Smithfield-Selma football coach David Lawhon doesn’t know how many games the Spartans have played since they last won. To be blunt, he doesn’t care.
He is focused on what is ahead, not what is behind.
He sees small victories every week even though the scoreboard says Smithfield-Selma has lost 35 consecutive games. The Spartans’ last victory came on Sept. 3, 2010, when Fayetteville Pine Forest fell 23-7.
No one could have expected the desert that awaited. The Spartans hadn’t been great in a few years, but they were 4-7 in 2009 and had been 7-6 in 2007 and 7-5 in 2008.
Never miss a local story.
Since that win against Pine Forest, Charles Tucker Field hasn’t seen another varsity football win. On Sept. 20, Wilson Fike shut out the Spartans 38-0.
Lawhon, in his second year with the team, has made sure his players have seen some wins though. He and his staff track everything. He can show this players, for example, that they scored more points in their first four games this season than they did in 11 games in 2012.
Smithfield-Selma has scored on special teams and on defense, something it didn’t do until the 11th game last year.
The team was averaging 4.5 first downs but had nine in a 37-23 loss to Clayton.
“We want to show the guys that we are getting better,” Lawhon said. “We are inching forward, game by game, week by week.”
The team has earned his respect week by week too.
“It is a bunch of boys who show up and Monday through Thursday work as hard as they can,” Lawhon said. “They go out on Fridays and do the best they can. Then regardless of what happens, they come to strap on the helmet on Monday morning and work their butts off again.”
Lawhon not only finds the little victories, he talks about the big lifetime victories.
“You’re going to have hard times in your life,” he said. “Are you going to persevere? Are you going to keep working at it or just give up?”
Smithfield-Selma was reclassified as a 3A school this fall because of declining enrollment, but it has played only two 3A schools over its first five games. The Spartans will play schools their own size from here to the end of the season.
Lawhon said he has no doubts his team will compete and his players will seize on every positive. The Smithfield-Selma sideline exploded into jubilation when the Spartans rallied against Clayton.
“You would have thought that it was a one-point game,” Lawhon said.
It was a great moment for a program that hasn’t had a lot of great moments.
“These kids have never won a lot of games, not in middle school, on the junior varsity or the varsity, but they have never stopped working, and I’m proud of that,” Lawhon said
“In the long term, the big picture is becoming good people, good fathers, good husbands, good workers. Our kids are wonderful. Later in life, when things are tough, I think they are going to persevere.”
And eventually, Lawhon believes, they will have another great moment.
He doesn’t pursue moral victories, but he cares deeply for his players.
He knows what they go through.
“We have a saying that one day we hope to become the team that we are meant to be,” he said.