KICKOFF 2010: Hornets hungrier than ever (FIXES: Pelham last made playoffs in 2002)

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

PELHAM -- A 30-game losing streak is hard to forget -- in any sport.

After all, who can forget the Cleveland Cavalier's NBA-record 24-game losing streak between the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons? Or this past season's New Jersey Nets, who started 0-18 before winning a game.

Still, neither of those were 30 games.

But in the world of high school football, 0-30 means three years without the taste of victory.

To third-year head coach Jim Morrell and the guys at Pelham High School, however, that string without a 'W' (Sept. 2, 2005-Sept. 12, 2008) is a thing of the past.

"(Breaking the losing streak) made the season more fun and gave us more to look (forward) to," said senior DB Kenny Randall, who was on the team that snapped the school's 30-game losing streak two years ago in a 14-6 win against Randolph-Clay. "(We just gotta) keep pushing each other and practice harder on defense and everything (this season). We have some key players back and all on defense, so we feel like we're prepared (to take on anybody)."

Pelham got one win in 2008, then responded the next year with four straight victories after starting the season 0-4. They finished their 2009 campaign 5-6 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

This year, though, the team has higher expectations.

"We're going to try to be better than average," Morrell said. "(A .500 winning percentage) is average, and our goal is to be (more than average). Common is average and we want to be uncommon. We've been talking about how success is not for the common man, and we want to be uncommon this year."

Morrell said the team has turned a corner when it comes to understanding what it means to be successful.

"We have a lot of guys who are improving ... but they are going to have to be ready to go (when the season starts)," Morrell said. "They're working hard. We're just having trouble getting the terminology. They're getting confused on the plays, and it's early too, so it puts a lot of pressure on us."

Part of that pressure is because the Hornets are starting the season earlier than most of the schools in the area, taking on neighboring Baconton Charter today in the first-ever varsity football game for Baconton.

"It'll be a big night for them, and hopefully a big night for a lot of the fans," Morrell said.

That won't stop Pelham from trying to grab a victory, though, as the team tries to improve from last year's performance any way it can.

"We're working hard every day," senior linebacker and tight end Henry Crimley said. "(We just have to) run our plays right, block and play defense. ... (Our goal is) to have the best record in our region."

Morrell echoed that sentiment, saying the team has improved each year since the losing streak, a sure sign of which was making the playoffs last year.

"We want to do better than that this year," Morrell said. "We want to make it deeper in the playoffs and want to have a home playoff game so we don't have to go on the road."

A lot of that success will depend on the team's quarterback, junior Caleb Morrell, the son of the coach, who said his boy has to step up and be a leader for the team's offense.

But Caleb said he can't do it alone.

"Our team motto is 'Iron sharpens iron, as one man sharpens another,' " Caleb said. "So we're trying to work together to get better (as a team)."

And while the team may be missing some key cogs -- leader Denzel Jackson was recently released by doctors after a shoulder injury he suffered during the summer, just one of the many injuries to the team -- coach Morell and Co. are confident.

"(Our goal) is to finish first or second in the region," Morrell said. "We'd be tickled to death to be in the playoffs (again), but our goal is to play hard and we're going to have a tough (time) early in the season."