Building for the Future and Overcoming Adversity.
By Paul Jenne • Head Football Coach
Published: Spring 2001
It had been over 10 years since Xenia High School had a football season above .500, and 15 years since they had laid claim to a league championship when we took over the program in 1998. We were given only one month to prepare before the beginning of the season. During that month, attendance at summer workouts was terrible and many athletes reported to practice weak and out of shape.
The team fought hard that year and played with a lot of heart but just didn't have the strength to win in the fourth quarter. We often told the players after a close loss that having only 2 or 3 players squatting over 300 pounds was the reason we were missing tackles and not opening holes in the late minutes. The season ended with a 3-7 record, but the kids took the preaching to heart and dedicated themselves to the weight-training program.
We started the 1999 season with over twenty-five kids squatting more than 300 pounds, four more broke the 400 pound mark, and one was even squatting 500. We finished the '99 season at 8-2. What a turnaround! We finished the season third in the league, losing only to opponents that qualified for the state playoffs, one of which eventually became the state runner-up. The kids were really excited. They were fun to watch because they became very close as a team. It all started in the weight room.
At the end of the '99 season our Superintendent and our Athletic Director informed us that ground would break in the spring for a new 3,600 square-foot weight-training facility. It had taken less than a year to raise the $300,000 needed to build the facility. Amazingly, all the funds were privately donated - not a single tax dollar was used. It seemed like everything was going our way and that nothing was going to stop us now.
As we entered the 2000 season, we were picked as one of the preseason favorites. The trouble with that was our team read the papers and believed everything they read. It was our job as a staff to bring them back to reality. We did this by having daily "lessons", focusing on one topic a day. One day's topic was overcoming adversity. Little did we know the way that lesson would be brought to life for our team, and our community.
During the 5th week of our season, an F-4 tornado ripped through Xenia. (This was the second major tornado to hit Xenia in 30 years.) The tornado hit the evening of September 20th. School was cancelled for 3 days. Our first concern as a coaching staff was finding out if all the boys on the team were ok. We went to the practice field and found that 2 boys had lost their homes. The team wanted to practice because we were informed that the home game on Friday was still on and that everyone in town would have free admittance. The Mayor wanted to use the game to return some normalcy to the town and reunite the community at the stadium.
The crowd turnout and the newspaper and television station coverage was amazing. Before the game, we reminded our players about overcoming adversity and to remember that their eyes were put where they were so they could always look forward and not waste time looking back. We ended up winning the game by a score of 51-18. One of the game's special memories happened in the final minutes of the game when one of the boys who had lost his home scored his first high school touchdown. After the game our touchdown club presented each boy with $500 to help through the tragedy.
Our team finished the season 6-4 this year, and 4-2 in the Western Ohio League, which was good enough for a three-way tie for the League Championship. There were many lessons taught and learned during this season. The Xenia Bucs have learned how to overcome adversity on the field as a team, and the town has proven again that it can overcome the adversity of a tornado and rebuild even stronger. Our team is using the town's example. Along with the BFS Program and the use of our new facility, we are breaking records daily, weekly and monthly and building our team to be stronger than ever before!