Sitting at 0-4, the Tyler Consolidated football team could have easily thrown in the towel.
However, starting with homecoming night in Kidwell on Sept. 27 the Silver Knights have righted the ship and crept back to the .500 mark following four straight wins. Last week's 20-14 thriller against Ritchie County represented the spirit Tyler Consolidated has created as it approaches its final two games on the road.
With the game tied at 14, Tyler Consolidated had the ball sitting at the Ritchie County 40-yard line and only 35 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. With no timeouts to spare, quarterback Jordan Baker took the snap from center and connected with Swen Scheidemantel, who raced the distance for the game-winning touchdown.
"The assistant coaches had a plan in place, and it worked out that this one did work," Tyler Consolidated coach Ryan Walton said. "I've been on the other side where you try everything you have and it doesn't work.
"It was exciting. The kids have worked really hard. They are realizing that hard work will pay off. It doesn't guarantee, but it puts you in position."
Experience has played a crucial role in Tyler Consolidated's turnaround. Coach Walton figures seven to eight underclassmen start on offense and another four to five on defense.
Case in point: Baker, who became the starting quarterback in Week 3 of the regular season after opening the year at flanker. On homecoming night against Calhoun County, the sophomore rushed for 101 yards on eight carries. Against South Harrison, he completed 7-of-10 passes for 115 yards and gained 97 yards on four carries.
"We were just exploring our options and it worked out that Jordan became our quarterback," Walton said. "He is a threat to run - he is like a running back taking snaps."
One of steadying forces in the Silver Knights attack has been running back Jacob Highley. who rushed for 164 yards against Ritchie County. Another breakout performance occurred against Buffalo, when he rushed for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
"He gives you everything he's got," Walton said. "He is just a hard-nosed kid."
Valley (Wetzel) and Bishop Donahue remain on the docket. Ranked No. 19, Tyler Consolidated is considered on the bubble for the postseason, but that's an issue Walton leaves to his coaching staff.
"Right now, we're just concentrating about getting over the .500 mark," he said.
The matter at hand is thinking of ways to stop Valley's ground game.
"There is a buzz in the locker room, but we're telling our kids to stay the course and not be satisfied," Walton said. "You can see the looks on their faces. They've had fun before, but now it's more fun to win.
"That homecoming win - the coaching staff told the kids that was the spark we were looking for. Now we need to try and build upon this and keep the fire going."
Contact Kerry Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org