By Jonathan E. Coleman
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Last year, Hickory Ridge High School’s football team rallied around the mantra, “The Tradition Begins.”

This year, that team will build on the winning tradition that began with the Ragin’ Bulls’ first victory in school history in its final game last season.

“The kids have a better attitude because they went out winning,” said head coach Marty Paxton. “They had that taste of winning, and they liked it.”

Coaches and players alike predict even more success this year in large part because of the bond the team shares.

Last year, Hickory Ridge had no senior class and only about 60 kids came out for the team. This year, nearly 100 showed up for the first day of practice, many of them returning from last season. As such, most of the players this season know the system, and each other.

“There’s more of a bond this year,” said Brett Lilly, a senior and quarterback on the team. “We eat breakfast together, give each other rides. We’re a family. It brings more dedication and more effort.”

That effort showed last week, as the team took the field Friday for the first official day of practice. Players broke into groups based on their positions and began drills to improve their agility and skills. Others began learning plays.

“Right now we’re teaching the fundamentals and the skills of our schemes,” Paxton said. “But we’re also teaching them about how practice is going to go.”

They are lessons the team will have to learn quickly. After two scrimmages next week, the Ragin’ Bulls’ first regular season test comes at home against Mount Pleasant High School on Aug. 22. Kick off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

While the Bulls face another tough schedule this season, players and coaches alike predict success.

“We definitely don’t want to have the season we had last year,” said senior Micah Sears. “My expectations are very high. We got a lot of experience under our belts last year.”

But Paxton said, even with the least bit of improvement over last year, the team, which finished its inaugural season 1-10, could see much better results in terms of their record.

“We only had three games where we were completely blown out,” he said. “The other games, we were in it at halftime. We just didn’t finish during the second half.”

Learning to finish strong, Paxton said, will be a major focal point of the season, and if his team performs to its ability for four quarters, the Ragin’ Bulls will find success this season.

• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at 704-789-9105.

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