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In the sport of football most players will tell you that there is no such things as a moral victory.

The reasoning is that each person on a team dedicates so much of their time each week to preparing for the game that anything other than a victory is unacceptable.

Basketball, soccer and baseball give a team an opportunity to make adjustments after a loss and implement those changes a couple of days later.

Football makes you wait an entire week before your next chance.

Every coach finds losing unacceptable. It leaves you with a week-long desire to fix something.

You can try different things in practice and game plan for the team you are about to face, but ultimately, you have no idea if you have succeeded until next week.

But while coaches never find solace in moral victories, they are generally thrilled at signs of improvement.

While it is almost certain that Owen head coach Nathan Padgett is not satisfied with last week's 42-20 loss to undefeated Mitchell, he is likely pleased with the improved play of the Warhorse defense.

The Mountaineers came into the Swannanoa Valley as the powerhouse of the Western Highlands Conference last Friday.

What they encountered was an Owen team that played much closer than the final score indicated.

The Warhorses forced the versatile Mitchell offense to punt on the opening drive as defensive players swarmed to the ball on every play.

Sure tackling, which had eluded Owen at times early in the year, spearheaded confidence on the defensive unit that eventually became momentum.

On the offensive side, Sidney Gibbs continued to run the ball hard. He eclipsed 1,000 yards on the season early in the first quarter and accounted for ever Warhorse touchdown.

Owen went into halftime down to Mitchell by only one touchdown.

Some mistakes on the offensive side of the ball put the game out of reach for the Warhorses in the fourth quarter, but Padgett's team showed clear signs of improvement.

Defensive end Dexter Andrews and outside linebacker Colby Maloney actively pursued the football all night and delivered punishing hits. Their aggressive play set the tone for the rest of the defense.

The Warhorses went into the fourth quarter down by eight, but Mitchell scored 14 unanswered points to finish the game.

Owen heads to Burnsville this week to take on Mountain Heritage.

The Cougars are coming off of a 26-25 home victory against Polk, which was preceded by a 48-44 loss to Hendersonville.

Sure tackling will likely be a top priority for the Warhorses again, as Mountain Heritage will rely on the legs of its sophomore quarterback and leading rusher Trey Robinson.

The conference match-up represents a big opportunity for the Warhorses, who proved to the rest of the Western Highlands that they are as competitive as any of their rivals.

While the Warhorses likely found no solace in losing a close game to Mitchell, Padgett and his coaching staff are seeing their foundation take shape at just the right time.

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