More often than not, the journey is remembered more than arriving at the destination.
That was especially true for the Key West High football team over the course of the 2011 season.
The Conchs, who wrapped up their fall campaign with a homecoming win over visiting Champagnat on Thursday night, went through more than their share of twists and turns over the past three months.
"This is one of the most complex seasons I've ever had in 40-plus years -- in more ways than one," Key West coach Jerry Hughes said this week. "It was a very overwhelming season, but we survived it."
The season started off on a down note when Pompano Beach canceled its trip down to Key West at the last minute before the teams' scheduled preseason classic. That left the Conchs with an early open date, which would turn out to be a theme for the season. The team already had two scheduled open dates, but that number doubled when another team, Hialeah Gardens, backed out of a home game against the Conchs, taking away a potential warmup before Key West opened District 16-5A play at Miami Jackson.
On the field, things were just as frustrating at times for the Conchs.
Key West finally opened the season with a 17-14 double-overtime loss to Miami High, a game that included a blocked field goal attempt in overtime and four turnovers, and would later lose at home to American High, 13-12, after missing two field goals and an extra point and coming up short on a 2-point try in the final seconds.
Those weren't the only missed opportunities, however.
In the district opener against Jackson, which basically amounted to a play-in game for the state playoffs, Key West gave up an easy touchdown early while caught off-guard, but still trailed just 14-7 going into the fourth quarter. Mistakes and turnovers eventually led to a 35-7 loss.
Part of the team's inability to ever get into a rhythm on offense over the season was due to constant shuffling along the offensive line, which came into the season with little experience and was then hampered by injuries.
"We were fooling around with the offensive line and changing things up on the line so much," Hughes said. "If I had a chance to go back and do it again, I'd probably do things differently, but we never got any continuity with our linemen."
Despite what it might've lacked, the season did provide the opportunity for several younger players to step up and gain experience before being counted on to make plays next year. Junior Donald Roberts, who took over at quarterback three weeks into the season, was among the players who will be expected to lead the team in 2012. Other contributing players this year who will likely be relied upon next year include sophomore tailback Deonte Stemage, sophomore tight end Anthony Rice, freshman defensive back Lawrence Marius, sophomore defensive back Jack Gruba and freshman offensive lineman Caleb Holly.
Hughes said he is expecting big things next year from Roberts, in particular.
"I think the experience that he got this year is really going to pay off for him next year, but he's going to have to take care of business in the offseason," the coach said. "He needs a lot of work. He needs foot-speed drills. He's going out for basketball, so I think that will help. He'll be impressive next year, I think."
Hughes, who said he intends to coach the Conchs next year "unless something drastically changes," doesn't expect the road to be any easier in 2012. Key West drew the misfortune of being matched up in a district this year with a couple of state powers in Jackson and Norland. The team's only option, if it chooses to relocate to a new district next year, is to drop down to 4A and join three more state powers in Booker T. Washington, Gulliver Prep and Monsignor Pace, along with Doral, Immaculata-LaSalle and Miami Edison.
"We didn't pursue dropping (this past year) because we thought our chances were better to win one game," Hughes said. "The only good thing (about dropping) would be more teams in the district and being able to schedule games."
Assistant Sports Editor Willis Jacobson's Gettin' the 'W' column appears exclusively each Friday in The Citizen. He can be reached at 305-292-7777, Ext. 223, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.