Several programs know all too well losing is a part of the game too


Riverside Stebbins lost its 25th straight high school football game on Friday.

For every St. Ignatius, Steubenville, St. Henry and Colerain, there’s a team at the other end of the spectrum. This story is about one of those – and all the others. Losing is a culture too, and one that can be changed.

For every St. Ignatius, Steubenville, St. Henry and Colerain, there’s a team at the other end of the spectrum.

This story is about one of those – Dayton Stebbins.

The Indians now own Ohio’s second longest losing streak, which stands at 25 following Friday’s 27-6 loss to Urbana.

Columbus Centennial, which lost 44-6 to Mifflin, has dropped 26 straight.

“It’s a challenge,” first-year Stebbins coach Trace Smitherman said. “The good thing about it is we’ve got the kids out and they want to work hard. It’s a learning process and something they’ve really never done before. We’re putting our nose to the grind stone and getting after it.”

Stebbins hasn’t got a win since Week 10 of the 2006 season.

Since the start of the 2006 season, the Indians have had three head coaches and are 3-32 in the last 35 games. During the losing streak Stebbins has been outscored 1,061-228 or roughly 42-9 per game.

Smitherman and a revamped coaching staff, that includes former college coach Brian Woll as defensive coordinator (stays at Colorado State, Rhode Island and Central Connecticut State), are trying to change the culture.

It’s a common theme with programs caught at the bottom of the spin cycle.

“It’s back to the basics,” Smitherman said. “You have to take it one play at a time and it’s so hard. Young males would like to just go ahead and say ‘Lets go out and win.’ But it’s not that easy. You have to go out and win the first play. Then the second play, the third play before you really get it going.”

What makes Smitherman’s task even greater is the fact that Stebbins has never really got it going. Despite turning out some standout individuals, including former San Francisco 49er and current Canadian Football League player Jamal Robertson and former Michigan standout Brent White, the Indians have fielded just 13 teams that finished with winning records in 52 seasons. The 1973 squad that went 8-0-2 is the only undefeated team the school has produced. Conversely, seven times a Stebbins team has finished a season winless. This year could be No. 8.

Down just 7-0 at halftime against Urbana, Stebbins came out in the third quarter and drove for a touchdown. The Indians scored when senior quarterback Grayson Dekker ran in from five yards out. The extra-point missed.

Before the third quarter ended, Urbana responded with three TDs of its own.
Neither team scored in the fourth.

“For the young guys right now it’s hard to maintain that focus,” Smitherman said. “When these guys have gotten down in the past they’ve had no success. They haven’t been able to come back and when you haven’t done that before it’s a road you haven’t traveled. It’s tough for our guys right now when we get down to dig down inside and buckle up. But that’s what we’re working on.”

The good news for Stebbins is that programs have pulled of reclamation projects in the past. Smitherman himself was part of one at Beavercreek – just down the road from his current post.

With Smitherman on staff, the Beavers had their first winning season in 18 years in 2007. Creek, which went 5-5 last season, is 4-1 right now and beat Stebbins 60-0 in the opener.

“They’ve seen (evidence of) that (turnaround first hand),” Smitherman said of Creek’s reversal and his players. “We came out at Beavercreek and played very well the first quarter but then it got away from us a little bit. But you have to play steady every Friday night and you have to keep your guys up and keep them believing. These guys are coming along. Slowly, but surely, they are coming along.”

If Stebbins needs more examples of what awaits at the end of the rainbow, there have been several schools that have shed great weights from their shoulders this season.

In Week 2 Whitehall-Yearling snapped a 36-game losing skid that dated back to 2005 with a 13-8 win over Columbus Linden McKinley. Also in Week 2, New Paris National Trail snapped a 32-game losing streak of its own.

In Week 1, Akron Springfield ended a 34-game losing streak; Rittman snapped a 27-game losing streak; Chillicothe Unioto snapped a 22-game losing streak; Elida snapped a 20-game losing streak and Lyndhurst Brush snapped a 19-game losing streak.

Last week, Holgate snapped a 20-game losing streak.

It can be done – and will be at Stebbins. And everywhere else in Ohio where the climb seems awful steep right now.

“We’d definitely like to get a ‘W’ but no one is going to give it to us,” Smitherman said. “The goal for the rest of the year is to continue to play and grow.

“We’re excited about what we’ve got ahead of us.”

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