The Orange County football team only came away with two wins in Keita Malloy's first season as the Hornets' head coach, but a win over Albemarle and a loss to Monticello where they led early give Malloy hope heading into a new season.
"There are signs that obviously we can play with anybody, as I tell the players all the time," Malloy said. "Our problem was not a personnel piece, we had the talent to play with anybody. But we didn't play very smart football last year, and that starts with me."
Mental mistakes were the biggest issues Malloy wanted to correct in his second season with the team, and he used the whole offseason to try and fix those mistakes.
"This year we started off with film, watched a lot of film from last year," said senior tight end and quarterback Nick Morgan. "We also just got to understand the game a lot more with him teaching us everything that we need to know to correct them this year."
Morgan is one of the Hornets who may be starting at quarterback this season. Former starter Garrett Johnson left the team before his senior season was set to begin. The change will be an adjustment for Orange County, but the Hornets are used to making changes after all the work they did in the offseason.
"The culture of the locker room has changed a lot this year, a lot more focused, a lot more disciplined," said senior kicker, wide receiver, and linebacker Kris Hooper. "We're ready for this season and ready to leave it out on the field this year, so I think that's what's different than last year."
"I think last year we probably were looked at more as a team that teams wanted to play, and I think this year that's changed a little bit," added Malloy. "I think teams aren't as eager to see us come off the bus as they were last year, and that's a good thing."
In the last three season, the Hornets have won a total of four games. For a team filled with players who have never had a winning season, that's undoubtedly a motivating factor.
"We talk about the last five seasons of Orange County and how it hasn't really been a winning team," said Morgan. "The only way that we can win is if we do what [Malloy] asks, pay attention, be here and put out everything that he wants us to do. And we'll be a good team and a winning team."