"Big team, little me": Mustangs and Vikings reign supreme
Updated: Dec 20, 2018
Dec. 20, 2018 - This year, Mandarin and Raines high schools made history with both winning football state championships in their divisions. Although their success stories differ, the coaches have similar lessons and mentalities they bring to their teams.
It was just last season that the Mandarin Mustangs won only two out of 10 games. Spirits were low, said Coach Bobby Ramsay. The disappointing season forced them to take a deep and honest look into the team's culture.
He realized that one of the elements they needed was more team cohesion.
So part of the team's rallying cry became a reflection on the school's mascot...the Mustang.
"The mustang is the only animal in the wild that will go back to take care of an injured member of the pack," said Ramsay. "They all embraced that mantra: 'mustangs take care of mustangs.'"
Each Monday, Ramsay would gather the team together and rally them up for the next week's game.
Slowly, he began to see a unified team. And with more team cohesion, the second-year coach was able to lead the Mustangs through an 11-4 season, culminating with a state championship game in Orlando.
Nick Harris, defensive tackle for the Mustangs, said the experience felt like a dream.
"It was unreal," said Harris. "Time kept counting down, but we ended up with the big W."
In their 27-13 win over Cocoa High School, the Vikings not only made school history, but they also made Jacksonville history by being the only high school team to win back-to-back state championships in their division.
Coach Deran Wiley said establishing a culture with his team is what helped keep them motivated to reign supreme for a second year in a row.
"Big team, little me," said Wiley. "There's nothing more important than playing as a team."
Wiley felt at home while on the field at Orlando's stadium. He made a point to say that this second home would never come to be without the team's behavior both on and off the field.
"Win in the class and on the grass," Wiley said he tells his athletes nearly every day. "It's all about preparation and discipline."
The coach said his next big plan is to make history one more time and rise above the standard he set for himself and his team.
Both teams were recognized this week at City Hall, where Mayor Lenny Curry presented each coach and their team of student athletes with a key to the city. The video below chronicles that moment. Congratulations Mandarin Mustangs and Raines Vikings on your incredible accomplishments.