Goodrich Varsity Football Coach Tom Alward chats with Martian Senior Sebastain Fogilo along with teammates. Photo by Patrick McAbee.
By David Fleet
Goodrich- It was a first for Martian Football Coach Tom Alward.
“After 25 years of coaching football I’ve never had a season like 2016,” said Alward. “Done that, don’t need to do that again. It’s part of life’s lessions. I’ve taken my medicine and it’s now time to move on.”
Alward and his 2017 Martian football team not only moved on they moved up. Way up.
Last week, with just one game to go— Alward reflected on a stellar 7-1 football season a complete turnaround from a 0-9 record in 2016.
“You don’t know how bad the 0-9 can sink into the culture (of a team),” said Alward, the winningest coach in Martian Football history. “Now the team atmosphere has changed. Last year we played hard—better then our record indicated. They played their tails off all through the 2016 season. I was never so proud of the team when after we lost our ninth game against St. Johns we hung out on the field—those kids did not want that season to be over with.”
“I feel horrible for last years seniors—they had to endure an 0-9 season,” he said. “I did not like it either but I get to come back for another season and be a part of a 7-1 year. Those seniors that left last year are tagged with that forever—that’s the toughest for me. Honestly, I needed to coach better and could have called better plays.”
Alward, a 2011 Michigan High School Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame inductee, said in part the 2017 turnaround was due to a winning history at Goodrich. Currently, Alward is at 138-99 with the Martians and league titles in 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2015.
“We had been able to win some football games over the years,” he said. “And you hope that winning culture will hold up in an 0-9 season.”
“This year’s team wanted it to turn around,” he said. “They wanted to be back at the top, they did what they needed to do plus we have some good ball players. The combination of all those things won some games in 2017. It was great to get off to a great start and just build on that.”
The losing attitude did not come up in 2017, added Alward.
“They recommitted with some team ideals to aspire to,” he said. “They bought into the program we hung our hats on the convent. It’s been successful, they have not looked back.”
As a professional football player Alward is no stranger to a no win season. In his one full season as a member of the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers his team lost all 14 season games. Alward laughs about that season now.
“We did win one preseason game,” he said.
Alward says a brutal practice routine as Buccaneer caused many player injuries sparked the losing season.
“From July 5 until the second week of the season in September, the Buccaneers had two-a-days at least five times a week,” he said. “The result was 22 of the original 43-man rosters ended up on injured reserve.”
To compensate for the injuries, Alward alternated offensive and defensive guard spots and played center.
“The only parallel to the Tampa Bay season is once you lose consistently you start looking for excuses why you lost,” he said. “You don’t believe you’re going to win, teams try not to lose. This year we keep playing at the championship level all the time. We don’t play up to teams; we don’t play down to teams. We set the bar high.”
Dave Davis, assistant principal/athletic director said the 2016 football season was difficult for the Martians.
“Each week presented a new challenge,” said David. “Coach Alward might not admit it, but he demonstrated true skill in navigating the rough waters. Being a head football can be a thankless job. Through the disappointment of last season Coach Alward had my full confidence.”
The program showed a renewed sense of focus in the off-season,” he added. “A talented mix of veteran leadership combined with youthful enthusiasm helped accelerate the turnaround process.”