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Focus beyond wins

It's hard to stay positive through a losing season, especially when losing the two games by a combined 62 points.

But that's exactly what coach Bob LeCours is trying to do in his attempt to resurrect a Panthers program that has only had one winning season in 21 years.

After last week's 70-13 pummeling by South Sumter, LeCours tried to find the good in a quickly spiraling season.

"Whether you look at the score or not, the kids improved in some areas that we challenged them," he said. "Our execution was better. Our penalties were down. We played with great resilience. We never gave up."

But they did give up 33 points in a six-minute, 17-second span, where a 9-7 deficit grew to 42-7.

"Looking at the score, kids of lesser character would have (given up)," LeCours said, "but we didn't."

The Panthers held on for the first quarter, keeping South Sumter out of the end zone except for a safety on a bad punt snap. After South Sumter's Jarrod Fleming scored on a 19-yard run on the first play in the second quarter, Wayne Babyak stripped him on the next possession and went 46 yards for a touchdown. Then South Sumter ran up the score.

Lecanto has lost 11 consecutive games.

Today might be another.

But LeCours is trying to emphasize more than wins and losses _ quality over quantity and playing right instead of playing dirty.

Before the season started, LeCours made it known the Panthers were in the hunt for respect. While respect is earned, he wants players to learn valuable lessons along the way.

"It's about building a successful program from the ground up," he said. "It's not only on the field, but also upstanding citizens in the community and academically as well."

It's something adults sometimes forget the more removed they become from their playing days and high school years, when winning and being No. 1 seem more important than character.

The lessons learned on the field teach necessary skills for future leaders. When faced with turmoil, many may flee, unable to answer for what has happened or problems they have caused. But true leaders, many built on the athletic fields, face fear head on, trying to conquer past mistakes with a never-say-die attitude.

Lecanto seems like the latter. The Panthers keep trying, even while losing.

Like most seniors, quarterback C.J. Osburn and center Brad Allan want to win in the worst way.

"We realize it's our last shot to do something great together," Allan said. "After having a 1-9 season (last year) we really want to leave our mark in a positive way."

So here are the unherald heroes, who keep trying to fight even when it seems almost all is lost or just a little forgotten.

Correspondent Rich Lovie contributed to this story. Dawn Reiss can be reached at (352) 564-3628 or dreisssptimes.com

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