Despite success, Pirates have to believe they're starting over
Despite all of this, Unger has a simple approach to each season, one that he thinks is critical for his players to understand.
“Every year get your kids to buy into the fact that they’re starting over,” he said. “The more success you have the harder you have to work.”
The Pirates will have to replace quite a bit of production from last year’s 12-0 team that defeated Cascade Christian in the 3A state title game. Gone are 3A Defensive and Offensive Players of the Year Jared White and Forrest Garcia. Gone are all-state quarterback Nathan Bernards and all-state receiver Justin Sutton. Every year brings fresh challenges to continuing success, but before any work is done on the field, knowing you can’t rely on past successes is key.
“Treat it like you’re starting over,” Unger said.
The Pirates and the rest of the OSAA are taking the mandated moratorium week until Sunday, but up to this point, Unger said he has been happy with the turnout at summer workouts. The goal, he said, is to get as many of the upperclassmen and players who will suit up for the varsity to consistently show up, and he said thinks it’s been happening.
Unger hasn’t rested since winning the state title in December. He said there can be a thought to not change anything because it clearly worked last year, but it’s not his nature to be idle. Unger revamped his speed, agility and quickness workouts as well as the weights program as well as changed a few things in the offense.
He also took a group of Dayton players to the first session of Linfield’s football camp. His players rubbed shoulders and competed against schools like Crater, Sherwood and Grants Pass. Unger said he also returned for the second session just to coach.
“That was my vacation,” he said.
Unger said he also took a couple of credits this summer to continue his education, but he has been mindful of not overworking his players.
“You want them to be around and work and get better,” he said, “But you have to balance that with the fact they’re kids. They’re 15 and 16 and 17 and you want them to balance sports and life.”
Pretty soon, though, the focus will be all on football. Starting Aug. 5 football camps will start around the state, and the first day of OSAA-sanctioned practice is Aug. 19. Two weeks after that on Aug. 30, the Pirates will open their 2013 season with a road game at perennial 3A playoff qualifier, Pleasant Hill.
“It’s exciting to know we’re in a situation where we can test ourselves early,” Unger said.
Unger said he’s also excited for a new coaching addition to the West Valley League. In the spring, Amity hired Jared Hinkle to replace Matt Arnold, who stepped down midseason last year. Hinkle played football for Linfield, and Unger and Hinkle later coached together for the Wildcats.
“Amity is lucky to have him,” Unger said. “It’s only going to make our league stronger.”
Unger, always modest and wanting to leave the spotlight on others, wouldn’t agree, though, that having two former Linfield coaching friends now opposing each other in arguably the best small-school rivalry in Oregon changed much. He said the Warriors-Pirates rivalry goes much deeper than that.
“I don’t think you need to add anything to Amity-Dayton,” he said. “It stands by itself.”