Manual’s football team may be 2-4, but fans, players and coaches see something other than the season outcome – progress.
With a 20-game losing streak put to bed in Week 3, Manual football is looking to do more than just survive for another season. The Redskins won consecutive home games in September against Washington 50-0 and Anderson Preparatory Academy 14-6.
“It’s funny. When we won those two games back-to-back we started having kids come into my office saying, ‘Coach, I want to play football,’ ” coach Robert Orkman said.
Getting students to try out for the team has been a challenge. Last year’s squad ended the season with just 18 players. First-team offense was also first-team defense and special teams. The 2014 campaign ended at 0-9 as the Redskins were outscored 478-16. Some games were played with running clocks to minimize the carnage.
“Everyone wants to be a part of a winning program. When you lose wherever you go, no one wants to be a part of that,” Orkman said.
This year’s roster has more than 35 players, giving the Redskins some depth. Orkman said he allowed the players to have a say on whether to accept students who wanted to join after the wins.
“These are the same guys who would not come out during the summer,” Orkman said on students wanting to join the team this month. “They didn’t want to come out and run and condition.”
The win over Washington was the first since October of 2012. Washington, Manual and Marshall high schools had their football teams shutdown for a couple of years by Indianapolis Public Schools in November of 2009.
“Our guys felt that was an opportunity to win so they went into the game with a lot of confidence,“ Orkman said. “They were just building off of every play.”
Orkman came from Marshall, where he was head coach. He is the fourth coach for the ’Skins in four years.
“When you have four coaches in four years you have four different philosophies in four years. For them it’s a challenge to believe what we’re saying because they don’t believe we’re going to be here tomorrow.”
Rebuilding Manual’s program is similar to what he did at Marshall, where as the offensive coordinator in 2013 he led the Patriots to their first win in a sectional game in 30 years.
Orkman has made it known to his players that staying at Manual is a priority.
“They bought into our system; they bought into our philosophy; and they believe that we are going to be here – not just this year – but for the next several years we are going to be here,” he said.
While optimism and home attendance are increasing, the Redskins are still experiencing growing pains, losing 60-6 to Howe last week and 31-0 to Providence before that. Orkman sees improvement from the defense and says the offense is slowly catching up. The Redskins play a freshman at quarterback in DeAngelo Dean, something that is almost unheard of in high school football.
“We have a freshman quarterback (Dean) – a week before our first game – who said, ‘Coach, I want to play quarterback,’ ” Orkman said. “We were like, ‘What?’ He was going to be a starting outside linebacker.”
The Redskins have just three seniors in Devashia Garrett, Jalen Alexander, Taj Moore. Manual is one of the smallest 3A schools in the state, but it’s a challenge Orkman is ready to accept.
“The best thing about Indiana high school football is no matter what your record is, you get to go to the sectionals,” he said. “Anytime there is any type of playoff there is always one Cinderella team. We hope to be that Cinderella team this year.”