Changing the culture around any team may be the toughest thing to accomplish in sports. It was a culture change that was needed in Ritchie County, and they got it from Mike Dawson.
"I expect us to work hard. I expect us to go out and compete every week. I expect us to put a product on the field that our fans and the people of Ritchie County can be proud of," Dawson said.
Before Head Coach Mike Dawson arrived in Ritchie County in 2010, there really wasn't any reason for people to come out and support the team. They just weren't very good. But over the last two years, the Rebels have gone to the postseason and recorded double-digit victories. Those days of finding an open seat are just about over.
"The community has given us incredible support. They feed us on Thursday nights and the stands are always packed. If it's a home game then everyone is coming out. Or if they can't make it then they're listening on the radio," Rebels senior lineman Austin Weekley said.
That support is a direct result of winning games. The Rebels will look to continue that trend with an air raid offense this year, featuring one of the best athletes in Class AA in Dylan Frye, along with senior quarterback Alex Lipscomb. But there's no such thing as individuals in Ellenboro. It's all about the team.
"This group is really starting to come together," Dawson said.
"How we've come together as a team," Weekley said.
"How hard everybody works and how much we've actually come together," Ritchie County senior quarterback Alex Lipscomb said.
"Out of all the four years I've been here, this is just the best we've ever come together and I think we're going to do a good job this year," Ritchie County senior Dylan Frye said.
"The support we get is amazing. It really is. Everybody comes together and we're all one big community. One team, one dream," Frye said.
The Rebels hope to carry that dream all the way to Wheeling Island Stadium at season's end.