LIMA – Most everyone is familiar with the numbers.
Lima Senior football had a 12-68 record since the 2005 campaign, capped by an 0-10 season in 2012.
Throw in the fact that Lima Senior was attempting to compete in the extremely difficult Three Rivers Athletic Conference and only the most optimistic of the Spartans’ faithful saw reason for hope.
Enter new coach Mike Fell, whose name appeared often in the Lima Senior record book from his days as the quarterback of the Spartans.
Fell was coming off a highly successful run as coach at Ada.
With a deep belief and positive attitude, Fell was able to convince the players that they could, and would, compete immediately and return Spartan football to relevance.
“The first thing was making sure they knew it wasn’t a five or 10 year plan. This was about being ready to play right now.” Fell said. “I wasn’t interested in competing. I want and think we can go to the state playoffs. The key is getting the kids to believe that.”
One player who believed what Fell told them was sophomore wide receiver/defensive back Demontay Liles.
“When I first met coach he told me that things weren’t going to be like they were last year;” Liles said. “He said he believed in us and that gave us confidence. He said he was only interested in this year. He is the perfect fit for our program.”
Lima Senior started the season 0-2, before a 49-42 win on the road at Piqua began the turnaround. The Spartans would go on to post a 5-5 record including 4-3 in the TRAC.
As a result of that immediate turnaround, Fell has been named coach of the year of the 2013 Lima News Dream Team. Fell also was named TRAC coach of the year, in addition to being named Division II district co-coach of the year.
It was much more than the simple X’s and O’s which Fell’s wide-open offense espouses. It was mostly about the confidence of a group of young men who had become used to losing and convincing them that they could be successful, not in the future, but this year.
“I have a great staff of coaches that felt the same way I did and that came across to the players.” Fell said. “The kids worked hard in the weight room and we had some success at seven-on-seven’s in the summer. High school sports are over 50 percent mental. You have to believe in what you are doing.”
Despite losses the last two weeks of the season to Toledo Central Catholic and Whitmer, the Spartans were still in playoff contention going into Week 10.
“I was very impressed with the quality of the young men I am dealing with,” Fell said. “They wanted some leadership, they accepted the coaching, and they responded.”
The Spartans going 4-3 in the TRAC was a big thing and the five losses came against teams that had a total record of 40-10, with all five making the state playoffs.
“We have to take the next step and that will be hard,” Fell said. “We have to be more physical, we have to get stronger, and we have to play better defense.”
One thing is for sure. Lima Senior football is relevant once again.