The Dreadnaughts also moved the football. The offense marched up and down the field, picking up first downs and chunks of yards. They threw the ball well, ran good routes, blocked up front and ran the ball hard.

Disclaimer 2: Let’s remember that the Dexter football teams of the past were not as far away as the record or final scores might indicate. Many, many times they were knocking on the door of a win when a call went the other way or the ball bounced in the wrong direction or a mental mistake proved too costly to overcome. And once that ball started rolling in the opposite direction it just couldn’t be stopped. Here we go again…

The big moment in the game both from an outcome standpoint and a different feel standpoint came in the final minute of the first half.

First, the Dreadnaughts thwarted an Adrian drive when Andy Durand picked off a pass around the Dexter 30-yard line. The Maples had already led 20-7 and a score there would have put them up 27-7. Game over.

So Durand’s pick was huge from that standpoint.

Instead of running the ball up the middle or taking the “we will take being down 20-7 at the half” knee, Jacobs called plays as if they were down six with a minute to go in the game. That felt different.

The Dreads moved the ball down the field using excellent clock management and short passes. They got inside the 5-yard line and tried to run the option which didn’t work and they were unable to get off another snap as the clock ran out.

A score there could have changed things dramatically.

But just getting in that position felt a dramatic change from the past.

Later in the game, Jacobs was introduced to the crowd. And despite the scoreboard leaning heavily toward Adrian, the crowd offered a very warm reception. They, too, know this is going to take some time.

Speaking of time, football coaches like to say that the biggest improvement comes between week one and week two. The Dreads play at Ypsilanti against a team that always has great talent so an early test arrives on Friday.

Adrian won the opener 41-14. But the score doesn’t always tell the whole story. And this story is just beginning.

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