Conway High coach Clint Ashcraft hopes his Wampus Cats are like Spanish conquistadors this season.
The Wampus Cat seniors are pictured on the program in a mock Spanish sailing ship.
The team motto this year is “Burn The Ships!”
Ashcraft, a history teacher, gave the Conway Kiwanis Club this week a lesson on the background of that theme.
Explorer Hernan Cortez and his army arrived in Veracruz, Mexico, with 600 men in 11 ships to begin the Spanish conquest of much of the Americas.
Upon landing, Cortez instructed his generals to burn the ships, all of them.
“He told his men that if we go home, the only way we go home is in their ships,” Ashcraft said. “There is no leaving. You’re either all in or you die.”
Ashcraft quickly qualified the mandate.
“Now, we’re not talking about life or death here, but our kids have really bought into it.
“There’s no way out. You’ve got to be all in and that’s what our players want to be. There’s no turning back.”
The Cats have won their share of games during Ashcraft’s four-year stint as a head coach. They’ve won or shared two 7A/6A Central titles. But they have never gotten past the second round of the state playoffs.
To take the next step, Ashcraft and his staff were looking for a way to tweak the mentality.
The Cortez lesson is retreat is a lot easier when there is an option to do so.
The “Burn The Ships” motto is in all the tweets and communication between Ashcraft his players.
Ashcraft has 35 seniors and 34 juniors on the varsity. He has 16 starters returning who have learned their share of lessons the last couple of years.
The Cats scrimmage top-ranked North Little Rock on Tuesday night at John McConnell Stadium.
They’ll discover how sturdy their ship is before they try to light the torch during the regular season.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dmaclcd)