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It’s not where you start. It’s where you finish that matters. So it should come as no surprise that Grant County Middle School football coach Jamie Dalzell is more concerned with how his team plays down the stretch than he is with how the Braves have fared thus far.
The Braves have won just one game through three weeks of play after a pair of losses at Harrison County in the Rumble on the Hilltop football showcase held this past weekend in Cynthiana.
But Dalzell, who has spent the better part of two decades leading the middle school program, has no doubt that his team is better than it’s early-season performance may indicate.
“The first two games we struggled mightily, but I believe we are on the right track,” Dalzell said.
Injuries, turnovers and mental mistakes have cost the Braves in their losses, and that was never more evident than it was against the host Colts.
“If we don’t make the mistakes we made against Harrison County, we win both games,” said Dalzell, whose team turned the ball over and had costly penalties that erased at least one touchdown from the scoreboard.
Injuries have also not been kind to the Braves, with at least two starters currently sidelined with broken bones. Both of those played start both ways for the seventh grade team. Injuries have also taken their toll on the eighth grade squad, though not nearly as bad as the younger group.
“That’s two starters for us on both offense and defense and we miss them a lot,” Dalzell said. “On the eighth grade team, we’re just banged up with a couple kids but we should be OK there.”
Another factor holding the team back in the early part of the season is a lower-than-usual number of players on the roster.
“We’ve got a good group of players, but it’s a small group as far as numbers go,” said the veteran coach. “Because of that, we’ve struggled a little early. But we’re making good progress.”
And progress is all that matters for the Braves, who begin conference play in two weeks against Royal Springs Middle School from Scott County. But before Grant County faces a tough conference schedule, the Braves will have one final tune up against Bourbon County Middle School, a team that Grant County has not played during Dalzell’s tenure with the Braves.
But he knows plenty about Bourbon County and what to expect when his team takes on the Colonels.
“I know they like to throw the ball a lot, so it will be a contrast of opposite styles,” he said. “They will try to throw the cover off the ball. And we’ll be trying to run the air out of it.”
In Saturday’s match ups with Harrison County, the Braves lost the seventh grade game 18-12 and the eighth grade contest 32-12.
Caelan Nix provided most of the offensive fire power for the Braves with two touchdown runs in the eighth grade game and one in the seventh grade contest. Damion Ingulls scored Grant County’s other touchdown in the seventh grade game.