Even though the Missouri Military Academy varsity football team has experienced a change at the quarterback position this season, the squad has seen a lot more turnover in the middle of its offensive line.
Specifically, at Harrisburg last Friday, the Fighting Colonel's had to employ their sixth different center in six weeks. This put the squad in a state of turmoil because of the importance of continuity at that position, and considering they could only dress 15 players for this game, all of the little problems steamrolled into something bigger, forcing MMA onto the wrong side of a 49-6 decision.
"We came out flat because we did not have a good week of practice. Mondays we watch film and we didn't practice Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday," said coach Mitchell Jenkins. "That definitely played a part. They jumped on us quick before we could even get out of the gate. I've got to get us ready to play faster, whether it's a better pregame or more step-through, I don't know, but I've got to find a way to get us ready to play from the outset. We always to seem to get ourselves in a hole to start a game."
Harrisburg, on the other hand, came out ready for the Fighting Colonel's and it showed in the form of an early 20-0 lead. MMA did finally manage to get on the scoreboard at the end of the second quarter, but that simply cut the gap to 34-6 heading into the break.
"We play fine after the first 10-20 minutes, but the way our season is going it's already to late by then. This time we were down three scores," Jenkins said. "After halftime we tried to go back to our power running game. I didn't call a great game as a play caller. I threw the ball more than I have the past couple weeks. We also had some guys banged up on the offensive line. We were missing our right tackle. We just kept grinding through, hoping we could get something done offensively."
Another factor besides injuries that was working against the Colonel's was their three turnovers against the Bulldogs. The squad has also now allowed 264 points against 61 scored, none of which is in line with the teams preseason expectations.
"We had drives stopped four times withing their 15-yard line, and it's tough to win at any level when that happens. Most people call it the red zone, but red means stop, so we call it the gold zone, and we came up empty on four trips," said Jenkins. "That's a huge difference right there."
As for Jenkins' personal experience this season, when Kevin Bissmeyer became MMA's Athletic Director, he lost one of his two coordinators. That amounts to half of his staff. The school also mourned the loss recently of former school president Charles Stribling and Homecoming weekend begins Sept. 29, making the campus alive in a way that it normally isn't.
"It depends on why people do what they do. I'd love to have a district championship. That's a definite goal, but if you're doing it for the kids, it's been fantastic," Jenkins said. "Our kids keep moving forward. We try and teach them that, in life, things don't always go your way. You can either feel sorry for yourself or you can put your oar in the water and keep plugging through until you get to that light at the end of the tunnel, and that's what's rewarding to me. Our kids are taking that personality on."
Yet another issue MMA's dealing with that was already mentioned is the change it made under center. Considering the team was outscored 125-7 in the initial three weeks of the season, things simply couldn't stay the same. That left Francisco Fletes out and Pedro Da Rosa in and Jenkins is thrilled by what his new quarterback brings to the table.
"I wish Pedro was a sophomore. If I had him for a couple more years we'd have Nick Saban knocking on our door," said Jenkins. "He's that kind of special as an athlete. His decision making is getting a lot better, he's a natural at the position and he's a wonderful story. He's not just a good athlete, but a wonderful kid. We love being around him because he's 100 percent coachable. He's everything you want in a high school football player."