North Stokes second-year head football coach Jason Lippard believes winning is a state of mind.
“It’s a mind set,” Lippard said. “It’s a total mind set. When adversity hits, you can’t feel sorry for yourself. You can’t lay down and run from challenges — you’ve got to meet everything head on and have that attitude. If you do those sorts of things, you start to change a little bit the mentality and it just filters all the way through every other facet of the game.”
Changing the mentality of the North Stokes football program was Lippard’s number one priority when he was tapped as the head football coach and athletic director last year.
The Vikings went 5-7 during Lippard’s inaugural season, but lost three games by a combined 10 points. This past offseason, Lippard created a player leadership council to address team discipline, individual accountability and to improve the mental aspect of the game that seemed to elude some Viking players.
Lippard said he quickly realized that transforming the football culture at North Stokes had less to do with winning games and more to do with winning hearts and minds. Lippard also realized it wasn’t going to happen overnight.
“Success breeds success,” he said. “So if you can get [your players] in successful situations and pump them up and get on them in negative situations, it starts to change. They begin to hold themselves accountable and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
On Aug. 11, North Stokes scrimmaged East Wilkes, Rockingham County and Starmount during the Saura Football Jamboree at South Stokes High School.
During the East Wilkes scrimmage, senior quarterback Garrett Wood and talented running back Dillon Rogers looked sharp. The Vikings, however, did not appear as confident against a talented Rockingham squad. All in all, Lippard said his team has exceeded his expectations during the preseason. Lippard likes the fact his squad has been challenged by tough, talented teams.
“We need some challenges,” Lippard said. “We don’t need it to be easy. They need some challenges so they’re awake when [Friday] rolls around.”
North Stokes travels to Alleghany Friday night for their season opener against the Trojans. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Lippard said his team is healthy and ahead of schedule implementing both offensive and defensive schemes. His goals for the 2012 season are very clear — win the top 1A seed out of the Northwest Conference.
“We want to be the best 1A team in the conference,” Lippard said. “We want to try to go undefeated nonconference and get better every day. That’s what we’re shooting for — getting that number one seed. It’s not going to be easy. Mount Airy is going to be good, South Stokes is going to be extremely good, and East Surry is going to be improved. Bishop McGuinness should also be tough, but we expect to compete with those four [teams].”
Lippard has good reason to feel optimistic about the Vikings’ chances. Center Jordan Manuel has shown tremendous leadership in the preseason, and North fields a group of experienced skill players on offense, including an outstanding receiving trio that includes all-state selection Matt Hopkins, T.J. Sonafrank and Dustin Smith. Senior running back Dillon Rogers,who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and is a two time all-conference selection, returns to the North Stokes backfield.
Talent and leadership will be keys to North taking another big step forward in 2012. Lippard said all of his returning players have performed well in the preseason and the lessons in leadership have already started paying dividends.
“I’ve seen a couple of good instances [of good leadership] where I’ve turned to my assistants and I said, ‘See, it’s paying off,’” Lippard said.
North Stokes appears poised to take the next step in its transformation into a perennial football powerhouse, but the Vikings will have to work hard, remain humble, and expect to win every single game, Lippard said.
“I feel great about where we’re at but we just can’t be satisfied,” he said. “We have to keep [the players] from getting complacent.”