Four weeks down, one to go on News 25’s “25 Teams in 25 Days” where it’s Long Beach at stop number 20.
For the Bearcats, last year’s desired outcome didn’t match up with the end result and now they’re doubling down heading into 2019.
Feast or famine, they’re approaching this season like they haven’t seen a meal in the last eight months.
Defensive end Jase Neale said, “I think we just kind of get it. We kind of realize what Coach Pigott really wants us to do and the team that he wants us to be.”
Last year, the Bearcats flashed glimpses of what that team could be, but for the most part it was just that. Long Beach finished with an overall record of 3-8 and a district mark of 1-6. H-back/outside linebacker Jonnathon Ulrich said, “Last year, we lost and it just left a taste in our mouth that we don’t want to be there again. So after that loss, we just looked at ourselves and figured out do we really want it enough? How bad do we want it? And when we did that, the whole team just got on the page and we’ve been working as a unit ever since.”
The players point to a demoralizing week one loss against Pass Christian and a blowout defeat to Stone in the regular season finale as the two most painful moments of the 2018 season.
But that’s all past tense as the Bearcats enter year two of the Philip Pigott era. Head Coach Philip Pigott said, “I don’t see 3-8 on paper, I see 1-0. We’re onto this season. Last year doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. Can’t change it, doesn’t matter, we’re onto this season. There’s lessons we learned from last year. We walked off the field last year and we said we’ve got to get bigger, faster and stronger. And for us, it’s level the playing field. Belong on the field. And then we’re going to get out there and we’re going to handle our business.”
At Long Beach, the first order of business is making up for lost time. The Bearcats haven’t been to the playoffs since 2011 with just one winning season to their name during that stretch. Wide receiver/free safety Dalton Cook said, “It really needs to change. It’s not a good feeling to be on the losing side of the field. And I feel like this year, we need to come out and come out with a bang and start winning.”
“No one wants to be like the laughing stock of the Coast or anything. So when you walk around school and everyone is telling you, oh you guys are going to lose this week, it just gives you a little bit more chip on your shoulder.”
Long Beach started to fight that losing culture in the off-season with a new leadership program called ‘Building Bearcats’ led by the team’s 21 seniors.
The coaching staff also studied some of the winningest programs across the state, revealing the need for a unifying motto. Thus ‘on the hunt,’ ‘standing for hungry,’ ‘unselfish,’ and whatever else is for the Bearcats to know and other teams to find out. “One thing we picked up was we need a rally cry. We need a thing that we’re going to build this culture around.”
“Like, if you put something on our plate. We’re going to go grab that. We’re going to go eat that. So if you think of a lion or anything, they’re on the hunt. They’re ready to go get their meal. It’s either you get the meal, or someone else does. And we want to get the meal.”
Long Beach didn’t play a jamboree game this year, instead prepping for next Friday’s Oyster Bowl at Pass Christian.