MARION — Harding’s halftime locker room session had an unusual feel to it last Friday, one it hadn’t had since the fall of 2013.
“We had a whole different halftime,” HHS coach John Brady said Tuesday as his team prepped for this week’s assignment at North Union.
At the intermission a week ago, a Harding team which had lost 16 straight games was leading Fairbanks 48-0.
“We had to calm the kids down,” Brady said. “That was really different for us. There was no panic, no screaming and yelling. The kids’ confidence had always been there at halftime. It just shows you if you execute like we did, things work out for you.”
Harding senior running back/defensive lineman Thomas Moore agreed things were dissimilar at the break last week.
“We were not used to being up that much,” Moore said. “But I and the other seniors knew not to get cocky. We wanted to make sure we were focused for the second half, and we were still discussing what needed fixed.”
The Presidents wound up with a 55-13 triumph as the offense under coach C.J. Westler, along with coach Jerrod Slater’s defense, put together strong showings.
Not only did the win erase memories of the losing streak, it also gave Harding new life. After an 0-3 start in its non-league schedule, Harding stands as a co-leader in the Mid Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division after Week 1 of conference clashes.
“We needed to start the MOAC like that,” said Harding junior wide receiver/defensive back T.J. Jefferson, who caught three touchdown passes and ran for another score against Fairbanks. “We wanted to start a streak in the MOAC. We have worked hard, and it’s starting to pay off.”
Brady has seen that work ever since drills began in the preseason.
“These kids and this coaching staff, they deserved that,” Brady said of Friday’s victory. “They have worked their tails off.
“Through it all, the kids never said, ‘We have no chance.’ The main thing is, we have been preaching all this time about winning the MOAC, and you may have to do it with one loss or maybe run the whole thing to do so. There’s only one way to run the whole thing and that’s to get that first one, but it doesn’t get any easier.”
Brady has a lot of respect for a North Union team is 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the MOAC.
“They are well coached in all three phases of the game, and we have seen on film they are physical, especially up front,” Brady said.
The Wildcats have lost two straight games, falling two weeks ago at Grandview Heights and 16-0 last Friday to River Valley.
The Wildcats’ offense was stymied by five turnovers against the Vikings, including four lost fumbles. They were also guilty of 11 penalties.
North Union went into the RV game averaging 237 rushing yards a contest but came up with only 136. It’s total-yardage figure of 203 was 150 yards under its seasonal average.
Regardless of recent stats, the Wildcats are now the ones who have Harding’s attention.
“We don’t look back. We look forward,” Brady said. “We will go out to do our best, and if we do well, we have a chance at every game.”
Moore and his President teammates, who are off to a good start in their goal to win the MOAC, believe as much.
“North Union is one of the top teams each year in the MOAC,” Moore said. “But if we play our top game, we can beat anybody in the conference.”
Marion Harding at North Union, 7 p.m.; Elgin at Highland, 7 p.m.; Pleasant at River Valley, 7 p.m.; Ridgedale at Buckeye Central, 7 p.m.; Cardington-Lincoln at Centerburg, 7 p.m.; Buckeye Valley at Fairbanks, 7 p.m.; East Knox at Northmor, 7 p.m.; Fredericktown at Mount Gilead, 7 p.m.; Galion at Jonathan Alder, 7 p.m.