Losing seasons aren’t something a Roger Holmes-coached team endures often. But when they do, they bounce back. Since Holmes arrived at Dublin in 2002, only twice have the Fighting Irish finished a season below .500. Following Holmes’ first season with the Fighting Irish in which they reached the state finals, they went 3-7. But the following season in 2003, they went 10-4, advanced to the state semifinals and began an eight-year win streak that included a state title in 2006 and five region titles.
Then, last season, Dublin hit a snag with a 2-8 season.
“It was miserable,” Holmes said of the 2012 season. “Discipline was an issue on a weekly basis. There were several young men that didn’t make it through the season for various reasons.”
Holmes said a handful of those players were dismissed from the team. The Fighting Irish’s would-be starting quarterback moved shortly before the season. Injuries to key players happened early in the season. They were facing the loss of 20 seniors from the year before when the Fighting Irish finished 11-2 and reached the quarterfinals. For Dublin, it was simply too much to overcome.
But heading into Friday’s home game against the Laney Wildcats, the Fighting Irish finds themselves 4-0 in Region 3-AA along with the Wildcats. The game will serve as the region championship. Both teams are 6-2 overall.
“Our kids are playing with confidence,” Holmes said. “We believe we’ve gotten better at something each week, and we’re getting better in all three phases of the game. That’s been the goal since I got here, along with making the playoffs. We’re not so much concerned about the region title as much as the playoffs. We just want to be playing our best football of the season and that’s what we’re trying to work for. The Laney game is for the region championship, but the reality is we have to play through this week and next week playing our best for the playoffs.”
The 2013 season didn’t start out so well for the Fighting Irish. Injuries to defensive back and kick returner Marcus Brown and running back Brandon Coney forced them to sit out the first two games – both losses.
However, both Coney (six rushing touchdowns) and Brown (two kickoff return touchdowns, two interceptions – one returned for a touchdown) returned to contribute. With the help of playmakers like quarterback Robert Strickland (26-for-63, 577 yards, nine touchdowns) and running backs Larry McGirt (93 carries, 623 yards, four touchdowns) and Shaquan Mitchell (47-468-6), the Fighting Irish are on a six-game win streak.
Some of the players dismissed from the team last year are back and contributing in 2013. At this point, 2-8 is a distant memory easy to forget.
“I’m very proud of this team,” Holmes said. “Very much so. It’s a pleasure to work here every day. The senior leadership has been exemplary.”
For Dublin’s upcoming matchup against Laney, Holmes believes the challenge will be matching up with the Wildcats’ line on both sides.
“They have four young men that should be playing in the SEC,” Holmes said. “They’re some pretty rascals. It will be all we can do. But we feel good about them coming to the Shamrock Bowl.”
Adam Krohn covers all things Class AA football. Have a question or tip? Want to see more coverage of your team? Want to drop a line to compliment how awesome the Class AA beat coverage is? Send Adam a message on Twitter @AdamKrohnAJC and follow him for the latest in Class AA coverage.