Going into the first season leading his own program, Forsyth High School football coach Andy McFarland had a concern nagging at him.

It had to do with his team’s mental state, and how players coming off a winless season would respond to big plays – both positive and negative.

Would they get too jacked-up after a positive play and see their emotions get the better of them? 

Would a negative play send them into a downward spiral?

McFarland’s worries were justified right off the bat in Friday night’s 49-8 loss at Skyline. The Panthers struck on their first offensive play of the season, with Corgan Strong scoring on a 67-yard run. The two-point conversion made it an 8-0 lead. 

The ensuing kickoff saw Skyline return it for a touchdown, tying the game at 8 and starting a run of 49 unanswered points for the Tigers.

“We need to work on trying to find a balance of emotion as well as intellectual focus, because football takes both,” McFarland said. “That will be the most important thing for our players, to do the little things right. I think that’s maybe a new concept for them. 

“There’s a process and a purpose for everything, and football is truly a team sport in that regard. It’s not just about where the football is going to go. All of it has to work together.”

McFarland said he saw some positives from the game, like how hard his team played and how some of the details were handled – particularly the way the players were able to line up properly. 

But the room for improvement was significant.

“The little things are a problem still,” McFarland said. “It comes down to the consistency and taking care of those little things will be the hardest things to fix.

“Things like putting your hat on the wrong side, stepping with the wrong foot, not taking care of our gap responsibility on offense and defense the way we should be. Those details are going to be the most important thing we’re working on this week.”

Next up for Forsyth is its home opener against Jasper on Friday night. The Eagles opened with a 38-6 victory over Greenfield, showing a different look than they did at the jamboree two weeks ago.

Jasper displayed a spread offense at the jamboree, which Forsyth was a part of. Against Greenfield, the Eagles came out in a double-tight, double-wing offense.

“Whenever a team is running an offense like that, where there isn’t a whole bunch of formations and stuff going on, they will try to catch you losing consistency and gap responsibility,” McFarland said. “Consistency on offense this week is going to be about doing the little things right, taking the right first step and making the right step on defense, and not falling for misdirection. 

“We will work on being more consistent.”

The preparation each week will include educating the players and building their mental game.

“Each week, we’ll have a word of the week, like character training throughout the season,” McFarland said. “The focus of this week is going to be on consistency. We have to be consistent in our emotions. 

“We can’t let our emotions get the best of us, and also have to be consistent in doing our jobs.”

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