How a team performs over the course of a season can correlate directly with its chemistry.
With the 2021 regular season winding down and heading into its most important stages, the teams that are competing for playoff spots have shown how crucial having strong morale can be.
The Permian football team, during the past three weeks, has looked in multiple directions to fill spots that have been impacted by injuries.
Juzstyce Lara carried a heavy workload at running back in last week’s win over Midland High and Harris Sewell has been manning the center spot since the Panthers played against Odessa High.
One thing has remained constant for the Panthers during that span:
>> They’ve been winning.
Permian head coach Jeff Ellison owes the team’s ability to adapt quickly to its strong bond.
That starts with upperclassman leadership, spearheaded by a senior class that will be recognized before Permian’s game against San Angelo Central at 7 p.m. Friday at Ratliff Stadium.
“We talk every year about having a strong senior class,” Ellison said. “I think we’ve got a senior class that really cares about the football team.”
To work on and boost the team’s morale, Ellison and his coaching staff introduced new character building methods like implementing a word of the week to focus on before each game.
The word will be introduced each Monday and put up throughout the Permian locker room, then the players will discuss it during their team meal on Thursday.
“Those things that we continue to do throughout the season has really helped us become closer,” Ellison said. “They care about each other and they enjoy playing football.
“It’s fun to see them go out there and get things done, they talked a lot last week about having each other’s backs and they’re going to continue to do that.”
With the recent shuffling the Panthers have gone through, having a strong team-first mentality has helped the transitions flow a lot smoother.
Ellison likened the mentality to that of a strong company, where a shared goal benefits everyone over having individuals focused on attaining their own accomplishments.
With their teammates willing to help along the way, the players who have taken over new spots have seen their confidence boosted.
Now on his ninth year coaching at Permian, Ellison added that he is always looking for new ways to make his team better.
The word of the week was an idea that new assistant coach Stan Hodges suggested and Ellison believed it would work well for the Panthers.
While Permian has the stability of a tenured coach, other teams in District 2-6A are having to start their character building under new leadership.
San Angelo Central is getting accustomed to the methods of new head coach Kevin Crane, who spent 12 years as the Bobcats assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.
He has tried to keep some of the methods that former coach Brent Davis brought in to maintain continuity, but he has also done some shuffling due to the injury bug biting over the season.
“It really hasn’t changed a lot since Coach Davis was here, we’re still trying to do a lot of the same things,” Crane said. “I put my stamp on a few things, but overall it’s pretty much the same.
“We’ve had more injuries this year than I can remember in my whole career, that’s been difficult to deal with. But I feel like our kids have been resilient and fought through that.”
One of the more affected groups for the Bobcats was the offensive line, where strong chemistry can make or break how an offense runs.
Crane feels like his team is getting healthier at the right time of the season to stay in the fight for a playoff spot.
For Ellison, creating a tight and cohesive unit starts with being open about what’s happening off the field with his players.
Having one-on-one meetings with everyone can help the head coach talk through any situations that may be affecting them throughout their daily lives.
“When you have those life experiences with somebody, with a teammate that you’re close with, I think that brings the team bond together more,” Ellison said. “As the season’s gone on, we’ve had to deal with all kinds of different things with life, so that makes you stronger.”
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