|photo by John Lembo|
"We're not 1-yard away."
It comes from the lips of head coach Dave Marino, and it refers to last season, when the Tigers were stopped at the goaline during the final play of the Class 5A state semifinal. Palmetto lost 35-27 to Miami Norland, which rolled to a state title a week later.
As glorious as last season was for the Tigers, who hadn't reached a final four since 1986, Marino spent the spring and summer telling his players they need to put it in past.
"We've got to go back to the beginning," said Marino, whose Tigers open the regular season tonight at Riverview and are ranked fifth in the state in Class 5A.. "What we did last year is in the past."
Marino wasn't happy with his team's perfromance during last week's 24-23 loss to Venice in a Kickoff Classic.
What he saw was a complacent team living off last year’s accomplishments.
“It’s what I was concerned about all through the preseason, and I addressed it with the team,” Marino said. “We have to be ready…You’ve got to get them to be focused and bring intensity and passion every day, or you will get beat. You’ll get beat by anybody if you don’t have that attitude.”
Since becoming the Tigers’ head coach prior to the 2010 season, Marino has talked openly about creating a program that competes for championships every year. He wants his Tigers mentioned in the same breath as tradition-rich Manatee and Southeast.
Consequently, Marino said the expectations are as high as they were last fall, even though the Tigers lost eight defensive starters from graduation. And he wants his guys to go out and prove Palmetto is the furthest thing from a one-year wonder, because Marino knows that’s what championship programs do.
“All that preseason hype, the No. 5 ranking in the state – that stuff doesn’t matter. We lost last week,” Marino said. “And we will continue to lose if we don’t come out with the right focus, attitude and intensity. That’s been the message. Yeah, we want to continue to be champions, but how? How do you stay at the top? How do you maintain a championship program? And it’s really no different than what got you there.”