In the session, Felder made a note of the Bears’ aggressive style of play and explosive offense. He said the Falcons (7-2) would have to play turnover free, ball-control offense to come away with a victory when his team takes on Lynn (9-1) in the first round of the AHSAA Class 1A playoffs Friday night.
However, more importantly, he said, he was looking for the number of plays his team played what he described as “winning football.” When Felder uses the term, he’s talking more about tenacity than proper technique.
Playing winning football enabled Donoho to break its 21-game losing-streak in the final game of the season last year and make its first trip to the postseason in three years this season.
“It means going out and giving 100 percent. Regardless of if you miss tackles or bust assignments, you go 100 percent,” Felder said. “You’re going to miss tackles and bust assignments. They do that in college. They do that in the NFL. It’s about going out and giving it everything you’ve got each and every play.”
It’s something Donoho players have come accustomed to hearing about, too.
“He uses it everyday,” senior Will Nunnelley said. “He’s always harping on us to do the little things it takes for a team to win. Every time we watch film, he probably says it a dozen times.”
Nunnelley, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound has been there through the toughest of times when he and his teammates’ efforts throughout the week weren’t enough to produce winning results on the field.
“We’d get close but fall short,” Nunnelley said. “But at the end of the year, we’d always be playing so much better than we were at the beginning of the season.”
Through it all, Felder said, his team kept believing what he was preaching, that if they continued to put in the work the evidence of their labors would some day show up on the final scoreboard again. He also credited the team’s six seniors with providing the needed on-field leadership.
“History is the best teacher,” Felder said. “If you go back to my first season (2005) when we went 0-10, we had a couple games that we could’ve and should’ve won, but we still didn’t know how to win.”
The Falcons started out 2006 going 12-0 on their way to an appearance in the state quarterfinals.
Felder said his focus was always on game-to-game improvement and not wins and losses. Of course, he and his staff keep track of the same statistics everyone else does, but Felder has come up with a way of calculating the intangibles when evaluating his team’s play.
It’s a method that’s proven to be an effective indicator of where the Falcons need to improve even when they’re winning. In Donoho’s 49-0 victory against Jefferson Christian in Week 8, Felder said he noted some 24 plays where his team didn’t play winning football. The following week in a 28-12 win against Akron, he only recorded nine where they missed the mark.
“Every time we look at film, we see little things here and there, plays where we’re not hustling,” Nunnelley said. “We see points where we can improve. I don’t think you’ve seen the best this team can do.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.