OCEANA - New Wyoming East coach Larry Thompson happily carried around the trophy after the recent Barbell Bash powerlifting competition at Oceana Middle School.
Truth be told, it's not the one he's looking for, though he admitted it is a good start, as his Warriors captured the team event, breaking a streak of three-straight wins by Summers County.
"All the credit to my kids and my coaching staff," Thompson said. "They've been putting in the work since I've been there. They've been in the weight room, following leadership and they've taken a liking to it. The weight room is a direct reflection of success. I think everything they've been doing came to fruition today. I think this will only motivate them to get in the weight room even more."
Rightly, it is the lone way to judge a team right now.
There will be camps, 7 on 7 competitions and scrimmages before the real Wyoming East team shows up on Sept. 6 against Westside in New Richmond. The Warriors have a bye week the opening week of the season.
Nonetheless, more trophies are not only wanted at East, they are expected; surprising, given it is a team coming off a 2-8 season, including a 30-0 shutout in its final game at Liberty, which had been winless.
But there is a load of talent coming back. There is the promise of more athletes at the school playing football for the first time.
And there is Thompson, who in five years took Mount View from a team that couldn't win a game to a team that made the Class A quarterfinals.
Thompson has heard the positive vibes in the community.
Nobody expects a state championship immediately, but the playoffs have been mentioned.
"If you care about your job and what you're doing, you want to feel that pressure and you're going to put everything you have into it," Thompson said. "With the community having high expectations, there is a little pressure but I don't feel it at all. It's going to be myself, these coaches and these players and we're going to have one common goal and that is to win a ball game. We aren't going to think Week 11 or 12, we're going to think about Week 1. That's all we can control."
Still, Thompson has to hear the word playoffs out in the community.
He doesn't necessarily care to hear it. He has already traveled down that road.
"Yes, the playoffs would be nice, especially for a team that hasn't been there in awhile (2011)," Thompson said. "But with us, as long as our kids play with effort and they fight start to finish, and we clean up some of the mishaps that have happened the past couple of years, then I think I will have done my job. Getting these kids to show up and put the work in, that's my goal. Winning is the goal, but turning these kids from boys into men is the goal for any coach."
Rising junior Caleb Bower, who rushed for 1,290 yards and had seven games over 100 yards and was named best lifter at the Barbell Bash, is ready to play now.
"I'm pumped about it," he said of Thompson's arrival. "There's a big difference with the teammates. We've been averaging about 30 guys a day compared to 10 last year. We've come together as a team and it's going to show on the field."
"We should be tough this year," center Josh Reilley said, noting Thompson's influence. "We even have the weight room changed around. It looks different and it's a whole different atmosphere. We are going to have a tough team this year."
It all starts next moth with the three-week summer practice window, when the team will also compete in 7 on 7 tournaments.
Really, football is a 12-month-a-year venture to be good, the lone breaks coming for kids who play other sports.
For Wyoming East, it will take on added importance as the team starts to get acclimated with Thompson's approach to the game.
"We will do what every other coach in the state is doing, we're going to get these kids ready," Thompson said. "We're going to have my philosophies, my schemes, and hopefully these kids will be receptive to it. The coaching staff, we've met every week, and we're meeting (Wednesday, May 22) to put everything down on paper."
As for now, the trophy won at the Barbell Bash will adorn the weight room, sitting on a self alone.
It is hoping to have company, a new team with a new attitude eager to add to it.