TRINITY — Heath Saint didn't hold back his enthusiasm as he walked through West Morgan High's locker room.
Practice time had arrived, and Saint was in his element.
Fiery, intense and energetic. West Morgan High's new football coach is a worker with a no-nonsense attitude.
The same qualities are expected from his team.
"We're trying to create a certain culture," Saint said. "Discipline and accountability are expected. Show up every day willing to outwork your opponent. If you can't do that, then you can't play football here."
So far, so good.
Graduation and attrition have sliced deeply into West Morgan's roster. The Rebels opened fall practice with 27 players.
But the remaining players? A united front has been formed., and they have bought into Saint's vision for the program.
"Our coaches are working us to death," fullback Joseph Clem said. "We've been pushed hard. It's been intense, but that's a good thing. Everyone here at practice, you know they want to be here, and they're all willing to do what it takes to make us better."
West Morgan hasn't made a playoff appearance since 2008 — a lengthy drought for a program that was once a postseason mainstay.
Rebuilding proud programs isn't new territory for Saint.
As an offensive coordinator for Scott Basden, Saint helped return Cordova to state prominence. He was on staff when the Red Devils won the 2007 Class 3A title, and was part of three teams that reached the state championship game.
Saint helped Dusty Goode orchestrate a similar turnaround last fall at Dora. After going 3-7 in 2010, the Bulldogs finished with a 9-3 record in 2011 and reached the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.
"I learned a lot from those experiences," Saint said. "The biggest thing is how hard work can overcome anything. When we were at Cordova, people would laugh at us when they saw us coming out on the field. They weren't laughing when the game was over, though.
"We've got to have that same tough, hard-nosed mentality here if we're going to be successful."
Saint's blueprint for success is simple:
Run the football. Run it some more. Only put the ball in the air if absolutely necessary.
"Running the football and being physical. That's all I know," Saint said. "We're going to run the ball right at teams. We've got hard-nosed kids here, and they can be successful playing this type of football."
West Morgan begins this rebuilding process with new faces all over the field. The Rebels return only four starters.
Some potential playmakers are already emerging.
Saint said tailback Demetrius Warren has the potential to be a big-play threat, and that Clem is a guy who embodies the hard-nosed identity that he wants the Rebels to carry onto the field.
"We can win now," Saint said. "Yeah, we're going to have young guys all over the field. We're probably going to have an eighth-grader start at linebacker. That's just the way it is. But if you outwork your opponents, anything is possible. I've seen it before."
Clem said he believes this could be a turnaround season for the Rebels.
"Everybody is showing up and giving all they've got," he said. "If you aren't outworking everybody, you could have all the talent in the world and not accomplish anything. We're working hard so we can get back to the playoffs. That's the goal, and I think we can make it happen."
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