Wildwood coach Ken Loomis not losing faith

Wildwood High School football coach Ken Loomis addresses his team before practice Tuesday at Maxwell Field. The Warriors are in the midst of a 40-game losing streak.

Wildwood High School football coach Ken Loomis has heard the whispers.

The Warriors suffered their 40th straight defeat Oct. 5, losing 55-0 to Gloucester City. It is the longest current losing streak in the state and the most consecutive losses by a local team ever, surpassing the 35-game slump by Pleasantville from 2009-13.

Wildwood hasn’t won in five years, since beating the Greyhounds 22-6 in a state consolation game in 2014.

Even more troubling has been the huge scoring discrepancies in recent games. In their last 13 contests, the Warriors have been outscored by a combined 544-22, including 178-6 this season.

As the losses mount, so does the frustration from certain segments of the community. There is a faction on the island that wants the school to drop football.

Despite the disappointing results, however, the Warriors aren’t ready to hang up their helmets.

“Not gonna happen,” Loomis said Tuesday. “That’s not who we are. This game is about more than wins and losses. We’re trying to mold boys into young men.”

While the scoreboard hasn’t reflected it, Loomis and his staff maintain that they have seen enough progress to suggest better days are ahead.

For one, there are more players this year than at any time since Loomis took over as coach prior to the 2016 season. Although there were only 19 players at Tuesday’s practice at Maxwell Field, they usually have 22-25 in uniform for games.

Wildwood’s junior program has also been restarted, which means players will be coming to the high school with football experience.

And with a football mentality.

“That’s important,” Loomis said. “When you get kids who have never played before, you have to spend time teaching them football terminology and lingo, not to mention they have to learn to play with that aggressiveness.”

There is one important lesson that cannot be taught in practice.

Strange as it seems, the Warriors have to learn how to win.

They have been close in some games this season. They trailed Clayton 8-0 and Riverside 12-6 at halftime.

A lack of confidence and execution proved costly. Clayton won 46-0 and Riverside prevailed 36-6.

“As coaches, we believe in them,” Loomis said. “But sometimes they don’t believe in themselves.”

The defeats can make for some tough school days.

As the losing streak grows, players have been forced to endure their share of ribbing from classmates.

“Yeah, I hear stuff once in a while, but I don’t let it get to me,” Warriors sophomore quarterback Ernie Troiano said. “I know how hard we work out here. If anything, it makes us hungrier to get that first win.”

It may not happen this season.

After facing Haddon Township (4-1) Oct. 11, the Warriors will take on rival Lower Cape May Regional (1-4), Robbinsville (5-0), Maple Shade (3-2) and Pitman (1-2).

Their best chance to get a win this season is probably against Pitman (1-2) in their final regular-season game on Nov. 8.

“That’s a game we circled on our calendar before the season,” Loomis said.

Wildwood need only to look at Pleasantville, the last team it beat, for evidence that a turnaround is possible.

The Greyhounds were a struggling program as recently as 2016, but are 19-7 in their last 26 games and are coming off a big, 18-6 victory over Cedar Creek last week that established them as contenders in the upcoming state playoffs.

Wildwood has shown the ability to be competitive. The Warriors went 6-4 in 2012 and made the South Jersey Group I playoffs behind coach Rich Hans and senior running back Wes Hills.

This season’s team has more modest goals.

None of the current players has ever experienced the thrill of victory. Just once, they’d like to see their hard work pay off with a win.

Maybe then the whispers will go away.

David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.

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