Winless Wellston gaining players instead of losing them
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS — Fred Peery wants to develop a winning culture at Wellston. His team hasn't won yet, but they've made an impression on their fellow students. Two weeks ago, eight more students showed up for practice to help out the team.
WELLSTON — Normally, players leave winless football teams in the middle of a season, not join them.
Wellston High School has lost 20 straight football games — the fourth-longest losing streak in the state — and 34 of its last 35.
WELLSTON (0-6) AT MEEKER (2-4)
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Scouting report: Wellston hasn't won a football game since Oct. 8, 2010, when the Tigers defeated Hinton, 32-20. In the last two seasons, Wellston has been shut out eight times and not scored more than 14 points in a game. Meeker is coming off a 58-21 loss to Stroud and is 1-2 in District 2A-5 with its lone victory coming against Haskell.
Two weeks ago, eight more students showed up for a Monday morning practice to start playing on a 0-5 football team that only had 16 players.
Some of the newcomers had played football in junior high. Some had played last year but quit. Some had never played football before. All of them just wanted to help.
“These guys, they give it their all every time,” said Micheal Bailey, one of the midseason walk-ons.
“We wanted to show them that we believe in them. We just wanted to help them out and try to get them a win. They deserve it.”
Changing the culture
Second-year Wellston coach Fred Peery found widespread apathy around the football program when he took over at his alma mater.
Peery knew the program was down when he accepted the job. He didn't realize how far of a climb would be required.
Spring football and summer workouts were not stressed. The junior high players didn't even know Wellston had a weight room.
After Wellston's first game last season, only four players showed up for the mandatory Saturday morning film session the next day.
Suffering through a winless season last year, it was the norm that less than half the team would show up for practice.
“That was pretty disappointing for me,” Peery said.
Losing has been tough for Peery, who is used to winning. He played for a Wellston football team in 1994 that advanced to the second round of the playoffs and lost to the eventual state champion, Velma-Alma.
He was an assistant coach at winning programs in Seminole and Chandler, including being on the staff of a state runner-up at Chandler.
“It is a culture change you have to make more than anything,” Peery said.
Restoring the pride
Losing also has been tough on the players.
“There are a lot of people that talk down about the football team,” said Anthony Poplin, a senior lineman. “That's the reason we don't have a lot of numbers. Nobody wants to play for a losing team. That's just how it's been quite a while now.”
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