Despite back-to-back winless seasons, the Sharks enter 2018 with expectations higher than ever.
When D.J. Mayo first walked into the auditorium at Atlantic High School for his first players’ meeting as head coach, he could see the look on the players' faces. The look of dejection. The look of back-to-back winless seasons. The look that a multitude of years of undisciplined coaching had left on the players in its wake.
“I already see all the undisciplined people here,” senior receiver Logan Howington recalled the new coach saying. “And that’s going to change today.”
Despite that the team has won a total of four games in three years, the expectations for the 2018 Sharks went through the roof due to the arrival of Mayo, who was hired to replace former coach Kendall Bradley on Dec. 15.
Mayo, who previously served as the defensive coordinator for crosstown rival Spruce Creek, said the goal for Atlantic has been the same since he first set foot on campus: to make the playoffs.
“I’ve never seen a team come up from 0-10 with the expectations we have,” he said. “But I think if you’re around this program, you can’t help but walk away thinking that they’re going to be pretty good… . It’s a culture change.”
To help institute that culture change, Mayo has a coaching staff made largely of former Hawks coaches. In addition, star linebacker Tyler Berrong, receiver Maximus Campbell and defensive back Kenshawn Butler also followed Mayo from Spruce Creek, a team that’s grown used to making the postseason.
“When I got here, we wanted to set out and establish a winning culture — something that we can sustain regardless of who’s playing,” Mayo said. “I think it started with the older guys buying in, and then when you’ve had transfers who’ve had success, and they’re buying in, it makes it easier. They know what we’re about. We’re trying to make them better men and better football players.”
Butler, a senior, has been one of the most vocal players at practice for the Sharks. When a teammate makes a mistake, he isn’t afraid to let them know about it.
“They know it’s all love when it comes from me,” he said. “Every time, I’m going to get on them because the other team is going to get on them 10 times harder. I got to break them out of their comfort zone.
“We’ve got to bring the swagger back to Atlantic.”