In this 2008 file photo, Meadowcreek head coach Terrone Owens hugs Maleek Allen after the team’s first win in 44 attempts.
Five years, one month, six days.
That’s how long it’s been since Meadowcreek High School’s varsity football team won a game.
While none of the current Mustangs players have experienced a victory, those players and coaches who were around during Meadowcreek’s 24-14 win over Duluth on Sept. 18, 2008 remember that feeling well.
It’s one the current Mustangs (0-5, 0-3) hope to experience when they welcome Habersham Central (0-6, 0-4) to Meadowcreek Community Stadium Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The emotions from that win, which ended a 43-game losing streak, could easily be seen on the front page of the Daily Post the next morning on the face of then-head coach Terrone Owens, who was photographed with tears in his eyes embracing Mustangs’ Maleek Allen.
It was a feeling none of those players and coaches who played a role in that last victory will ever forget.
“That picture in the paper with all the kids running to me said it all,” said Owens, now the offensive coordinator at Riverdale High School in Clayton County. “We all started crying and saying to each other, ‘We did it.’ That’s all we could think about — it was finally over.
“I’ve been a part of region championship teams. Last year, we went to the (state) playoffs (while at Langston Hughes). But that win right there will always have a special place in my heart. I still keep in touch with a lot of the kids from that (Meadowcreek) team. It was a good group of kids, and they deserved (to win).”
Throughout the Mustangs’ next 53 contests — all losses — following that memorable night five years ago, only twice have they come as close to a win as single digits, and the margin has been as close as 19 points or less just six times.
So, what reason is there to believe Friday may finally be night for the Mustangs finally get to experience the thrill of victory for the first time since then?
Aside from the fact that hope springs eternal, there are other signs that could be pointing in Meadowcreek’s direction, and they’re signs that are somewhat similar to those that were present prior to the Mustangs’ last win.
For one thing, Meadowcreek’s players already know they’re capable of winning, having beaten McNair in their preseason scrimmage — a feat the 2008 Mustangs also accomplished by beating Mt. Zion-Jonesboro before the regular season started.
In addition, tonight’s opponent, Habersham Central, is also winless, and the Raiders are undergoing a relatively prolonged stretch of struggles, having one just once — last year’s 31-12 win over Meadowcreek — in their last 17 games.
It was similar to the sense the Mustangs got in the week leading up to the Duluth game five years ago, as the Wildcats were going through almost identical struggles in which they won just six games — half of those wins coming against Meadowcreek — between 2004 and 2009.
“The build-up was one of those weeks where we knew we might be able to get this one,” said then-Meadowcreek quarterback Sean Frezell, who now works for a loan company in Omaha, Neb. “But during the game, we didn’t really pay too much attention to it. We played it just like a normal game.”
But it wasn’t what had become a routine game for the Mustangs.
Frezell threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns that night — one score each to Cory Huck and Dedric Shipman — but it was when the defense stepped up to hold Duluth scoreless in the second half that the realization that the Mustangs’ long losing streak was about to come to an end.
Still, it seemed a little strange when Owens ordered Frezell and the offense to go into “victory formation” to run off the final seconds.
“We actually put extra time (on the victory formation) in practice that week — more than we ever had before,” Owens recalled. “We just wanted to make sure everyone lined up correctly and was on the same page just in case (the formation got to be used).”
And as emotional as the ensuing celebration was, it didn’t end that night.
Frezell said the positive energy from the victory could be felt at school and practice throughout the following week.
“Just seeing all the people so overly excited was amazing,” Frezell said. “I was one of the main (players) getting interviews. So for me, it was kind of whirlwind-ish. But you could feel it in school the whole next week. I even remember one of the teachers had made up football-shaped doughnuts for one of my classes on Monday.”
Unfortunately for the Mustangs, the euphoria was short-lived.
Though they came close to a second win later in the season, dropping a 10-7 decision to neighborhood rival Berkmar, they weren’t able to duplicate that feeling only a victory can provide.
And if Frezell has a word of advice for the current Mustangs, it is that should they manage to get the elusive win Friday or some other week this season, they shouldn’t think of it as the end game.
“I know that it’s a good feeling to get one win,” Frezell said. “But it’s almost that it’s expected at (Meadowcreek) that if we win one, to be satisfied. You don’t want to think of it like that.
“For them, they’d need to just take what it feels like to win one game, and then build off it.”
But first, the Mustangs have to win once, and if they aren’t already confident they can get the job done, Owens has a further word of encouragement.
“The biggest thing is to never stop believing,” Owens said. “There are always going to be people outside that field house who believe that you can’t do it. But there’s no reason you can’t. Everyone in that field house has to believe you can do it.”
Habersham Central Raiders (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: Michael Pollock
Record: 0-6, 0-4 region
Last week: Lost to Norcross 49-3
Meadowcreek Mustangs (7-AAAAAA)
Coach: George Pugh
Record: 0-5, 0-3 region
Last week: Lost to Mill Creek 47-0
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Last meeting: Habersham Central won 31-12 last year
Directions to Meadowcreek High School: From I-85, go east on Beaver Ruin Road to Steve Reynolds Boulevard and turn right. School is on the right.