Last season, the Southwest Patriots (3-7) missed the playoffs for the first time since 2015 despite having the chance to win late in nearly every game.
Head coach Joe Dupree is looking to lead his team back on track and he has high expectations for the season.
“We have to learn how to finish games,” Dupree said. “Expectations are to win the city, win the region and win the state.”
That could prove to be a tough task. The team lost a senior class that had three playoff appearances during their time at Southwest, including standout players Jaquez Pennimon, defensive back, and linebacker Marquez Baxter.
Dupree is hopeful that he will find some players who are able to step up.
“We got some big shoes to fill. We lost a lot of guys but we will be fine,” Dupree said. “We are going to be young in a lot of places.”
For Dupree, Pennimon and Baxter serve as a showcase for what can happen at Southwest. Pennimon received a scholarship to play at Georgia State, while Baxter chose Kennesaw State. He attributes that to the hard work on and off the field, something he hopes to instill in all of his players.
“I tell them that they are student-athletes. Student being first. You have to get your education to go to the next level,” Dupree said. “It sends a message that if you go out and perform and do what you need to do on the football field, college coaches are going to come to Southwest in Macon.”
Dupree’s success while he was a player Southwest is something that he feels helps kids buy into what they are trying to do as a coaching staff and program.
The former Patriot quarterback was recruited by the Georgia Bulldogs, where he played for one season before transferring to Georgia Southern.
He says that his goal is to help them reach their potential in all things, not just football.
“They know I love them,” he said. “Coaching isn’t just about Xs and Os and drawing up a scheme. I think it is about loving these kids and letting them know you’re able to help them.”
Being able to coach at his alma mater is special, he said.
“It is a dream come true. Every day I wake up, it isn’t like coming to work. It is like coming to your dream job,” Dupree said. “Being able to impact your community and trying to get it on the right track ... it is a tremendous blessing.”
Westside @ Mercer on August 24
These two cross-town rivals will match up once again, but this time as part of the Macon Touchdown Club Middle Georgia Kickoff Classic.
“It is wonderful for our kids to kind of experience a college-like environment. It is going to be a huge day. I am excited about it for both teams,” Dupree said. “I think it is a great opportunity to showcase our kids and what they can do. It will be an exciting day.”
The rivalry between these two schools has taken off since the Patriots became the first team from Bibb County to knock off the Seminoles. In addition to that, Dupree worked under the Westside head Sheddrick “Spoon” Risper for seven seasons.
“Spoon and I are like brothers. I worked for him, so that alone adds to the rivalry because we are such good friends off the field,” Dupree said. “It adds a little bit more intensity, a little bit more fire to the game.”
Northeast on Oct. 11 at Henderson Stadium
A season ago, these two teams battled to the final moments of the game. Northeast pulled out a 27-26 victory over the Patriots, so this year’s rivalry will be heated.
“They are in our region so we definitely want to circle that on our calendar,” Dupree said. “Being an inner-city rivalry it is definitely going to be intense.”
The winner will be looking to take back more than just bragging rights. The winner will have a leg up in the region race.