When Wayne White was a player at Dothan High in the early 1990s, red helmets were part of the Tiger look.
Now, 25 years later after a switch to black helmets, he is returning Dothan to the red helmet look in his first year as head coach of his alma mater.
“I have brought back the red,” said White. “They (helmets) are a little flashier than I wanted, but the kids like them and I think they look good.”
The red helmets, officially a satin red color, will have a Tiger paw sticker on the side. White also plans for Dothan to wear mostly red jerseys at home games.
For White, the different wardrobe is only a small part of what he hopes changes. He hopes the D-High Pride in football returns as well. After two straight losing seasons, including a 2-8 record last year, he hopes the Tigers can return to the solid ways it enjoyed part of the last decade (38 wins from 2009-2015) and even more so to the 1970s when the Tigers finished as state runner-up twice.
It starts with changing the culture, said White.
“What has happened in the past is in the past,” White said. “Last year doesn’t have anything to do with the outcome of this season. I told the players early on, ‘If you want different results, you have to change. You are the ones that have to make that happen’”
White, who will become the first head coach to lead both city schools (Northview, 2009-11) when the Tigers open the season Thursday at home against Enterprise, welcomes back seven starters on defense and five on offense.
The defensive secondary might be the strength of the team as three senior starters return, including Eric James (5-11, 170), a Class 6A second-team honoree last year. A year ago, James recorded six interceptions at safety, but the Tigers have moved him to defensive back. White said James has adjusted to the change and still has a knack for the ball.
Also back as starters in the secondary are Zay Wimberly (5-11, 170) and Stevyone Ware (6-1, 190) with Ware at safety. Jaylen Lockhart, Tucker Cahill and Jaylen Faision are also expected to see a lot of time at cornerback, while Jayden Reaves, Jovan Butler, Brantley Grimsley and Jakory Pride should all see time at safety, said White.
A pair of “head-hunters” return as starters at linebacker – Taran McNealey (Sr., 5-10, 185) and Zay Folmar (Sr., 6-2, 180). McNealey is one of the more active players on the team, said White, with an ability to read plays and take good angles to the ball.
Preston Whitaker, Jamal Harris, Adrian Cochran and Tristen Casey will also get reps at linebacker. Cochran has the ability to work at inside and outside linebacker, said White.
The Tigers also return three starters on the defensive line in seniors Billy Turner (6-0, 270) and Zeke Moore (6-0, 250) and junior Jaylen Boger (6-1, 230). Moore has recently returned from an ankle injury and can play at defensive end or tackle.
Others getting reps include Zyshawn Coker, Nate Cooper, Quintodd West, Don McLeod, Cornelius Hughes and Matthew Peterson. Most of those will start on the offensive line as depth up front is a problem for the Tigers.
On offense, the Tigers were counting on senior Buddy Holt to possibly start at quarterback, but he tore his knee stepping on somebody’s foot in the summer and is out. Sophomore Kameron Dawsey, described by White as “football savvy who makes good decisions,” will get the starting nod with Sam Doss, a senior, a s back-up. Doss will start at wide receiver. White said Dothan plans to play only one at quarterback unless circumstances warrant a change.
In the backfield behind Dawsey will be returning starter Ta'Bryious Webb (Jr., 5-11, 175), a shifty, quick back who rushed for 900 yards last season. Senior Jayden Reaves, a power runner, will also start in the backfield. Sophomore Ketavius Reaves is another running back getting serious looks.
The offensive line has experience as three starters return – Zach Sims at guard, West at tackle and Cooper at center. West is one of the Tiger vocal leaders and Cooper is the strongest player on the team.
Also expected to see playing on the OL are Peyton Robertson, Turner, Braxton Willis, Zyshawn Coker, Cooper Lambert and Chris Newby.
Those playing out at wide receiver include Doss, Folmar, Jamie Davis and Jarrell Gordon as well as James, who will crossover from defense.
Peterson, brother of former Dothan standout Joseph Peterson, who played college ball at Georgia State, will line up at H-Back for the Tigers.
The kicking game is inexperienced as Brody Barnett, a junior with a good leg, will be in his first year handling field goals and kickoffs. Turner will handle punting with Cahill also possibly seeing time there. Cooper is the long snapper, said White, adding “Cooper get the ball back there better than anybody I have seen.”
“We are a little thin in numbers, but other than that I have seen a lot of progress and improvement,” White said. “Hopefully, we keep doing that each week. That is the whole goal – to be a better team week 10 than we are week 1.
“Our effort has been really good. Our kids have been practicing hard. We had a great scrimmage last night (Thursday). Got a lot of much needed reps and had a lot of guys flying around and getting after it.”
A large senior class could set the tone, said White.
“We have 24 seniors, so that is a good start and a good foundation,” White said. “A lot of those guys are returning starters and if they weren’t a returning starter, they got a lot of playing time and experience. That is definitely a plus for us.”
A rough early-season stretch that features 7A Enterprise and 6A, Region 2 foe Park Crossing, a 10-game winner last year, in the first three games could be key, said White.
“We feel really good,” White said. “First of all, we have to stay healthy. We have to execute well and play hard-nosed, discipline football and if we do, we ought to be competitive.”
TIGERS AT A GLANCE
>> Head coach: Wayne White (1st year at Dothan; 4th year as high school head coach, 7-23)
>> 2017 record: 2-8 overall, 0-6 in Class 6A, Region 3
>> 2017 results: at Enterprise (L, 17-24); Smiths Station (W, 22-0); at Russell County # (L, 7-24); Carver (Montgomery) # (L, 20-48); at St. Paul’s (L, 14-34); at Sidney Lanier # (L, 0-42); Park Crossing # (L, 14-58); at Stanhope Elmore # (L, 21-28); Northview # (L, 3-31); at Early County (Ga.) (W, 29-20)
>> Points scored/per game: 147/14.7
>> Points allowed/per game: 309/30.9
>> Returning offensive starters (4): C Nate Cooper (Jr., 5-11, 270); OG Zach Sims (Jr., 6-4, 300); OT Quintodd West (Sr., 6-0, 285); RB Ta'Bryious Webb (Jr., 5-11, 175)
>> Returning defensive starters (8): DT Billy Turner (Sr., 6-0, 270); DE Zeke Moore (Sr., 6-0, 250); DE Jaylen Boger (Jr., 6-1, 230); LB Taran McNealey (Sr., 5-10, 185); LB Zay Folmar (Sr., 6-2, 180); DB Eric James (Sr., 5-11, 170); DB Zay Wimberly (Sr., 5-11, 170); DB Stevyone Ware (Sr., 6-1, 190)
>> 2018 Schedule
Aug. 23 (Thur) Enterprise
Aug. 31 at Rehobeth
Sept. 6 (Thur) at Park Crossing #
Sept. 14 Russell County #
Sept. 20 (Thur)at Carver (Montgomery) #
Sept. 27 (Thur)Early County
Oct. 5 off
Oct. 12 at Northview #
Oct. 19 Sidney Lanier #
Oct. 26 at Eufaula #
Nov. 2 at Carroll
# Denotes region contest