Coach of the Year: Perry guides Indians to second round playoffsPublished 12:06pm Friday, January 3, 2014
Good coaches realize when adjustments need to be made to strategy and approach for the betterment of their team.
Perhaps what makes a coach great is, after a process of reevaluation during the course of the season, not formulating wholesale changes, but rather reinvesting his or her trust in their players and their players’ abilities.
That’s what Wetumpka Indians head football coach Tim Perry and his coaching staff did this season. As a result, the 2013 version of the Indians advanced to the second round of the Class 6A playoffs. With the team’s accomplishments and his unyielding belief, Perry earned The Wetumpka Herald’s Coach of the Year for 2013.
After starting the year 2-0, Wetumpka dropped its next four contests, three being region games, narrowing its goal of making the postseason. While he considered changes, Perry ultimately decided to stay the course.
“The only thing as a coach, you always second guess yourself when things don’t go like you think they should,” Perry said. “So, you start reevaluating everything. But I never ever doubted the ability of our players. I felt like we had the ability to win the game against everybody we played. But you always ask yourself, ‘are we doing the things we have to do to win? What could I have done differently? Is there anything we should or shouldn’t do to put ourselves in a better position to be successful?’ So, you always ask yourself questions like that in those circumstances, that’s just what we do as coaches.”
In the Indians third loss of the four straight at Class 5A Homewood, a top-five team at the time, Perry’s group didn’t win the turnover battle for the first time in 2013 and as a result, suffered its worst defeat at 28-0. The following week, Wetumpka hosted the Pelham Panthers, a team that blowout the Tribe the year prior 41-7. This season, the two fought it out in two overtimes before Pelham pulled it out.
This was the point of the season, Perry said, where he really noticed the consistency of the team’s leadership.
“I was so proud of our guys the way they battled (against Pelham),” the coach said. “As a coaching staff, we made a very wise decision. We knew we had a talented team, and we had played talented teams,. So we looked to the positives in the game films. We began to look at how close we were to playing a complete game. Even after the Pehlam game, we pointed out after the game, and the players were talking about the plays we could have made.
“So I give them the credit. On Mondays, they were positive, enthusiastic, ready to go to work on the next opponent. Not a whole lot of teams losing four games in a row, three being region games, able to stay focused and continue to compete at a high level. That’s a credit to our leadership. Against Chelsea, we were down 21-0 before we snapped the ball on offense. We had every reason not to win that game. But the guys kept their heads up and winning that game in three overtimes really skyrocketed our confidence level.”
That come-from-behind victory sparked a five-game winning streak, including a 14-10 first round road playoff win at Daphne. The second round home game versus fourth-ranked McGill-Toolen see-sawed back-and-forth. Wetumpka had a fourth-and-goal at the Yellow Jackets’ five-yard-line down 24-20, but fell short of advancing to the quarterfinals.
“If we hadn’t gone through that four-game stretch, I don’t know if we would’ve had the confidence to win a close game like (the Daphne game),” Perry said. “And we were right there (against McGill-Toolen). I don’t think we played–offensively–our best game. The wet conditions, you know not throwing the ball, kind of made us one-dimensional. But we were a play or two away from the quarterfinals.
“Even though it was hard that night, you look back. We were 2-4 in our season at one point. Nobody thought the playoffs was realistic at all. But our group of young men believed in our plan. They never doubted themselves and us. A great deal of credit goes to our coaching staff, they had great gameplans every week. So, we’re very blessed to have (players and coaches) like that.”
This year’s Indians and its coach shared an unwavering determination and belief in each other. Perry said that’ll be what he’ll take away from this group.
“You never can count a group of young men out that believe in each other, and believe in the gameplan,” he said, “that are confident in their abilities and their teammates’ abilities. You know, it’s true in all athletics and very true this season, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
“You don’t give up on a season. You don’t throw in the towel. The goal was still there, playoffs were still there and the guys believed in that. They were unselfish. The thing as a coach that so much enjoyment, was we had a group of guys that never gave up. Never gave up. Even though it appeared there was no chance, they didn’t believe that. You never quit, never give up, as long as there’s a game to play, there’s a chance.