By Mac McLeod,
Nowhere in the Livingston Academy football program is there an entry in the “school records” department for the team with zero wins or a winless season. In that area, most of the records show positive numbers, so let it be entered in the books that the 2021 season was winless in 10 attempts. It’s not the first winless season for LA, but it’s the first in a long, long time.
Last Thursday night at Baxter, a game that was moved from Friday night with no apparent reason and very few people informed about it, the Wildcats took their perfect 0-9 mark into hostile territory against the Upperman Bees, a team with opposite numbers and a region championship in its pocket, and suffered a final loss to end the season.
The 49-6 setback was not unexpected, and for all practical purposes, only the final score was ever in doubt. As it turned out, the 49 points by an opponent was the second time this season that mark was reached as Stone Memorial did it back in early September, taking a 49-12 decision. It did mark the seventh time in 10 games that the “continuous clock” was inserted, making the 2021 season perhaps the “shortest season” in terms of time played.
“That’s all behind us now,” first year head coach Dale Flatt pointed out after the game. “We knew from the very outset it was going to be a rebuilding season, I just didn’t realize just how big the rebuild would be. I have never seen a rebuilding situation quite like this one. It won’t take one year, it will take at least two, and perhaps three, but we start in two weeks going to the weight room and getting stronger.”
Flatt continued describing his program and how it has worked for him in his 37 years as a coach, “It works because I’ve used it, and next year our fans will see a different team with the same personnel. When we started this year, we had a very young team, and I mean very young. They wanted to play football, but had no idea just what it took to be a good football team, and being stronger than the other team is a big part of that program.
“We’ll hit the weight room, the kids tell me they can’t wait, and when we show up next year, it will be different. We probably won’t set the world on fire, but we’ll be better, and the year after that, we’ll be even better. Our players have to realize what being strong really means, and in our special player positions, we will have to really work with our talent and make it much better.”
In Thursday’s game, it took only eight plays for the Bees to march 50-plus yards to put seven points on the board in their initial possession. Four plays later, Livingston had a punt blocked and recovered in the endzone for seven more. A 45-yard pass play on the Bees’ next possession gave the home team a 21-0 lead going to the second frame.
Livingston punted on the first play of the second quarter, and two plays later, Upperman put seven more points on the board on a 26-yard scoring pass. A final score late in the half gave Upperman a 35-0 lead and the set-up for the continious clock.
“I understand the continuous clock,” coach Flatt pointed out, “but I really would like to have that playing time to get my young players more ‘on field’ experience.”
Upperman scored on the very first play of the second half, a 42-yard pass play, then added one early in the final quarter for its 49 points.
For Livingston, it was a matter of pride to score and the Cats used a 16-yard pass from quarterback Brodey Coffee to Jaden Lawrence that actually bounced off the hands of Xander Cantrell to make it happen. The extra-point kick failed and the clock expired at the same time.
“I was proud we scored,” Flatt added. “It showed just how hard we have tried all season. Despite what was on the scoreboard, these kids never gave up, never quit, and they will be back again next season, bigger, better, more experienced, and ready to play. That’s part of our rebuilding program. I’m also going into the middle schools and try to recruit some youngsters. There’s a place on our team if you really want it.”
Flatt went on to point out that every player he had, “had fun playing, seldom complained and almost unbelievable, was the fact that only one player, Ayden Coffee, sustained a serious injury.
“Ayden broke his collar bone about the third or fourth game, and that was really the only serious injury we had. In a season like this, normally you would have quite a few more. The rest of that story was Ayden came back and helped us coach. That was big.
“That’s over and behind us now,” the coach concluded, “and now we’re working on next season. We are told we will be in our new stadium next year, and that will be great. Playing on the road every game didn’t help us at all. We may add a couple new coaches, depending on what we think we need, and we’re going to hit that weight room. If you’re looking for a player after the first of the new year, best bet will be check the weight room.
“We all learned from what we went through, and that’s good. Now it’s time to put that knowledge to real usage.”