Last October was a brutal one for the Seminole County football team as well as all of Donalsonville and the surrounding area.
The powerful force of Hurricane Michael left devastation in the area and forced the Indian football team to scramble to finish out the season, working around the fallen trees and damaged homes and buildings, including the school’s football field.
The Indians had started off 4-2, including 4-1 in Region 1-A play, when the Category 5 hurricane plowed through the area. Facing the heart of the schedule, they had to play the last five games on the road and lost four. Included was a three-game stretch over eight days.
Despite the tough situation, the Indians did earn a state playoff berth, the program’s first since 2013.
Now, nearly 10 months removed from the hurricane and those rough days, Seminole County’s football team is focusing on the 2019 season.
New head coach Trey Woolf, who takes over after spending last year at Daleville in Alabama, feels Indian players can draw on that experience when dealing with tough circumstances during this football season.
“I think they should,” Woolf said. “They went through a lot of adversity last year. They were out of school for 20 days. I have mentioned that to them a few times – remember what you did last year and what you fought through last year, you go through a practice or go through this.”
Though working in Daleville, Woolf knows all about the hurricane and what it did as he lived in nearby Blakely, which also received substantial damage, though not to the degree as Donalsonville.
He has a lot of respect for the people, the players and coaches, including head coach Wes Williams, at Seminole County for what they endured and how they handled it.
“I think these guys are really resilient,” Woolf said. “Coach Williams and the staff did a great job of keeping them together last year. It was amazing what they did. I don’t think they have had a home game here since end of September.
“The community, I don’t think they have completely recovered, but from the outside looking in they did a great job of sticking together and helping each other.”
While the Indians had to hit the road at the end of last year, they will see the friendly confines of home most of this season. After short road trips to Bainbridge and Calhoun County in the first three weeks, they have seven home games in the last eight weeks.
A young, inexperienced team fills the Indian roster, which lost a heavy senior class from last year. Only three starters return on offense and four on defense, but some senior lineman will help lead the way.
“We are still searching in some spots,” Woolf said. “We have some senior linemen. Dendric Peterson is a returning lineman. Cooper Bell is hurt right now, but he is a returning lineman. Lee Martin is a returning senior lineman. We are looking at those senior guys to lead us. Jeremiah Sims is back at defensive back and running back, but he is the only returning senior at a skill position.”
The backfield was hit hard by graduation, including at quarterback. Woolf said sophomore Nick Cull and freshman Boris Melton are battling for the QB position.
Though he didn’t start, Sims returns with a lot of playing time at running back as does Stacy Butler, a junior. Tyrell Rainey, a sophomore, is also expected to work in the backfield.
The line up front will be anchored by the three seniors – Bell (6-2, 270), Martin (6-0, 260) and Peterson (6-1, 270). Clay Towns, a junior, and Jamarvion Jones are other projected line starters.
Aiden Sherrer, a junior, and Barry Adams, a senior, are expected to highlight the wide receivers.
Bell, Martin and Peterson will also anchor the defensive line. Sims and senior Jose Alvarez (5-8, 170) return as linebacker starters with Rainey back as a safety starter.
Butler and Boris Wilson (Fr., 5-9, 160) are other players expected to contribute as linebackers.
Brayson Reynolds returns to handle Seminole County’s kicking duties. A year ago, he hit a 32-yard field goal in a win over Randolph-Clay. He will also handle the punting this season.
As the season approaches, Woolf admits to feeling a little behind after he took the job following the spring.
“I feel like we are a month behind by not being here for spring,” Woolf said. “We had to start installing in June which we should have had installed in the spring. We are behind, but we have to keep plugging. We have time to get there and they are getting better.”
While region play dominates the schedule – nine of the 10 games are region counters – Woolf feels the Indians can do enough to earn a playoff spot for the second straight year.
“I don’t think there is any doubt there is a possibility we can do that,” Woolf said. “That is what we are hoping to do. What we have to do is get to the point where we are not just getting in, but moving in the playoffs, getting to the second round and third round.”
For Woolf, the opportunity to coach at Seminole County brings him back full circle. He had a two-year stint at the school after graduating from college before moving on to a long tenure at Early County, including 16 years as a head coach.
“I enjoyed my time over in Daleville,” said Woolf, who was traveling an hour and a half every day from Blakely to Daleville last year. “The kids were great. It was just a situation that popped up as these guys were interested in me and it just worked out. I thought it was best for me and my family. I just got a chance to get back closer to home.”
INDIANS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Trey Woolf (1st year at Seminole County; 18th as a head coach, 111-80-3)
>> 2018 record: 5-6 overall, 5-4 in Georgia Region 1-A
>> 2018 results: at Bainbridge (L, 0-35); Calhoun County # (W, 7-6); at Baconton Charter # (W, 30-14); Stewart County # (W, 45-6); at Chattahoochee County # (L, 13-22); Terrell County # (W, 22-14); at Randolph-Clay # (W, 71-8); vs. Mitchell County (played in Albany) # (L, 6-28); at Pelham # (L, 19-63); at Miller County # (L, 7-29). STATE PLAYOFFS: at Commerce (L, 6-42)
>> Points scored/per game: 226/20.5
>> Points allowed/per game: 267/24.3
>> Returning offensive starters (3): OL Cooper Bell (Sr., 6-2, 270); OL Lee Martin (Sr., 6-0, 260); OL Dendric Peterson (Sr., 6-1, 270).
>> Returning defensive starters (4): DL Dendric Peterson (Sr., 6-1, 270); LB Jose Alvarez (Sr., 5-8, 170); LB Jeremiah Sims (Sr., 5-10, 180); S Tyree Rainey (So., 5-10, 160)
Aug. 23 at Bainbridge
Aug. 30 Off
Sept. 6 at Calhoun County #
Sept. 13 Baconton Charter #
Sept. 20 Stewart County #
Sept. 27 Chattachoocee County #
Oct. 4 at Terrell County #
Oct. 11 Off
Oct. 18 Mitchell County #
Oct. 25 Randolph-Clay #
Nov. 1 Pelham #
Nov. 8 Miller County #
# Denotes region games