When Craig Stinson met with his team after its game Friday night, the Highland Regional High School football coach got the opportunity to do something he hadn’t done since 2009.
He got the chance to talk to his team about a winning streak.
After winning just one game the previous two years, the Tartans are suddenly a team on the rise after defeating Schalick, 19-10, Friday night for the team’s second straight win.
No longer can Highland (2-1) be viewed as an easy win on an opponent's schedule, as Hinson has his student-athletes playing inspired football.
Suddenly, there is plenty of reason to believe at Highland.
“It gives (the players) confidence that it can be done,” Stinson said. “It shows them that the grind, the work can all lead to good things. It shows them they can win.”
Highland earned its first victory last week in a dominating performance against Woodrow Wilson. The Tartans racked up more than 300 yards rushing in a 35-6 win. The momentum from that victory carried over as the Highland players had extra motivation on the practice field.
“It was a good week of practice,” Stinson said. "The kids bought into it and they paid attention to the gameplan. They did what they needed to do in preparation for the game.”
That attention to detail has resulted in everyone being on the same page. According to Hinson, that hasn’t always been the case.
“Again, it goes back to the preparation, where the kids are understanding their assignments,” Stinson said. “For once we had 11 players clicking at one time, instead of nine or 10. If you have one guy break down, it can just blow the whole play up. All 11 are starting to click at the same time.”
The road ahead will still be challenging. The Tartans host a loaded Pennsville team Friday, followed by a showdown with Gloucester Catholic. Games against Delsea and Penns Grove also remain, so expectations should be tempered going forward.
But, for the first time in several years, the Tartans know what it’s like to savor a couple of victories.
Stinson said games like the Tartans have produced the past two weeks were needed “immensely” not just for the players, but also the fans that have stuck with the program.
“The school and the community and the players have been given confidence,” he said, “and it was needed all the way around.”
So, for the first time since that 2009 season, Stinson got to spend consecutive postgames speaking about how to handle a victory, instead of how to respond from a defeat.
“I told them you have to celebrate your victory,” Stinson said. “You have a 24-hour period where you can celebrate the victory, but it’s a short turnaround for the next game. You can not rest on the last game. You have to stay humble and get back to the grind.”
It is a message he would love to have to repeat over and over again.
TIMBER CREEK 40, CHERRY HILL WEST 6: The Chargers jumped all over West with 27 first-quarter points, improving to 2-1. Zaire Williams led the way with 79 yards rushing and two touchdowns on just four carries. Khalil Pierce, Jagger Green and Bryce Shade also reached the end zone on the ground, while Miles Nash threw for a touchdown.
SHAWNEE 44, TRITON 6: The Mustangs fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and never recovered, suffering their first defeat of the season. Josh Woods provided the only offense, scoring on a 5-yard run in the second quarter.