In their first two seasons at Fair Park, Trevion Moore and Kendal Haley were part of teams that won two games total.
Morale was low, community support was lower and postgame celebrations, there were none.
“We got on the bus and came home,” Moore said.
That all changed last season with the arrival of coach Mike Greene and four more victories than in the previous season. As the wins piled up, the mood lightened and the fun returned.
“After homecoming against Northwood, we were out here real late, till about midnight,” Moore said. “We were having a fish fry and everything.”
If the Indians, who must replace 17 of 22 starters, are to repeat last season’s success, Moore and Haley seem to understand the onus falls on them, two returning senior starters.
They have put together the resumes to prove it. As a junior linebacker, Moore (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) led the Indians with 91 tackles while the 5-9, 210-pound Haley added 58 stops from along the defensive line.
It set off a friendly competition that works for Fair Park’s greater defensive good.
“I got him last year,” said Moore, who flashed a big grin toward his teammate. “I had 91 tackles last year. How many did you have?”
Haley laughed and confidently answered, “58.”
Moore and Haley learned how much fun winning is a year ago. With only three returning starters back on the Indians defense, the fun is over and it is time to get serious — something Haley already has done.
“Everything that didn’t seem to be on you at first, it’s on you now,” Haley said. “I just worry that (the younger guys) get scared and let the fear overtake them. I told them they don’t have anything to be scared of. They put their shoulder pads on the same way we do.”
Haley and Moore have simply passed along the lessons they learned from the likes of Justin Fortson, Ronnie Prelow and Joe Robinson, a trio that helped push the Indians to their first playoff berth since Morris Claiborne donned Fair Park’s black and gold in 2008.
Those seniors helped dig Fair Park out of a 1-4 hole and into the postseason, providing a blueprint for handling adversity and delivering a new challenge to Haley, Moore and the rest of the Class of 2013.
No longer is Fair Park just a game on the schedule. There is a target in its place.
“The only difference is the other teams know we’re coming,” Moore said.
Moore and Haley have spent the last couple of seasons forging an on-field bond that requires little or no verbal communication.
Moore says the communication is there “in spirit.” It has brought them close enough together that they often meet at the most important place for defenders — the ballcarrier.
“We’re always there together,” Moore said. “I may end up with more than him, but we’re always there together.”
And most of the time it is planned that way.
“I just watch where he’s going and I go the opposite way,” Haley said.
“And we end up together,” said Moore, finishing the sentence started by his fellow anchor on the Fair Park defense.
Connect with Jason Pugh on Twitter at @JasonSPugh.