Features | Friday Night Drive

Dixon finding formula to bounce back from loss

Dixon’s Rylan Ramsdell takes the handoff from QB Tyler Shaner Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 against Stillman Valley.

While the goal for every team is to win every game, it’s inevitable that at some point during a season, a bounce-back will be necessary.

The teams that can weather the storm of a loss and get right back in the win column are the ones that avoid losing streaks and grow stronger from their adversity.

So just what is the key to the art of a successful bounce-back win? What exactly goes into the mindset and approach in the week following a loss, leading up to the next game?

The Dixon Dukes were trying to find that formula this week in practice, after suffering their first loss of the season last week.

The first part is maintaining a united front. Instead of pointing fingers and playing the blame game, it’s important for teammates to be able to rely on each other to pull through it as a group.

“You’ve just to stay together as one, don’t let it divide the team,” senior lineman Matt Warkins said. “Bad teams, when they lose, they divide, and there’s tension. Good teams stick together, and we have to be the good team and stick together and play as one.”

A big piece of rebounding from a tough loss also comes in the mental aspect of the game. While it can’t feel good physically to go through a game and come out with a loss, the reaction of attitude and mindset can make all the difference in how quickly teams can overcome it.

Often that starts with just wanting to get that sour taste of losing out of your mouth.

“I think it’s determination that we don’t want to lose again,” senior running back/wide receiver Rylan Ramsdell said. “It’s a terrible feeling, and we saw the setbacks. All weekend, we were all texting each other upset about it, and I think our determination is key to go after it this week. We want to win again.”

In Dixon’s case, the loss came at the hands of a tough, athletic, physical Stillman Valley team last week. While the film wasn’t pretty after the 36-6 loss, Jared Shaner and his coaching staff changed things up a little bit and put more of the onus on the players to suss out their shortcomings from last week.

“It’s a balancing act between looking back and moving forward. You can’t bury your head in the sand, as much as you want to sometimes; I didn’t want to turn the Stillman Valley tape back on, but we did,” Shaner said. “One thing we did do different last weekend, is usually we grade the kids by position, and the coaches still did that. But I asked the kids to come to our Monday meeting having already watched the film, having already watched every play that they played or their position group played, and grade themselves. We hit on it a little bit, I think kids were honest about their evaluation of themselves and their teammates, and then we spent an hour Monday after school working on some Stillman stuff, talking about how we get better, and then you have to move on. We didn’t play well in a number of areas last Friday, but now it’s got to be about what are we going to do to fix that and improve that.”

And therein lies another key piece of the bounce-back puzzle: learning from your mistakes – however painful they may be both physically and mentally – and making sure the issues are corrected before the next game.

A lot of times, that comes down to the fundamentals, and getting back to the basics that worked for you in the past.

“We had a good week of practice [last week], but in the game we obviously didn’t execute well, so we’ve got to make sure we execute on Friday night what we did all week in practice,” Warkins said. “And we’ve got to make sure we finish. There were plays where we’d get the tackle, but they’d fall forward and not backward. We’ve got to make sure they go backward.

“We’ve just got to make sure we’re doing what we need with the basics, and then that special stuff – the big plays, the winning plays – we have to make sure we hit on those. We weren’t hitting on those Friday, so we’ve got to make sure we don’t miss our blocks and that we finish our tackles, and the rest of that will take care of itself.”

As fun as it is to watch film and talk about your wins, it’s oftentimes more valuable to discuss a defeat. It’s usually easier to learn lessons and get better from failure than it is from success.

“Yes, definitely. Friday night in the huddle after the game, I think the coaches said it the best. We’re going push to make that loss mean something, and I think it’s going to help us key in more for this next game,” Ramsdell said.

And that’s really the attitude coaches want to see from their players. It’s what Shaner wants to see from the Dukes as they move forward from their first setback, and keep their eyes on the prize that awaits over the next month with a potential playoff berth still on the line.

That’s the biggest lesson to learn from all this: one loss, especially in the early stages of the season, doesn’t have to mean too much if a team can figure out how to come back stronger than before – and veteran, experienced teams find a way to do just that.

“I hope so. That’s the goal, anyway,” Shaner said. “We have a group of kids and staff that losing is not a part of what they are accustomed to, and they don’t like it. It happens at times, but they want to come on Friday and prove they can get back in the win column and feel good about what we’re doing.”