10:22 PM EST, December 9, 2012
Habits can be, well, habit-forming.
Depending on who you talk to, it takes anywhere between 10 and 21 days to turn something into a habit.
It’s all about mindset, training and will.
The Martinsburg football program has created and embraced a very strong, hypnotic kind of lifestyle.
It’s called winning state championships.
It is becoming a habitual habit, if there is such a thing.
For three straight years, the Bulldogs have been one of the top seeds in the West Virginia Class AAA playoffs and sliced through the competition like Ray Rice on a fourth-and-29 screen pass.
And for three straight years, the first Thursday of December, nestled between Thanksgiving and Christmas, has become a local holiday — complete with a feast of cake and a celebration of thanks to a team that continues to excel in big moments.
In this season of giving, the Bulldogs have made a habit of taking.
Taking bows, that is.
The latest curtain call came on Thursday, when a modest crowd turned out at Martinsburg High’s gym to congratulate the champions.
It was a three-peat. Usually, anything said three times in a row is considered stuttering.
This was stunning.
“This seems to be becoming an annual celebration at Martinsburg High School,” said principal Trent Sherman in his opening remarks.
Like homing pigeons, family, friends, fans and followers of the Bulldogs have been more than happy to make the yearly roost at the gym.
The first time was cool. The second time was great. The third time was a habit.
This third time had a stranger — maybe more fulfilling — feel to it.
The 2012 Bulldogs were missing all the big-name stars that led them to the first two championships, and they still managed to win the title rather easily.
“Last year, it was those seniors that got us the ring,” said one of this season’s seniors in a video reviewing the season that was shown during the ceremony. “This year, we got ours.”
“It was our chance … our turn,” said another.
The numbers and statistics these Bulldogs accumulated were amazing. They scored more than 51.5 points per game while allowing just 11 to their opponents.
In the process, these seniors did something the star-studded class before couldn’t.
They won three straight titles, completing a feat that last happened in West Virginia 42 years ago. And they did it with an overall record of 41-1.
Lost in the shuffle is the structure of the program that coach David Walker has built through his 16 seasons. Now he holds the state records for most games coached and won in the playoffs. He also tied some old friends and mentors in those record books.
But these three championships were the pinnacle of some forgotten days gone by.
Many questioned if Walker was the man to lead the Bulldogs when he first got there. He was 1-9 in his first season and 6-5 in his second.
Now, he owns a 162-38 record at Martinsburg.
That’s 155-24 — an .866 winning percentage — since those first two seasons. It includes seven trips to the state finals in the last 12 years.
And Martinsburg is getting rather used to all the success. In fact, they want — and expect — more.
“I see no reason why not,” said Walker to the crowd, referring to the possibility of a fourth straight title. “… I want to meet you guys here again next year.”
It could be a date, provided the Bulldogs stay the course and remain healthy.
So, if it takes 10 to 21 days to make a habit, what do you call something that has been a 16-year climb up Mount Excellence, culminating by reaching the peak for the last three years?
Perhaps, habit is an understatement. It’s time to start consider other terms.
Like maybe tradition … or dynasty.
The truth is that Martinsburg football is a well-oiled, hugely productive machine running in championship overdrive. Outside of maybe Walker — and his staff — it’s not a product of one cog.
The framework is there and the pieces are interchangeable. The Bulldogs’ success is a sum of all the parts.
That will make championship football a hard habit to break at Martinsburg.
Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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