Don't feel sorry for Paul Laurence Dunbar's football program as it tries to escape the clutches of futility.
Don't pity the Bulldogs for posting 1-10 records three of the past four seasons, going 10-56 over the last six years, and losing 17 consecutive games to city competition.
Instead, let Emory Thompson's bright smile and upbeat outlook convince you that better days are ahead for the Bulldogs.
"I'm very confident in the coaching staff and the players we have, and that we can turn things around," said Thompson, a junior quarterback/defensive back.
"It's important for me to remember those 1-10 years because, sadly, you don't know what winning feels like if losing doesn't hurt so bad.
"We've gotta use it as motivation."
Coach Derrick Thomas is also taking an optimistic approach. He didn't take the Dunbar reins until June of last year, and when the season began last summer "the kids were still trying to figure me out, and I was still trying to figure them out.
"Now that I've had a whole year to work with them, they're grasping my philosophy and my system. They've also gotten stronger and faster. I'm anxious to see how they perform."
Thompson, who was Dunbar's top receiver last year (24 catches, 334 yards, three touchdowns), is one of several skill players who Thomas hopes can spark the offense.
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior who took a few snaps as backup quarterback last year, will rely mainly on his quickness and elusiveness as a runner while trying to improve as a passer.
"We'll really try to use his feet," Thomas said. "He's a fast learner and has great leadership skills. We'll mold the system to his strengths."
Antwan Williams will bring quickness to running back, while Darien Hardaway and Jackson Armstrong will lend power. "They're not big bruisers, but they're solid and big enough to get tough yards," Thomas said.
Cameron Pergram had 17 catches for 199 yards at tight end last year. J'Maurion Dunn is another big target at that position. Brandyn Duncan returns at wide receiver where he had 17 catches for 155 yards last season.
Blake Gilbert, a 6-3, 315-pound junior, will anchor the offensive line. Also providing protection will be Mike Graehler, Jauhquan Harris, Keenan Holleran and Will Thurmond.
Thomas, whose specialty is defense, said he expects the Bulldogs to be much better on that side of the ball. "I look for the defense to improve by leaps and bounds."
Leading the attack will be Andre Jones, a 6-2, 205-pound senior linebacker.
"I expect him to shine, and really be a defensive leader," Thomas said.
Ryan Lippert and Pergram will also play linebacker. Logan Hill will be at safety.
Thompson, Duncan, Hardaway, Williams and Pergram will also use their athleticism on defense. Gilbert, Graehler, Harris, Holleran and Thurmond are expected to be two-way linemen.
Thomas is stressing to his players that they need to focus on improving one practice at a time, and to put teamwork first.
"We don't have that one player who can take us to the promised land." Thomas said. "So we have to win by committee, and I think we have enough on that committee to get the job done."
Jones thinks the Bulldogs are getting the message.
"I see the fire these players have," he said. "They want to win and to have fun doing it, and I want to be one of the guys leading the way."
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com