TUCARAWAS TWP. – See Russell Twining as a strong supporter of organizing as a key to success.
“There’s a different level of organization now,” the senior lineman and linebacker for Tuslaw said after the team’s opening practice on Monday. “I feel like last year we weren’t ready. We weren’t organized.â¦ It was just unpleasant.”
That’s a way to sum up what Mustangs have been through in the 2020 season. For every team, even the top performers, the past year has been a challenge due to all the restrictions put in place.
For Tuslaw, however, it was more than just a challenge. It was a painful excursion through a 1-7 season that was riddled with tough breaks both on the scoreboard and in the injury department.
The Mustangs, however, tried not to waste time putting that memory behind them. In fact, this season was barely over when returning players turned their attention to the front.
âAs soon as weightlifting started in December we were ready,â said senior Anthony Logan. “As soon as weightlifting started.”
Players, on the whole, didn’t necessarily need to be pushed through last season. By the time the season ended with Tuslaw’s only victory over Tusky Valley, the team was already at the point of wanting to forget.
Mustangs coach Matt Gulling thinks it’s a bit of a two-way street when it comes to managing last year. There is a sense of the need to remember the past so as not to let it happen again, but without dwelling on what happened.
âIt’s something we talk about a bit,â Gulling said. âAt the same time, it’s over and we’ve moved on. A lot of the things we’ve learned come from the lessons learned from the last year, in terms of leadership, accountability and things like that.â
These lessons were felt the most by the senior class. Of the nearly 40 players in Tuslaw’s roster, a significant percentage belong to the top two classes, meaning that is a significant percentage of the roster that learned from last season.
These lessons, according to this year’s seniors, included the responsibility they themselves have to take on every day. These responsibilities extend well beyond the roughly three hours that Mustangs are on the training ground during the preseason.
âWe have a lot more seniors this year,â said Logan. “Captains or not captains, we are all convinced. We all jostle in the weight room. Most of our team is made up of seniors, so we are ready.”
Whether senior or non-senior, the quest to advance to the next season has reached the home stretch with Monday’s opening practice. There were less than three weeks until Tuslaw’s opener against Smithville on August 20.
The Mustangs will actually face another opponent for the first time on Saturday when they travel to Waynedale for their first scrum. It only made things faster for everyone involved, which the seniors are more than happy to see.
âIt feels good,â Twining said. “It’s like having an assignment due at midnight. You have to start working on that assignment. That’s what we’re doing now.”
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