The Southwest Patriots are coming off a three-win season, but if the smile on head coach Joseph Dupree’s face is indicative of how things have been going on the practice field, the Patriots could be primed for a playoff run in the upcoming season.
“Oh, we are going to make the playoffs,” said Dupree, who is in his third year as head coach at his alma mater. “I mean, if I don’t believe that fully, how are these kids going to believe it?
“We did some good things last year on the football field, but we weren’t quite sure how to play all four quarters. This year will be different, and I really don’t have any doubt about that.”
Dupree was sitting in his office just outside the Patriots’ weight room, which was abuzz with the entire team getting in a spirited workout before practice.
“I can hear the enthusiasm sitting here, and it is the same every single day,” Dupree said. “I don’t have to be in there because they all know what they have to do to get better. As far as a more enthusiastic group, well I haven’t had one like this since I was an assistant at Westside.
“The offseason workouts have been great. We have pushed these guys to the brink, and they are responding just like we had hoped. I would say we are exactly where we want it to be.”
The offense will be led by running back Sederan Scott, who got some carries last year, and converted quarterback Justin Slocum, who will play wide receiver.
“Sederan is a guy that we feel can carry the ball 20 times a game this year, and we need to be able to run the football,” Dupree said. “Justin Slocum is a special athlete, and he can be as good as he wants to be. I think he is going to have a huge year.”
Slocum, who stands 6-foot-6 and is also a standout on the Patriots’ basketball team, has seen a difference in his teammates this year.
“Everyone is motivated and on the same page, and we have a lot of leaders on this team,” said Slocum, who started off last year as the team’s quarterback. “A lot of us have been beat up for the last three years on the football field, and we haven’t won many games, but we all believe that we will be in the playoffs this year. We are ready to do some of the beating up this year.”
The quarterback situation is up in the air with freshmen Jordan Slocum and Ardallis Hollingshed battling for the position.
“I feel great about both of them,” Dupree said. “We are really lucky to have two quality guys at quarterback, which has allowed us to play Justin at receiver.”
The defense had its moments last year but struggled late in the season and will be led by senior Nahum Williams.
“We did PK last year but we are looking to dominate this year,” said Williams, who is a four-year starter. “We are a hungry football team right now, and we have showed all summer we are ready to turn this around. I feel like we can surprise quite a few people this year, but it won’t surprise us. We expect to win this year. We are ready to turn that corner.”
ABOUT THE SOUTHWEST PATRIOTS
Head coach: Joseph Dupree (4-26 in four seasons overall; 3-17 in two seasons at Southwest).
Assistant coaches: Marlon White (offensive coordinator); Trent Allen (defensive coordinator); David Cape, Darin Clark, Reginald Cuthpert, Ron Hill, Hosea Laney and Marcus Wilson.
Offensive scheme: Spread.
Defensive scheme: 4-2-5.
2014 record: 3-7.
Region: GHSA 2-AAA.
Returning starters: Five on offense; five on defense.
Players to watch: Justin Slocum (Sr., ATH); Sederan Scott (Jr., RB); Jaquavious Solomon (Jr., WR); Markees Burton (Jr., WR); Jeremiah Daniels (Sr., RB); Ardallis Hollingshed (Jr., QB); Jordan Slocum (Fr., QB).
Aug. 28 vs. Northeast
Sept. 4 Eagle’s Landing
Sept. 11 at Peach County
Sept. 17 Jordan
Oct. 1 Spencer
Oct. 9 vs. Rutland
Oct. 16 vs. Central
Oct. 24 Kendrick
Oct. 30 at Jackson
Nov. 6 vs. Westside