The surprise factor might as well be out the window for area defensive coordinators when they game plan to defend Westside receivers Steve Dolphus and Gerimie Mitchell.
“There’s no mystery now. Everyone knows that both of those guys can play. They are going to be expecting them and have a game plan to stop those guys,” Westside head coach Spoon Risper said. “Everybody and your grandmother knows about them now. On Friday nights, they will have to earn everything they have.”
After both put together a breakout season a year ago, combining for more than 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns, they will try to match, if not exceed, that level,
“I think we can do better this year,” Mitchell said. “Having who we have back, we can be a better offense. We’re looking forward to it.”
It’s more than just lip service to point to Mitchell and Dolphus as being a balanced receiving threat as part of Westside’s spread offense. While Mitchell’s 652 receiving yards last year were 88 more than that of Dolphus, he also hauled in eight touchdowns to Dolphus’ six.
They’re also on the radar to play at the next level. Dolphus, who is 6-foot-5, has received at least 16 offers from programs in the ACC and SEC like Florida, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech and Louisville. Despite his 5-4 frame, Mitchell is getting some interest, as well, according to Risper.
“They bring an experience back; they know the game and are so unselfish. They block for each other. They block for the running backs. It’s not a, ‘I’m not catching the ball, so I am taking plays off’ with them,” Risper said. “They’re very unselfish, and they both have big play-making ability. They complement each other very well.”
Two receivers of Mitchell and Dolphus’ ability can pay dividends. Choosing to double up one of them can be costly for opposing defenses. That suits Dolphus, even if it means he isn’t catching the ball.
“If they try to double him, it’s easier for me,” Dolphus said. “We’re not the only guys on the field; we have other receivers, good running backs and a good quarterback.”
Between Dolphus and Mitchell and four returners on the offensive line, the pressure on new quarterback Savion Knowlton should be lessened.
“It helps having experienced receivers and offensive line with a new quarterback. Our personnel kind of fits our weakness,” Risper said. “We’re not asking him to win the game. We’re just asking him to manage the game, take care of the football and just make good decisions.”
In the end, the Seminoles hope that their offense atones for the manner in which last season ended. They started 8-0, beating eventual region champions Harris County and West Laurens before a loss to Peach County and first-round playoff upset at the hands of Dodge County.
“Those two losses are still in our heads, and they’re going be in our heads until we do something about it. I still haven’t gotten over the first-round loss, and neither have they. It’s a hungry desire to go back and redeem ourselves,” Risper said. “We bled for a long time after that loss. The kids kind of look at me as being the strong guy or super hero of the team, so to speak, but they saw a different side of me last year after the loss, that I hurt just like they do, that I get emotional like they do.”
ABOUT THE WESTSIDE SEMINOLES
Head coach: Spoon Risper (49-19 in six seasons overall and at Westside).
Offensive scheme: Spread.
Defensive scheme: 4-3.
2014 record: 9-2.
Region: GHSA 2-AAA.
Returning starters: Six on offense; five on defense.
Players to watch: Steve Dolphus (Sr., WR); Abdul Davis (Sr., DE); Tradonis Causey (Sr., MLB); Gerimie Mitchell (Sr., WR); Kareem Warren (Sr., DT); Brannan Nesbitt (Sr., FS).
Aug. 28 vs. Rutland
Sept. 4 at Harris County
Sept. 11 West Laurens
Sept. 18 vs. Central
Sept. 25 at Kendrick
Oct. 2 at Jackson
Oct. 10 at Jordan
Oct. 24 at Spencer
Oct. 30 Peach County
Nov. 6 vs. Southwest