It's been close to a decade since the Freedom Area High School football team experienced a winning season -- Tim Dubovi wants to put an end to the losing.
Hired as the Bulldogs new football coach in February, Dubovi understands that task won't be easy, but he also hopes the program can gradually make a transition into becoming recognized as another elite team in Beaver County.
"I know the program hasn't had a winning season in about 10 years [actually nine, Freedom went 6-4 in 2004] and it's been 36 years since it won a conference championship," Dubovi said. "The toughest challenge is going to build this program back up and bring the losing to a halt.
"We want that big pendulum to swing the other way and bring a winning tradition here."
A resident of New Sewickley Township, Dubovi played football at Leechburg High School and Lock Haven University. After he graduated from Lock Haven in the mid-1980s, Dubovi started his 14-year coaching career with his college alma mater and went on to serve as an assistant high school football coach at both Mars Area and Seneca Valley.
"I am very excited about this opportunity and expect big things from our kids," said Dubovi, who is a teacher in the Seneca Valley School District. "We play in a very tough conference [Midwestern Athletic], probably one of the toughest Class AA conferences in the WPIAL.
"I know we're going to have our work cut out for us. We're just going to take it one game at a time and see how it goes."
Dubovi replaces Frank Hernandez, who coached Freedom to a 5-24 record in three seasons before resigning after last season to become an assistant principal at the high school.
Last season, the Bulldogs went 3-4 in the Midwestern Athletic Conference and tied for fourth with New Brighton in the eight-team conference. The Bulldogs earned a WPIAL playoff berth by virtue of winning the tie-breaker against New Brighton and finished its campaign with a 4-6 overall record after losing to South Fayette in the first round of the playoffs.
"I'd like to see us build a winning tradition here," Dubovi said. "We have a lot of good student-athletes here. We just have to get them out for football -- but that's a battle most teams have to deal with nowadays."
Freedom's last winning season was in 2004 when the Bulldogs went 4-3 in the MAC and posted a 6-4 overall record after losing to Burrell during the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
In 2003, Freedom finished 9-3 and won two WPIAL playoff games before losing to conference-powerhouse Aliquippa in the Class AA semifinals.
"The whole conference is loaded," Dubovi said. "We'll have to buckle up and not turn the ball over. We're going to depend on holding onto the ball and playing great team defense in order to stay in games.
"We also can't look past anyone or believe we can't beat someone. The goal is to win every game."
Running back Kahlil Caracter will likely be one of Dubovi's top returning starters. As a junior, Caracter led Freedom in scoring with 16 touchdowns and rushed for more than 700 yards.
"We have a lot of young talent coming in," Dubovi said. "We have some freshmen who will likely see playing time immediately, especially special teams-wise. We also have some good senior and junior leadership, and I'm excited to see them be leaders."
As offseason workout sessions continue, Dubovi plans on focusing on one aspect before he starts worrying about specific game plans and execution.
"What we're working on right now is teamwork," Dubovi said. "I want everyone on the same page and working together. We need everyone to focus not so much on individual work but on working together as a team.
"We're looking to turn these kids into respectful young men who respect their parents, their teachers and the people in the community. My biggest goal is to make sure we have a team full of successful and respectful young men."