The Lions (3-0, 2-0 Region 4-AAA) are off to their best start in almost 25 years, but coach Grant Chesnut knows the work is far from over.
"Winning fixes everything. When you're having success it's just easier. That's not just in practice, that's in all facets of the program. It's just the way it is. Moreover, consistent winning, that's our hurdle and we know that. We have to find a way to have consistent success and that's what we're working towards," Chesnut said.
Now Central will host Ringgold (1-1) for a chance to start a season 4-0 for the first time since the 1987 undefeated state championship team — which will be no easy task. Chesnut noted he feels the Tigers could have been a playoff team in last year's stacked Region 6-AAA, meaning the Lions won't be taking their opponent lightly.
"They're a very good football team. They're huge. They have the right skill people at the right spots, a very good quarterback, a very good running back and they've got some good wides. In the secondary on defense they're solid and they've got linebackers, one in particular, that can really run and then they're big up front. We have our hands full," Chesnut said.
So the focus of the Lions hasn't been their three wins so far this season, it has been each day in practice working harder to get better. The Central staff is preaching one day at a time and hoping the players don't get too far ahead of themselves.
"There is a lot of excitement and I'm proud that our kids have found a way to be successful in three ball games. But I really mean this, now I worry about [today]. Our record is 0-0 and it's just one game seasons. I know it's cliche and people get tired of coaches saying it, but that has to be us, that's just where we're at," Chesnut said.
Even in the Lions 34-28 win against Bremen last weekend the thing Chesnut took away from the game wasn't that they won. There has been a progression for the Lions this season and that is what the second-year coach is most pleased with.
"The thing that I was most pleased with Friday was I felt like we improved on some things that had been hurting us, whether it be turnovers or penalties and things like that. That gave us an opportunity to play better and assess what we are as a football team. I was most pleased by that, to tell you the truth. Of course I was grateful and thankful for the win and proud of the kids. I was more pleased with the improvement in those areas," Chesnut said.
Most of the growth has been with some younger players who have earned their way into the starting lineup. Not only is Chesnut starting a freshman on the defensive line and a sophomore quarterback, but there are underclassmen all over the field for Central and they are playing up to expectations. As long as they continue to improve the Lions will continue to win.
"They have, they've gotten better. We have improved as a football team from Game 1 until now. That's the fun of coaching. Not only do you see it in games, but you see it in practice and how they approach practice and then how they approach game day and now they're performing better. I don't think we've reached our ceiling, we still have quite a bit of improving that we're capable of doing," Chesnut said.
That next chance comes Friday night at Roy Richards Memorial Stadium.
"It will be another great opportunity for our team to improve. We're going to have to play our best to win this one," Chesnut said.