Sisu: The Heritage Football Mindset


Greyson Harris, Sports Editor

A new head coach, a new uniform, and a new frame of mind have worked wonders for the Heritage Generals’ football team. Five games into the season and Heritage has already managed to double their win total from their previous campaign. Some will observe the two wins and not have reason to feel impressed; however, considering their past, those who are close to the program will tell you that this year is different . . . and maybe they’re right.

For the second season in a row, Ringgold appeared at “Week 1” on the schedule, and, as always, that date was bolded, underlined, and strung up around strobe lights. Heritage and Ringgold don’t like each other, and that is putting it about as PG-rated as I can. Something that will kill the mood, though, is a quick and decisive victory, a feat that was accomplished by Ringgold. After allowing running holes the size of Mack trucks, dropping more passes than were completed, and making mistakes at all the wrong times in all the wrong places, Heritage had a lot to think about. “Losing to a cross-town rival your senior year is always tough, but I know we could have played better,” said cornerback Michael Lewis. “We could have beat them.” Heritage worked out some of the kinks and outscored Ringgold in the second half, but the first half was hard to watch as a Heritage supporter, especially with the knowledge of their ability which wasn’t put on full display. LFO and Dawson County awaited the Generals, but they would first have to face the realization that it would be another year before recording their first win against Ringgold on a Friday night.
The Generals knew that LFO and Dawson County weren’t powerhouses, but fixing their mistakes from week one was still necessary. An all-around effort against Lakeview and an instant classic against Dawson County left the Generals at 2-1 in the still young season; however, the theme of self-inflicted wounds haunted Heritage even in their triumphs. For example, even though Heritage mustered a convincing victory against LFO, frankly, it should’ve been a blowout. The offense sputtered in the first quarter, and finding their footing in that regard was an obvious challenge. If not for the defense, the tone of this article would be much different. Even though the last minute Hail Mary from Dawson County created some unbelievable drama, that too had the potential to be a solid win.

At this point, one could understand the sense of pride that surrounded the Generals. It’s important, however, to stay humble and prepare for the next game no matter the opponent. Going into their fourth game of 2014, a match-up against region rivals Southeast, I noticed a certain vibe from many of the key players. When I asked about how they felt about their next game, a majority of the answers lead me to believe that some players thought of Southeast as a pushover team. That Friday night, Southeast came to play. Heritage played a decent first quarter, but Southeast blew it wide open in the second. One silver lining had to have been the connection between quarterback Corbee Wilson (371 yards and 1 touchdown) and receiver Tyler Childers (9 receptions, 138 yards, and 1 touchdown). They made plays early and often, but the defense had no answer for Southeast’s run offense. This game served as a wake-up call. Success is great, but there is such a thing as enjoying it too much.

Speaking of ways to become humble, Heritage traveled to Cartersville for the fifth game of the season, and Cartersville had no trouble whatsoever, defeating Heritage 51-6. In the Generals’ defense, Cartersville is full of Division 1 athletes, and Heritage fought harder against them than any team this season. If they play every team like they did against this juggernaut opponent, I can’t see them losing another game.

If Heritage wishes to take the next step in their progression, they must cut down their unnecessary blunders and attempt to cause havoc for their opposition. More than that, however, they need to maintain their mindset. This team is different, I can feel it. “The coaching staff has done a great job of getting us to buy in,” senior Blaine Loveless stated. “Love your brother, Sisu, max effort, and attention to detail; that is what drives us.” “Sisu” is a Finnish word that basically stands for determination and bravery. When I say that this team feels different, I suppose that all I needed was one word from Finland, a word that embodies all that Heritage football is about: resilience.