As the schedule reads, Southwest opens officially opens its season Aug. 29 against city rival Northeast. But in the minds of the Patriots, the season began way back in January with the start of offseason workouts. And Southwest head coach Joseph Dupree likes what he has seen since then and during the course of the summer.
“What I am really excited about is that they are showing up every day,” Dupree said. “They’re getting their tail kicked with the team building and conditioning drills, and they come every day; that’s the main thing. That tells that they are buying into what we are trying to do.”
Conditioning and being in top shape have become a vital part of Southwest’s fabric. Part of that came after Dupree watched film from last season’s 0-10 campaign, his first season as the Patriots’ head coach.
“After evaluating the film from last year, one weakness I thought we had was not being in condition. The focus this summer is to make sure that they are in the best condition they ever have been in,” Dupree said. “We’re going to hang our hat on being the best conditioned team on the football field; the guys have worked toward that this summer.”
Senior Deahdrick Jones, a senior safety, saw a similar view on the field last season.
“Last year, we didn’t get to the ball as much, we’d give up on plays, and a lot of that was because of our conditioning,” Jones said. “I don’t think it’ll be a problem this year because we are doing more conditioning.”
The Patriots enter the season with the benefit of it being Dupree’s second year as their head coach.
The core of the Southwest roster has had a full season to adjust to Dupree and his offensive scheme, not to mention Dupree and his staff having had a full spring and summer to mesh with the players within the program. Southwest returns four offensive starters and five on defense.
“Having a year here, an offseason and spring, they have done well. They have been sponges and been trying to catch onto what we are trying to do. I’ve seen a difference,” Dupree said. “We still have a long, long way to go, but we have had some strides and I feel like we are going in the right direction.”
One player who stands to benefit from that increased time under Dupree is junior quarterback Justin Slocum, who returns as the Patriots’ signal-caller. Senior Tyree White is expected to be one of his top passing targets.
Defensively, the Patriots are switching to a 4-2-5 defense after previously playing a 50 formation. Southwest’s new defensive package, Dupree said, should help it better defend against spread passing offenses that are becoming more common on the high school level.
“It’s a huge difference, but I think we have skill guys who can make it happen,” Dupree said.
Two of those will be Jones at safety and sophomore Tavares Roberts at one of the defensive back positions. Up front, junior Nahum Williams is projected to lead the defensive line at defensive end.
The Patriots are hopeful that the returning nucleus, combined with a strong offseason, leads to good things for the red, white and blue-clad program.
“Out of all the years I have been here, we have not worked as hard as we are this season,” Jones said.
SOUTHWEST IN 2014
Head coach: Joseph Dupree (1-19 in two seasons overall; 0-10 in one season at Southwest).
2013 record: 0-10.
2014 region: GHSA 2-AAA.
Returning starters: 4 on offense; 5 on defense.
Players to watch: Tyree White (6-0, 175, Sr., WR/CB); Justin Slocum (6-4, 220, Sr., QB); Josh Evans (5-9, 170, Sr., WR); Deahdrick Jones (5-10, 175, Sr., S); DeShawn Johnson (6-1, 185, Sr., RB); Kenny Exum (6-2, 240, Sr., LB); Tavares Roberts (5-9, 175, Soph., CB); Dalvin Andrews.
Nov. 29 vs. Northeast
Sept. 5 at Eagle’s Landing
Sept. 12 at Peach County
Sept. 18 at Jordan
Oct. 2 at Spencer
Oct. 10 vs. Rutland
Oct. 17 vs. Central
Oct. 25 at Kendrick
Oct. 31 Jackson
Nov. 6 vs. Westside