Things seemed to be going so well for Dadeville’s football team early on.
The Tigers opened the season with a giant victory over Horseshoe Bend then played extremely well against Reeltown, which nearly went undefeated and is now playoff bound. They continued their momentum by going up 13-0 against Southside Selma to start Class 3A Region 3.
Then the tide started to turn.
The Tigers made mistakes from penalties to dropped balls to turnovers and let the Panthers pull back into it. Dadeville ultimately had a chance to win it with a last-second field goal but it was ruled no good — amidst some controversy.
And that game seems to be where it all went wrong for the Tigers, who finished 3-7.
“It just started snowballing into a huge mess,” Dadeville coach Richard White said. “We ended up losing a game that we should’ve won by two or three touchdowns then I think it took the fire out of some of our kids. It wasn’t that they wanted the fire taken out but mentally it did something to them and they were not able to recover.”
The games against Reeltown and Southside Selma marked the beginning of a seven-game losing streak, but much like last season, it seemed like a few plays here and there would’ve changed a lot. Dadeville lost five of its games — Reeltown, Southside, Bullock County, Elmore County and Montgomery Academy — by two touchdowns or less. Its largest margins of loss came against Pike Road, which finished undefeated, and St. James which had just one loss -— to Pike Road — all season.
The story of Dadeville’s season seemed to be giving up the big play.
“Giving up a big play is deflating,” White said. “I don’t care how good you are; when you give up a big play, it deflates you as a team. If we don’t give up those big plays, the outcome may have been different. When you make somebody to continue to snap the ball over and over, odds are eventually they’ll make a mistake of some sort.”
Despite the less-than-stellar record, one thing White was extremely proud of was how his team continued to fight. Although things did snowball on the Tigers, they were in almost every game this year and after losing out on a playoff berth, they continued to stay in it and won their final two games.
That strong mentality was something White had worked on with the players all summer and he was glad to see that come to fruition, even if it didn’t result in victories.
“The kids kept fighting,” White said. “I don’t really know if I ever saw give up. It was very evident year before last but this year, I didn’t ever really see it. It wasn’t giving up. It was more of they didn’t know how to overcome bad situations and maybe I did a poor job of helping them overcome that.”
There were several positives this season though. The offensive line, which White compared to a game of musical chairs with how many guys played there, continued to show improvement throughout the year. Sophomore quarterback Lane Smith started to come into his own and has a bright future ahead of him, and the receiving corps around him lived up to White’s early expectations.
However, the Tigers are graduating a really strong senior class consisting of Jamauri Chislom, Cooper Childers, Josh Taylor, Jamarion Wilkerson, Alex Walker, Alex Sims, Andrevious Giles, Max McClendon and Laquarious Lockhart.
“All these guys have contributed in some way to this football program,” White said.
Dadeville finished the season with only two juniors but White said the sophomore and freshman class showed a ton of promise. Plus, the junior high team went undefeated and that always seems to result in future success for the varsity team. Although White has retired, he said whoever takes over the program should be in good shape.
“I think the future here at this program is going to be fine,” White said. “It may be some pulling-your-hair situations next year because you don’t have a lot of kids that are going to be in the senior class. But I think they’ll be scrappy and get after each other. I think it’s progressively going to get better.”