High School Football Preview: Patriots already believe in French

August 09, 2004|JILL ERWIN

STANFORD - Larry French walked into a Lincoln County football program that was about to meet its third head coach in four years, one that had gone all winter without a coach and had struggled the past few years.

When French and the Patriots take the field Aug. 20 in the Death Valley Bowl, the players think you'll see a whole new team.

"We've got the attitude we're going to win," senior receiver Cole Lanigan said. "We don't have the attitude we're just going to come out here to play football, we're going to come out here to win, and that's the whole purpose."

French met his team with no preconceived notions, but with definite goals. He set out a plan of attack, one the Patriots weren't immediately sure would work.


"My first impression was that he had extremely high expectations," Lanigan said. "First meeting him, I wasn't sure he was going to be able to do it. I thought he was just blowing smoke. But honestly, with what he's done in the past and what he's done so far here, he's proven to me that we're capable of anything he wants us to do."

"My first impression was I thought he was going to be something tough," senior lineman Jordan Hardwick said. "He gave us a lot of challenges we were going to have to do this year."

But French, who came here from Meade County, backed it up. His practices are tough, intense affairs, according to the players, but they are always worth the hard work.

"I learned a lot more in my first week under him than I have pretty much in my whole football career," junior receiver Mark Davis said. "I hope he'll be here for a while. I believe he's doing a dang good job getting it turned around. If he leaves, we ain't got a team."

Lanigan said French is the kind of coach to instill team confidence, rather than trying to single out players. If things go right, it's because of the players. If things go wrong, it's because of the coach.

Tireless in his preparations

French is tireless in his preparations, and Lanigan said that's one thing the coach has guaranteed.

"He's very confident in himself and that's something I find good in a coach," Lanigan said. "He flat out told us, 'There's nobody on that opposite sideline that's going to outcoach me. I'm going to outcoach everybody we play.'

"He said if we lose any games, it will be because he didn't prepare us. He said he doesn't win football games, his players win football games. He said he'll take credit for a loss because he didn't get us prepared, but he will not take credit for a win."

While French is trying to change attitudes around Lincoln, he also always takes time to have fun. After a tough practice, he may single out a player and make him sing for the group.

Davis said that goes a long way toward making the team feel better.

"He has his moods, but he always comes back and has fun with us," Davis said. "He gets us laughing. He's just laid back."

French has almost 30 years of coaching experience, something the players say helps them to know his ways work.

"Young people here really are no different than they are anywhere else in the state," French said. "They want to be part of the football program and they all want to be winners, some of them just don't know how to win. With my attitude, you put me in any place and I expect to win. I don't care who we play or where we play, I feel like we have a chance to win the football game."

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