Desmond Lett – the fourth head football coach in as many years at the school – understands the Daleville football program needs some stability.
He aims to provide it.
“We can’t dwell on the past,” Lett said. “We have to live in the present and work towards the future. We can’t worry about coaches who have left us. We can’t worry about players who have left us. We’ve got to worry about what we have out here now.”
When Trey Woolf resigned in mid-May after one season in charge to take the head coaching job at Seminole County (Ga.), Lett, an assistant at Daleville for four seasons, was named the interim head coach and quickly earned the support of the players.
“The kids have been on board ever since I was interim,” said Lett, a former Geneva County standout. “They pushed for me to become head coach. They know what I expect of them. I expect them to work hard.
“I’m not just there to coach the kids in football. I want to see the kids succeed in life. That’s why I’m big on classroom. I check grades. If you’re doing what you’re supposed to do in the classroom, that carries over to the football field; that carries over to life.”
The cupboard certainly isn’t bare at Daleville. The Warhawks are coming off four straight winning seasons and five straight playoff appearances, though the last two teams finished 6-5. Last year’s team won an opening-round Class 2A state playoff game before losing in the second round to Leroy 27-26.
Among the returning stars offensively are senior running back Jalen White and junior quarterback Akealis “Peanut” Bloodsaw.
“When you hear about Daleville, what you’re going to hear right now is Jalen White,” Lett said. “He’s a running back that really turned it on the last couple of games last year.
“In two rounds of the playoffs, he had 500 yards rushing. Against Leroy the last playoff game, I think he had 42 carries for 300 yards. He’s a hoss.
“The first man probably won’t bring him down and he strives off not letting the first person bring him down. He’s literally the first kid that shows up and the last kid that leaves.”
Bloodsaw gives the Warhawks experience leading the offense.
“He’s a heck of a competitor,” Lett said. “He tries to pick my brain and I try to pick his brain. We butt heads a little bit, but all in all he’s a fantastic kid. He works hard. We’re trying to get him to step up and be the leader.”
Three starting linemen also return in senior Casey Moore (6-3, 260 senior), Dilan Grant (6-0, 225 sophomore) and Myles Parris (5-10, 200 junior). Melvin Matthews (6-1, 200) returns at tight end.
Other projected starters across the front is senior Brian Serrano (5-9, 225) and freshman Jeremiah Moore (6-2, 200).
“Early in the season last year we were down about three linemen (due to injuries), so some of these guys had to step up and play on the line last year more than they wanted to,” Lett said. “But these guys don’t complain. They do what you ask of them.”
Senior Kawon Taylor and junior Jordan McDonald are key targets at wide receiver.
“Jordan McDonald hasn’t had much playing time, but runs great routes and has pretty good hands,” Lett said. “He didn’t get many balls thrown to him (last year), but when he did he made the most of it.
“Kawon Taylor will play the other receiver for us. He’s a super-fast kid who didn’t play for us last year, but he’s come back out for his senior year and he’s had a fantastic attitude. He’s tried to become a leader also.”
Defensively, Sincere McKenzie and Matthews return at linebacker, Serrano and Moore as linemen and White as a defensive back.
Other projected starters are Jahkoree Bogan and Jeremiah Moore across the front, Cam Giles and Parris at linebacker slots and Cedreon Wiley and McDonald in the secondary.
“Sincere McKenzie is a small kid, but he plays linebacker for us,” Lett said. “You’ll know whenever he hits you. He plays fast and he plays hard. If he blitzes; if you blink he’s hitting you. The kid just strives off going hard. This will be his third year starting on varsity at linebacker.
“Melvin Matthews plays everything for us – offensive line, he plays tight end, he plays fullback, he plays linebacker, defensive end – he’s just an all-around player. His build allows him to play a lot for us in 2A ball. He’s not overly big, but he’s not too small.
“Brian Serrano and Casey Moore are probably two of the stronger guys on the team on the offensive line and defensive line. They will have to go both ways.
“Jalen White will be playing safety this year and he covers tons of ground. Our young secondary – their errors won’t be exposed as much because Jalen covers a lot of ground.”
WARHAWKS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Desmond Lett (1st year at Daleville and as a head coach)
>> 2018 record: 6-5 overall, 4-3 Class 2A, Region 2, second round of Class 2A state playoffs
>> 2018 results: at Wicksburg (L, 20-49); Houston County # (L, 36-39); at G.W. Long # (W, 32-8); Ariton # (L, 20-42); Straughn (W, 10-8); at Cottonwood # (W, 46-28); Abbeville # (L, 0-54); at Geneva County # (W, 50-20);Barbour County # (W, 52-0). STATE PLAYOFFS: at Reeltown (W, 26-21); Leroy (L, 26-27)
>> Points scored/per game: 318/28.9
>> Points allowed/per game: 296/26.9
>> Returning offensive starters (6): QB Akealis “Peanut” Bloodsaw (Jr., 6-0, 185); RB Jalen White (Sr., 6-1, 195); TE Melvin Matthews (Sr., 6-1, 200); OL Casey Moore (Sr., 6-3, 260): OL Dylan Grant (So., 6-0, 225); OL Myles Parris (Jr., 5-10, 200)
>> Returning defensive starters (5): DL Brian Serrano (Sr., 5-9, 225); DL Casey Moore (Sr., 6-3, 260): LB Melvin Matthews (Sr., 6-1, 200); LB/DB Sincere McKenzie (Jr., 5-6, 160); DB Jalen White (Sr., 6-1, 195).
Aug. 23 Elba
Aug. 30 Wicksburg
Sept. 6 at Houston County #
Sept. 13 G.W. Long #
Sept. 20 at Ariton #
Sept. 27 at Straughn
Oct. 4 Cottonwood #
Oct. 11 at Abbeville #
Oct. 18 Geneva County #
Oct. 25 at Barbour County #
# Denotes region games