With the Rams picked to finish last in District 4-4A and miss the playoffs this year football fans shouldn’t be surprised to see Mineral Wells playing with a chip on its shoulder this season.
“We don’t need to be the frontrunner,” coach Gerald Perry said as he enters his sixth season heading the Rams program.
Finishing last isn’t something Perry is familiar with after arriving in Mineral Wells in 2013 and going 5-5 in that first year.
Things quickly improved as the Rams went 10-3 and 9-3 the next two seasons and 6-5 and 6-4 marks have followed. Perry’s 10-3 record in 2014 stands as the third best season all-time in Minerals Wells surpassed only by the 1985 Joe Cluley Sr. - led Rams that went 11-1. The 1928 Rams were 10-1-2 under W.C. Holley.
Holley held the Mineral Wells’ best two-season record with 17 wins until Perry came along and re-established the mark at 19. Along the way to establishing that 19-win mark, the Rams smashed offensive records and scored a school-record 499 points in 2016 (9-3), which was 25 points better than the 2015 Rams (10-3) which played one more game.
So maybe you don’t need to be the frontrunner when in five years you have become your school’s all-time win leader and three of your teams rank in the top four of the most points ever scored in a season at Mineral Wells.
The 8-3 Rams of 2005 under David Bourquin
check in at number three with 430 points.
“I want the kids to go out there with a chip on their shoulder,” Perry said. “The rankings are pretty much done by coaching questionnaires, so that lets us know where people think we are this season.”
The Rams are pushing through a youth movement this year and will have to rely on sophomores and freshman in many cases. Hardest hit will be the offenses of the sub-varsity teams that will see skill players move from quarterback to where they are needed on varsity.
Perry plans to play the athletes he moves up as he realizes they won’t improve or help the team by setting on the bench.
“I think we are going to use being picked last as motivation to go out and show people we are better than that,” Perry said. “I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs, and that’s what we are fighting to achieve. Our goal has always been to make the playoffs, and that is not going to change.”
The Rams summer conditioning and sports specific training has been intense as coaches work to correct every mistake they see.
“Being as young as we are we can’t let anything slide,” Perry said. “Once we get these younger kids some meaningful plays I’m not going to sweat it.”
Perry is pulling back a little from specific coaching as he feels he can get more from his coaching staff and the team if he acts as more of a field general which will give him a broader scope on the players.
Instead of focusing on the quarterbacks, Perry will leave that duty to Landry Gunter, one half of Mineral Wells two-offensive coordinator system that also includes Chance Willard.
Gunter will coordinate the Rams run game while Willard handles the ground pounders.
“At the start of the year I will be calling the plays, and the guys in the box will be able to check us out of them,” Perry said. “They have a better view than I do, and I will never fault them checking out of a play when they see something I do not.”
Mineral Wells is going to be in a pass-happy district this year with five teams combining for more than 15,000 yards through the air.
“We are going to have to be able to get to the quarterback. We have had success in the past doing so because we also have been a pass-happy offense,” Perry said, “We are just going to have to play solid defense and not make those critical mistakes.”
Perry expects the Rams to play a lot more zone defense than they have in the past and the sets will be more basic as he brings younger players up to speed.
“We won’t be quite as creative early on,” Perry said. “Once we develop more confidence, we will start to branch out and get more complicated with our schemes.”