Open letter from Coach Craig Bentley

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Dear Mansfield Tiger Fans,

On July 11 ,2016 we embarked on a journey to turn around the Mansfield Tiger football program. We had seventeen kids show up for summer workouts on that day. There was no spring football and no workouts in the month of June. To say we were behind, was an understatement.

Six weeks later, we began our football season, where six months of work had to be squeezed into six weeks. Establishing both a new offense, and defense, we also had to create a new culture of our intentions, and what we could do personally, and publically.

We were behind in strength and it showed. We had grown our numbers from seventeen to 28. We played with 26-28 throughout most of the year. Despite all the challenges these kids faced, it was week 8 we were still in the playoff hunt. Unfortunately we did not win that game and our hopes for the playoffs were eliminated. We finished the season 2-8. It was tough, it wore us out, but they never gave up. The week leading up to our last game , a community member talked to our seniors and told them how proud he was of the whole team. That many in the community didn’t expect them to win a single game. The 2016 team may not have made the playoffs and they may not have won very many games, but they saved the football program. The ship wasn’t sinking, it had sunk. However, they brought it back up, patched it and made it float. That is a true testament to them and our coaches.

We hit the ground running, by starting our off season within a week after our last game. We knew we had to get stronger, that was obvious throughout the year. We implemented in season lifting for basketball and baseball and it has paid off. We started out with 3 who could bench press 200+, now we have 11. We started out with 3 who could power clean 200+, now we have 14. We started out with 6 who could squat 300+,  now we have 16.  We have had a fantastic off season and have gotten so much stronger. That is a testament to those boys and the football, basketball and track coaches that have worked hard to help them improve in the weight room.

In addition to the weight training, we held speed camp twice a week after school to teach the boys how to run the proper way. Upper and lower body mechanics were the focus. We had fantastic attendance and it was and huge success.

Not only were we working hard to improve our strength and speed but we also knew we had to improve our fundamentals as football players. We had to become better tacklers, better blockers, needed to catch the ball better. We had to learn our schemes and how to play our roles within that scheme both on offense and defense. We started morning practices during the month of March that continued through the end of the season. By the time spring football was here we didn’t have to install anything, just fine tune it and continue working on fundamentals.

Culture is a hard thing to change. The number one goal in our program is to develop young men who are respectful and hardworking, who simply put,are working towards being the best humans they can be. Every player chose a core value that they wanted to represent our team. They then voted on a top 5. Respect, Loyalty, Determination, Dedication and Brotherhood. These define our program. We talk about them daily, we repeat them in order. They are not just words on a wall, they are what defines our program.

Following a successful two weeks of spring football we have had a busy June filled with team camps, 7 on 7 tournaments and team workouts. July will be much of the same until we start fall camp on July 31.

The 2017 Tigers have come a long way in a year. We have doubled our numbers from that first day on July 11 2016. We are stronger, faster, and better football players. They understand the game better from scheme to terminology. We will be young and inexperienced in many positions, but the future is bright. We will no doubt have some bumps in the road as we continue to build our program, but with the continued efforts of our athletes and coaches as well as the tremendous support we receive from our parents, administration, school board and the community we will build a program that develops great young men and puts a competitive team on the field each and every Friday night. The best is yet to come. Go Red Tigers! #RLDDB

-Coach Bentley

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