VARNELL — Coahulla Creek High School head football coach Danny Wilson knows there will be a time to celebrate what his football program has accomplished so far this season.
The Colts celebrated their first-ever victory over their northern county neighbor Northwest Whitfield. Coahulla Creek started the season 2-0 for the first time, already matching the then-school record for wins in a season for the 10-year old program, which has now been set at four for the 4-2 Colts of 2021. They'll keep setting a new record with every victory this season.
When the Colts broke through with the season's third win, a 34-12 win over Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe two weeks ago, the accomplishment wasn't lost on Wilson, who's been at Coahulla Creek for the better part of five seasons now, between three seasons as a defensive coordinator under Caleb Bagley and his now second season as head coach.
"It means a lot, and I'm proud for the the kids and I'm proud for our school and the community," Wilson said after that game. "As a coach, I'm not proud of the way we played. We were really sloppy at times."
Wilson and the Colts are happy to be where they are, giving hope to a program that hasn't had much in its previous nine seasons. But it's that attitude of always looking to improve that has helped the Colts come a long way from the toils of losing seasons that they were used to.
Wilson knows what a winning football program is like. He won a state championship as head coach at Tennessee's South Pittsburg in 1994. Prior to this season, Wilson added another winner to his staff. Vic Grider, who succeeded Wilson at that same program and won three more state titles, came over as an assistant coach this summer.
Wilson knows building a winning program requires a "winning culture," that hard-to-describe attitude that helps hard work lead to on-field results. Wilson credited Bagley, who brought the Colts from 0-10 to 1-9 to 2-8 in his three years as head coach, as helping to turn around the culture of the program.
Wilson talked before this season about how the indicators of progress don't always show up in the scores of games or in a win/loss record.
It's showing for this 2021 team, in its record and in its attitude.
But, the Colts think there are still goals left to be accomplished in an already historic season.
"We just have to keep improving and try to win some more games," senior running back Tyler Locklear said. "We want to keep going and reach the state playoffs."
A playoff appearance would be the next tangible goal for a program Wilson says is all about continuing to keep getting better. It's hard for any newer program to establish itself as a perennial contender for the playoffs, but Coahulla Creek supporters have seen it happen up close in another member of Region 6-3A, North Murray.
The Mountaineers began playing football in 2009, and, after a few floundering years reached the playoffs for the first time in 2016. North Murray has made the playoffs every year since then, and the Colts, which have shared a region with North Murray since the program got started, haven't yet beat the Mountaineers.
That's true of this year too, when the Colts lost 52-30 in Chatsworth.
Both of Coahulla Creek's losses this year have been in Region 6-3A, with the other coming to defending region champ Rockmart, which is also rolling through region competition so far this season.
Sitting at 2-2 in Region 6-3A, all four of the Colts' remaining games are against region competition. The results of these games will determine whether the team takes that next step into the playoffs that Locklear wants for his senior year, or whether Locklear and the rest of the Colt seniors will have to settle for "only" helping put together the best season yet in school history.
It starts Friday night with a home game against Adairsville, which comes in at 4-1 (2-1 Region 6-3A). Then it's LaFayette, then undefeated Ringgold and then Sonoraville to close the year.
Well, to close the regular season, at least.
A trip through a tough region schedule into the playoffs will be a tall task for the Colts, but this year's team at the Creek already knows a thing or two about making history.
Daniel Mayes is the Daily Citizen-News sports editor. Reach him at email@example.com.