OHATCHEE — Ohatchee won’t have to wait long for its biggest game.
With the Alabama High School Athletic Association providing teams 11 weeks to play 10 games — causing the season to start a week earlier — the Indians will face Southeastern on Aug. 22.
First-year coach Scott Martin said it’s the team’s biggest game because, that week, it’s Ohatchee’s only game.
“I know that’s an old coaching cliche, but we’re going to prepare each and every week like it’s the biggest game of the season,” Martin said. “One thing I try to not do with our kids is get into the highs and lows of this is a big game and that’s not a big game. Every game is a big game.
“At Ohatchee, where we’ve won two games on the field in the last two years, our kids are hungry to go out and prove that they’re a better team than the end result has been the last two years.”
The Indians’ hunger has been building in the locker room for at least two years, after they went 1-9 last year and 2-8 the season before. The single victory last season came by forfeit over Victory Christian. It’s also been 11 years since Ohatchee had a winning record.
The lack of success led to the hiring of Martin, who was hired in January. He has been working with the team on the field since spring practice.
“The fall has been a continuation of the spring and the summer,” he said. “Obviously your reality is that we’re not where we need to be for the first game, but we’ve got time to prepare. I’m pleased with the progress that we’re making.”
One of the biggest things Martin and the Indians have been working on are expectations, which have changed with the coaching hire.
“The difference is that when you talk about building programs, it’s not like there wasn’t foundation here when I got here. Everyone has a different way of building a program,” Martin said. “You almost end up rebuilding everything — and there are a lot of good things there were here that I kept — but we’re starting all over and how we practice, how we come onto the field, how we come off the field, what we do for every little issue, we’ve got something for that.
“It’s a lot about getting the kids to know what our expectations are and then getting the kids to be accountable for those expectations.”
Two-way lineman Hunter Barclay said discipline and other things are “a lot better” than they’ve been the past couple of the years. He added that the team has a better attitude, which gives a different feel heading into the season.
“Smaller things build to big things and can turn a program around,” Barclay said.
Offensively, Ohatchee will look to numerous players to drive its multiple offense. The Indians will be power based, but will run anything and everything, including spreading the field.
Barclay and Caleb Dickie are leaders on both sides of the line, while sophomore Taylor Eubanks takes over at quarterback. Coleman McCombs, who missed last season with a broken leg, will start at running back. Austin Tucker, Blayde Crump and Tristan Woodall will contribute at skill positions.
“We’ve versatile enough to move it around to the talent level that we’ve got,” Martin said. “I think we’re still learning a lot, and there are still things we looking to learn to do, but, as far as the base offense, we’re centered around power football and that’s where we’re going to start every day.”
Martin showed concern about depth on the defensive side of the ball, but acknowledged Ohatchee is “doing a good job.” While depth may become a problem, the Indians’ move to Class 3A raises some eyebrows, mostly because they’ve landed in Region 6 with No. 2-ranked Piedmont, No. 6 Wellborn and No. 8 Glencoe.
“That should tell you what type of region we have,” Martin said. “I don’t think any other region has three teams in the top 10. That shows the quality of opponents we’ve got. We’ve got Weaver, Westbrook Christian, Pleasant Valley and Ashville also in the region and they’re also pretty good programs.”