BY DARREN REESE
Winning may not cure everything, but for the Tusculum football team, it was just what the doctor ordered.
The Pioneers were coming off back-to-back losses and staring 0-3 head on as a solid North Greenville squad was driving to take a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter Saturday night.
But then, the Pioneers started doing something they hadn't done in the first two games - they started making plays.
Johnathan Wimberly forced a fumble to halt the Crusaders in their tracks. Tusculum answered with 14 unanswered points to take a 14-7 lead and all the momentum into halftime.
The game-changing plays continued for the Pioneers down the stretch. When they needed a big pass, Bo Cordell made it. When they needed a return or a run to flip field position, Brian Marshall was the man. Evan Dansby stopped one North Greenville drive by forcing a fumble. LiRonta Archie did the same with an interception.
"I saw them do some things that I didn't see in those first two games," Tusculum head coach Frankie DeBusk said. "We really grew up as a football team tonight."
In short, it took two losses, but the Pioneers learned how to win in the process.
DeBusk entered the season having to replace several key starters. Tusculum traveled a total of 1600 miles in road trips to Urbana and West Georgia to open the season. The results: double-digit deficits for the Pioneers before they could even get comfortable at either place.
But you can't say DeBusk's troops aren't good learners. Saturday night, when they faced early-game adversities for the third straight week, they answered the bell.
"I was really proud of the way we responded when our backs were against the wall," the coach said. "Being an 0-2 football team, we could have turned it off and laid down. But we kept finding ways to make plays and win a football game."
And now, for the first time this season, the Pioneers have momentum on their side as the prepare to make the long trek to Catawba to open SAC play this Saturday.
"I don't know that anyone understands just how big of a win this really was," DeBusk said. "Being 0-2, and then getting ready to play a good Catawba team, we needed something good to happen to us."
"Finding a way to win is important. Finding a way to win the way we found ways to win is even more important."