RUSKIN — Lennard High School football coach Keith Chattin is a straight shooter.
Sitting inside the Longhorns' locker room, Chattin, an ex-military man, speaks succinctly. He doesn't care about last year, or the year before that. This has been about a process, not a Band-Aid.
"We've had a three-year plan and this is Year 3," he said. "We've been building toward this. And we're going to be good."
Such confidence seems out of place for a guy who was 1-19 his first two seasons at Lennard. The Longhorns' lone win during that stretch came against Leto, which hasn't won a game on the field since 2009.
And it wore on Chattin.
"As a coach, you always have to stay positive," he said. "But it wasn't easy. It's human nature to get down on yourself."
Chattin came to Lennard from Gainesville Buchholz after a successful stint as a player and coach in Georgia. And his past success didn't make the transition any easier.
"I was used to winning every Friday night," he said. "I was lucky enough to play for some great teams in Georgia that played for state titles and coach at schools that faced the best. No one knew me down here and it was tough. I'm sure people were like 'Why did they hire this guy?' "
Chattin and the Longhorns may have answered that question last week when they hung 57 points on St. Petersburg Catholic en route to shutting out the Barons. It may have just been a preseason game, but it sure was a statement.
"You could see the relief because everything we'd been preaching about and the hard work they'd put in during the offseason and the weight room paid off," Chattin said. "They aren't overconfident or cocky, but they knew right there they could compete every Friday night."
Jahryn Bailey said last year was a grind, but the team came together during a tough offseason.
"We all got together and said we didn't want it to be like that anymore," he said. "We knew we had some talent and it was a matter of putting in the work in the weight room and just getting ourselves ready."
One player not part of the losing is Devin Black. The freshman quarterback, who tossed four touchdowns against SPC, has drawn raves from Chattin for his play and locker room maturity.
"All I've ever done since I was 7 (years old) is win," Black said. "I wasn't surprised at all (about the preseason win)."
The Longhorns get their first crack at proving last week was no fluke when they travel to rival East Bay tonight for the season opener. The Indians won their first district title in 40 years last season.
"We have that natural rivalry being 10 minutes away, and they are coming off a successful season," Chattin said. "We know they are tough and I expect it to be the most physical, intense game of the year."
But Chattin also added that after two years of getting kicked around — East Bay has won the previous two meetings by a combined 65-12 — the Longhorns are ready to turn the page.
"All these kids know each other and a lot of our parents went to East Bay because Lennard didn't exist back then," he said. "But we're tired of hearing about East Bay. The kids are tired of hearing about East Bay. It's going to be a packed house and it's going to be a lot of fun."