With just four wins in the previous three seasons, Thomas More Prep-Marian football coach John Montgomery decided his team needed a fresh approach to the offseason.
After all, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.
“We did some things we’ve never done before,” Thomas More Prep-Marian coach John Montgomery said. “We saw some guys starting to make some sacrifices and commitments. That’s what it’s going to take to get us to the next level.”
Last year, the Monarchs finished 0-9. The next step Montgomery spoke of is turning the four losses by eight points or fewer into victories.
“That’s just going to take more attention to detail, better execution and a bigger commitment,” Montgomery said. “When we talk about getting to the next level, it’s making those close games (and) finding a way to end in our favor.”
In years past, the team traveled to camp in Nebraska, hosted a camp of their own and held summer workouts.
While much of the same is still going on, the team attended a more challenging camp at Benedictine College in Atchison and put more effort into the summer workouts.
“It was a lot more beneficial,” senior running back T.J. Flax said of the camp. “It was a lot harder than… Usually we go to Nebraska, and that was just a lot more laid back. This one was a lot more football.”
While some teams opt for light contact and seven-on-seven camps over the summer, the Monarchs were suited up in full pads for contact drills against much larger schools.
“We played good teams, like some big 6A teams,” Flax said.
Flax and fullback/linebacker Nate Walters are members of the Monarchs’ six-man senior class. The group is sick of losing.
“It lights a fire,” Walters said of the team’s struggles during his first three years. “I’m ready to get some wins.”
Although the group is yet to experience anything close to a winning season, they don’t feel like it’s too late.
“In any moment, we can turn the corner,” Flax said. “We just gotta know this is the year this time.”
Recording five wins and achieving the goal of making the playoffs won’t come easily.
The Monarchs play a tough Mid-Continent League schedule once again in 2015. While it makes achieving goals more difficult, the Monarchs’ coach is happy to play against stiff competition.
“One of the great things about the MCL is that each week is going to be a challenging week,” Montgomery said. “There’s not necessarily any gimme week for us.”
Phiilipsburg, Ellis, and Norton are among the top teams on the league, the coach said. The Monarchs host option-heavy Phillipsburg in Week 1 and Ellis in Game 2, which looks like a tough start to the season. Mental strength, however, is one of the areas where the TMP coach has few questions about his team.
“Our guys have proven that they have an ability to be mentally tough,” Montgomery said. “They’ve proven that they can fight through adversity, certainly. When you look at last season, they still face a tremendous amount of adversity and yet we only lost two guys off of last season’s team.”
Much else remains undetermined. The coach said nearly every starting spot was up for grabs heading into the team’s scrimmage last weekend. While positions and playing time are still up for grabs, Montgomery has realized that the Monarchs wont have the luxury of relying solely on upperclassmen with just six seniors and seven juniors on the team.
“Without a doubt you’re going to see sophomores playing a major role in every phase of the game,” the coach said. “Whether it’s special teams, offense or defense, there are sophomores that will end up starting across the board. Fortunately, we’ve got some athletic sophomores.”
One of the seniors estimated that 70 percent of the team is either in the ninth or 10th grade. That puts an added emphasis on making the most of practice time leading up to Friday’s opener.
“(We need to) get things more crisp, clean things up a little more and get our plays and everything down a little bit better,” Walter said.
Heading into the new season, the Monarchs are looking to improve on last year’s offense. Walters said the Monarchs’ offensive line stands out as one of the team’s most improved units.
The Monarchs installed a new spread style offense in 2014, so they’re looking to take a step forward in terms of execution and production in their second year in the system.
TMP won’t commit to being either a run heavy or pass happy team, instead opting to play the match ups.
“We try to keep it balanced,” Montgomery said. “It really depends on the team we’re facing and where we feel we can attack them the most, what gives us the best opportunity to be successful. Where one week you might see us pass a little bit more, the next week, you might see us run a little bit more. I would like to think at the end of the season, it balances out to around 50-50.”
Defensively, the coach said he’ll factor in the opponent’s down and distance, but added his natural disposition is to be a little more aggressive.
“In certain situations, I think that I’ve been a guy that likes to bring pressure,” Montgomery said. “At times, that’s hurt us and at times that’s help us. It really comes down to game situations.”
This season, the coach hopes to be making decisions in the fourth quarter of a close games more frequently than he did a year ago. He also hopes the results are different.
“We couldn’t find a way to win,” Montgomery said of the 2014 team. “It wasn’t a matter of (thinking) ‘Ah, it’s alright to lose.’ I think last year, they battled every single snap for four quarters, and it really came down to our ability to execute at a high level.”
After a summer of hard work, two of his senior leaders believe they’re up to the challenge.
“I think we’re ready to turn the corner and make something happen this year,” Flax said.
“(We’re) ready to get some wins this year,” Walters added.