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Mahaffey takes reins as Landrum football coach

He was deep into his 15th year as the track coach and had two teams primed for success at the state level.

And if that wasn&squo;t enough, now he had to get ready for football spring practice.

His life was definitely taking a busy turn.

But it&squo;s a turn that he welcomed with open arms and that casual smile Mahaffey seems to always sport.

&dquo;I felt blessed to be named the new head coach,&dquo; he said as his son slid out of his lap. &dquo;It was an exciting spring.&dquo;

When the dust settled, his Cardinal track teams both finished in the top five at the state finals.

And now as the first football game of the season approaches, Mahaffey is primed for the first football season in his career where he will be the main man walking the sidelines.

The Cardinals will kickoff their football season Friday night at home against West Oak.

But Mahaffey&squo;s education of the team began last spring when the flowers were blooming and a raging drought wasn&squo;t looming.

During the spring and summer, the team T-shirts worn by each of the players carried the first thumbprint that Mahaffey wanted to place on this team.

&dquo;Attitude.&dquo;

&dquo;It doesn&squo;t matter who you are, where you come from or where you&squo;ve finished in the past,&dquo; Mahaffey said. &dquo;It&squo;s all about attitude. That&squo;s something you can control.&dquo;

The Landrum men&squo;s track team graduated eight athletes the year before.

People outside the team were throwing out the word – rebuilding.

That word, however, was never mentioned by Mahaffey.

The team&squo;s goal was the same as always. It was to win a state championship. And that team got close with a top three finish.

That&squo;s the attitude that he wants to bring to the Cardinal football team.

While outsiders may be thinking this is a rebuilding year, the word hasn&squo;t crossed Mahaffey&squo;s mind and he&squo;s not conveying that to his team.

What Mahaffey sees is a lot of athletic talent on both sides of the ball and a big time competition for the quarterback spot with Taylor Pate and Brandon Cannon, with David Hefner in the mix as well.

According to Mahaffey, you may never be the biggest, fastest or strongest, but the one thing that you can control is your attitude.

And attitude and heart can carry a team a long way. A prime example of that was Appalachian State&squo;s win over Michigan last season.

So with one word, Mahaffey is hoping to inspire a season that will give his team a winning attitude.

&dquo;If you got the attitude of a champion, you&squo;ll the develop the heart of a champion and you&squo;ll develop the tongue of a champion,&dquo; Mahaffey said. &dquo;I figure you got to start somewhere and that&squo;s as good a place as any.&dquo;

The man and his smile

Anytime you talk or see Mahaffey, there&squo;s always the smile.

&dquo;Mr. Positive&dquo; might be a good moniker for the alwasy pleasant Mahaffey. Sure…there are those moments in a game where even the happiest of coaches can get upset, but don&squo;t expect Mahaffey to find his way to the locker rooms on a Friday night anytime soon.

With Mahaffey, it&squo;s more about a dose of kindness.

And it&squo;s the same strategy with the players, Mahaffey said.

&dquo;I&squo;m going to always be positive,&dquo; he said. &dquo;I&squo;m always going to lift our players up.&dquo;

One thing that has helped the Cardinals&squo; transition under Mahaffey is the relationship was already there.

Mahaffey has coached with the football team for the last 15 years. That kept a comfortable relationship with the rising seniors and leaders on the team, helping a long what is sometimes a situation that requires time to mesh.

But that was not the case with the Cardinals.

&dquo;It was pretty helpful that we knew him already,&dquo; senior leader and linebacker Kendall Cash said. &dquo;I think we&squo;ve repsonded real well because of that.&dquo;

And one thing that Mahaffey is counting on as the Cardinals take the field every Friday night is that a higher power will be on their side. &dquo;I pray for this team and always have,&dquo; he said.

The question, however, is what will be rolling through Mahaffey&squo;s mind as he walks out on the sidelines tonight as the head coach for a team that he loves.

&dquo;I&squo;m sure I&squo;ll be nervous, but I&squo;ll be excited,&dquo; he said. &dquo;I&squo;ve always wanted to be a head coach. I just think it was a blessing that I became head coach here and could live out a dream.&dquo;

Mahaffey and the Cardinals will host West Oak tonight at 7:30 p.m.