MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — On episode two of On the Road with Olivia and Claudia, the girls look to Marshall County to see two teams from the loaded Class 5A region 7 – the Arab Knights and the Boaz Pirates.
Arab is coming off of its best season in program history but it ended in a heartbreaker, in double overtime to Pleasant Grove in the third round of the playoffs. That loss still hurts but head coach Lee Ozmint knows they can’t live in the past, and they’re using that as motivation.
“I’m telling you, what sustains is us is giving our best every day. We learned that every play counts. The important thing is we embrace that failure by learning that and we incorporate that into our every day,” Ozmint said.
This will be a very different Arab team, graduating a lot of key players, but Ozmint said he’s challenged this group and they’re ready to step up.
“We just graduated 22 of those guys and they’ve won a bunch of games, and then there was the 8th grade bunch behind them. And I remember saying to my wife, if I just keep my job their senior year, we’ll be doing something right. But this bunch has really turned.”
If you would have told me three years ago that I would be this optimistic, I would have laughed at you. This has turned out to be one of my favorite bunches because I’ve seen so many lights come on. It’s been fun to watch, it’s been fun to be apart of,” Ozmint added.
Also in that loaded Class 5A region 7 is Boaz. The Pirates are coming off of a 4-7 overall record and their fifth straight playoff appearance.
But they’re still searching for their first postseason win since 2008. So what’s Jeremy Sullivan’s message as he enters his seventh season leading the Pirates?
“I go into every season expecting to win every game. I go into every game expecting to win that game. I’m not young enough or stupid enough to predict our record, but what I want us to do is be as prepared as we can for every opponent that we face to try to give our kids the best chance to be successful. For our kids to be the best football players they can become individually and for our team to become the best team they can become by the end of the season,” Sullivan said.
“Now I’ve got a lot fewer years in front of me than I do behind me, so it feels like the time’s ticking away so I would really like to move us to the next level of not just getting to the playoffs but being a team that’s successful in the playoffs.”
Last year’s team started to figure things out late in the season, winning their final three regualar season games. Sullivan has a good amount of those guys returning and said that experience will be important as the Pirates open the season.
“We feel pretty good, especially on offense with the experience we have coming back. Having our quarterback returning is really going to be a strength this year. We feel like we have four running backs that could be starters. Going into this season, our kids are going to have a little more confidence because they’ve played through a season as starters especially offensively, they know that they can compete, they know that they can have a chance to win any game they’re in and we’re going to have to keep building on that success from last year,” Sullivan added.
Boaz and Arab will both open their seasons week zero at home.