Ask around the Southeast Whitfield High School football program, and you’ll hear a recurring, optimistic sentiment about the 2020 season: a non-region schedule is certainly better than a lost season.
After an 0-10 season in 2019, Southeast chose to play a non-region schedule in football for the next two seasons. They won’t compete against every other school in their Region 7-4A, giving them more slots to schedule games against whichever opponent they wish, but making them ineligible to reach the playoffs.
With the outbreak of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) casting uncertainty for much of the offseason on whether there would even be a football season in 2020, the Raiders, like so many other teams, are just happy to be able to suit up, region schedule or otherwise.
“I’m still just going as hard as I can and putting all the work I can in and try to win some ball games,” said Ethan Hill, a senior for Southeast who will move over from wide receiver to play quarterback this season. “I’ll take this over a cancellation anytime.”
The 2020 season for the Raiders will be about improving, playing against more local teams and finding their way under longtime assistant but first-year head coach Todd Murray.
Murray has spent 16 years as an assistant coach in the Southeast program and finally gets his first shot as a high school head coach, taking over for Sean Gray.
Murray's first task? Guiding and motivating a team without postseason aspirations during a global pandemic.
“The main motivation right now just comes from the fact that we’re still playing,” Murray said. “Right now, we’re just full-steam ahead.”
Part of that motivation also comes from that more locally-based schedule. Without the strictures of a region schedule to navigate, the Raiders will face the likes of cross-county foe Coahulla Creek, short drives to play Gordon Lee and Murray County and a home matchup against North Murray. The schedule culminates in a showdown with the Raiders’ neighbors from Northwest Whitfield in the final game of the season on Nov. 6.
Who wouldn’t get motivated to play against friends and neighbors from adjacent schools, Murray asks?
“They’re bummed they can’t make the playoffs, but they’re also excited to get to play those local schools,” Murray said. “That’s something we don’t get to do every year.”
Murray believes Hill can help be a force for positive momentum for a Southeast team looking to make strides in an all-around unusual season. Hill takes over at quarterback for Adam Sowder, a second-team All-Region 6-4A performer a year ago.
“He’s very athletic, moving from wide receiver,” Murray said. “He’s always kind of been a leader in the locker room, and he’s a vocal guy.”
Colors: Maroon and silver
Classification: Class 4A Non-Region
Head coach: Todd Murray
Last year’s record: 0-10
QB Adam Sowder
LB AJ Miller
LB Henry Vassel
DL Matt Wojcik
QB Ethan Hill, senior
RB/DB Chandler Dyer, senior
TE/DB Bryson Lofton, senior
OL/DL Chris Ambriz, senior
OL/DL Benny Ramirez, senior
Circled on the schedule
Coahulla Creek, Sept. 4
• Southeast’s second game on the 2020 schedule is a battle of building programs in Whitfield County. Coahulla Creek comes to Southeast with first-year head coach Danny Wilson. A 34-31 loss to Creek last season was one of the Raiders’ near misses at a win.
Armuchee, Oct. 2
• Armuchee is another program coming off of a winless season in 2019 hungry for an improved 2020.
@ Northwest Whitfield, Nov. 6
• The Raiders’ final game of the 2020 season is a trip up to Tunnel Hill to play cross-county rival Northwest Whitfield.