The Patriots had their fifth consecutive losing season come to a close eight days ago.

In any ordinary year, a first-round sectional loss and a 3-7 season is nothing to gloat about.

Considering what the Jay County High School football team has endured over the last three seasons, there are still a handful of positives to come out of yet another ugly record.

Coach Grant Zgunda, although he sometimes showed his frustration on the sideline during games, was able to turn a winless team into a much-improved squad from a year ago in his first season with the group.

He isn’t afraid to admit he wishes he had more time to work with them, instill more in terms of the offense and just generally build an even better rapport than what he was able to do in such a short amount of time.

Even after the 49-0 sectional loss to Mississinewa on Oct. 22, Zgunda — he was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame earlier this year — said he was proud of what his players were able to do.

Say what you want about the wins against Blackford and Southern Wells, teams with a combined 1-18 record this season. Jay County’s other win, the 40-27 victory over Bluffton on homecoming, was perhaps the program’s biggest since topping South Adams 15-14 in 2018.

(Yes, the 46-21 win over Heritage in 2019 to end the potential for a winless season was big for the program, but it pales in comparison to topping the Class 2A No. 8 Starfires three years ago.)

Then there’s senior Quinn Faulkner. The three-sport athlete had an all-around career night in the win against Bluffton.

Faulkner ran for 253 yards — the second-most in the 47-year history of the program — and scored five touchdowns. He came up with a big defensive stop that same game, and moments later ran for a first down to seal the win.

Two games later, he was in position to make more history for the Patriots. Unfortunately that’s when things took a turn for the worse.

Against Lapel on Oct. 8, he had negative-2 yards on just two carries as he was one of three Jay County starters to exit the game in the first quarter with injuries.

A week later, Faulkner played through his right ankle injury and was on the cusp of eclipsing 1,000 rushing yards in a season, the first Patriot to do so in five years.

With a 13-yard run in the third quarter, Faulkner had reached 1,001 yards. And as this columnist was tweeting the feat from the sideline, Faulkner was brought down in the backfield for a 3-yard loss, aggravated his already injured ankle and did not play the rest of the night.

The kid showed some toughness, once again fighting through the pain a week later, and rushed for a hard-earned 39 yards in the loss to Ole Miss.

For the year, Faulkner had 1,037 yards, becoming the team’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Cole Stigleman had 1,047 in 2016.

Zgunda summed up Faulkner’s performance eloquently after the season-ending loss.

“He’s had a great season,” he said. “I knew watching last year’s film there was something about him. His explosiveness — he has the ability to go from second to fourth gear real quick and that’s not something you can coach or teach.

“I was excited to coach him. When we could get him out in the open this year he’s as good as anybody.”

Faulkner was one of a dozen seniors who endured the 1-9 season in 2019, and the program’s first winless season (0-9) during 2020.

But they’ve also helped do something that hasn’t been done around the county in a while — create a buzz around the football program.

It’s been written in this column before, the home bleachers at Harold E. Schutz Stadium for each of the team’s home games this year had fewer empty seats than previous seasons. It was a sight to behold given the disappointment of the last two years.

A lot of that has to do with the man leading the team out of the locker room and calling the plays on the sideline. But it also rests on the 40 kids who suited up — they had crisp, new uniforms and with a new helmet logo — for 10 weeks and did what they could in hopes of turning the program around.

“It would have been nice to get a couple more wins but it’s the foundation of something,” Zgunda said. “You guys are going to be that foundation of which what comes after is built.”

Any coach worth his paycheck knows football games are not won from August through October. They’re won from the day the season ends through the following August when the next season starts. Games are won in the weight room.

“We have a new weight room and we have to get everybody in there and we have to hit it hard,” Zgunda said.

For this team, a three-win season is good enough. The idea, though, is to build the program.

So, boys. It’s time to hit the weights.