What a difference a year makes

A winless start, blowout losses, multiple errors ... those are all things of the past for Nature Coast.

Published October 6, 2006

BROOKSVILLE - Last year, Nature Coast was 0-5 heading into its nondistrict matchup against Poinciana. It had been shut out twice, tallied more than 13 points once and been outscored 141-50.

Tonight, the Sharks get a chance to find out exactly how much has changed in the 364 days since they recorded their first win of the 2005 season.

"It's high school, so every year is different," said coach Jamie Joyner, whose team is off to its best start in the school's three-year history. "But we kind of look at it that way: a chance to compare ourselves to last year."

On paper, nothing compares.

At 4-1, Nature Coast has doubled its win total from a year ago. It has defeated county powerhouse Springstead and recorded its first two district wins in school history.

Joyner said those differences show up on film, too.

While watching the tape of last year's win over Poinciana - a turnover-filled game played in sloppy conditions - he could tell how much they had improved.

Now they'll get a chance to show it in live game action.

"We're all a year older and a year better," senior linebacker Cody Fritsch said. "We're performing as a whole."

That's a good thing for a guy like Fritsch, who has been with the program since its inception.

Last year, he had to deal with a student body that had grown accustomed to the Sharks' losing ways.

"Everyone would come up to you and say, 'I knew you guys were going to lose,' " Fritsch said.

This year, though, that has changed dramatically.

"Now, they say, 'I knew you guys were going to win,' " he said.

Joyner is cautious when discussing Poinciana, saying it is a much better team than its 0-6 record indicates.

Still, he acknowledges the Sharks are a different team than when they limped into last year's game.

"So much has changed for us," Joyner said. Just the maturity and the experience of our team, their attitude, their confidence, all those things are the main things. I think we're starting to see the effects of some good offseason work. I think the biggest thing right now would have to be confidence.

"Last year we had a lot of turnovers and kind of would give games away; this year we've got the confidence to overcome those things."

In the grand scheme of things, tonight's game doesn't mean much. The Sharks have big district games left against Hernando and Citrus, and a county game against Central.

But for a team that has come so far, very few games are taken for granted.

"It's a nondistrict, noncounty game, but it's Homecoming," Fritsch said. "Plus, for the record, to be 5-1, it would mean a lot to the program."


David Murphy can be reached at dmurphy@sptimes.com