Patrick Rovney and some of his teammates remember the scoreless stretches and humbling blowouts that defined the Desert Chapel High School football team's season two years ago.
Memories of that dreadful year have made what the Eagles now are on the brink of accomplishing even more gratifying. If they defeat Hope Centre Academy today, they will advance to the CIF Southern Section eight-man Division II championship game.
"We've all been there with each other," said Rovney, a senior tight end and linebacker.
Seven current Eagles, including Rovney, played on the 2010 team. All started at one point during the season. First-year coach Jim Donaldson was directing a young squad; only six of his 17 players were upperclassmen. After winning their opener, the Eagles lost eight consecutive games, getting outscored 444-82 in those losses.
In 2010, injuries ravaged the roster. The Eagles dressed only nine players against Joshua Springs, which went on to win the CIF Division II title. They trailed 42-0 after the first quarter, and the game was called with the Lightning leading 56-0 at halftime. It was the Eagles' fourth consecutive shutout loss.
"These guys have learned humility," Donaldson said. "They've learned what's it like to be on that side, so it puts in perspective when you're on the winning side."
Desert Chapel started its turnaround last year, finishing 6-4 and losing in the first round of the playoffs. Blessed with experience, depth and talent, the Eagles have flourished this season, earning the No. 2 overall seed in Division II. Their only losses were to Joshua Springs, the top seed in Division II, and Desert Christian Academy, the No. 1 seed in Division I.
"They had to work a lot for it," Donaldson said. "They had to go through the rough times and the good times, where some guys just inherit winning seasons."
In addition to Rovney, players who endured the forgettable campaign in 2010 include seniors Jerome Razon, Shayn Bell, Donald Hernandez and Isaac Plentl and juniors C.J. Harrison and Taylor West. All have played key roles as starters or valuable backups this year. The play of newcomers such as senior quarterback Dempsey Williamson and junior linebacker Roman Pellum also has boosted the Eagles.
The Eagles will have to rely on their depth today against Hope Centre. Pellum, a force on both sides of the ball, will miss the game because he was ejected from last week's second-round playoff game against Marywood-Palm Valley.
Regardless of today's result, the Eagles already have reestablished themselves as a force in eight-man football.
"It feels good to be back a part of the tradition here at Desert Chapel that we have of being a perennial playoff team," Donaldson said.