Southeast Whitfield High School senior Jose Herrera says not much is usually expected of his high school's football team from its competition.
He's out to help prove the doubters wrong.
"Everybody always thinks of Southeast as the bottom of the list," Herrera said. "Instead of doubting us, they'll see that we can play and keep up with them."
After an 0-10 season in 2019, Southeast made some progress in year one under head coach Todd Murray in 2020, finishing 1-7 with a few close games that could've gone the Raiders' way. Murray didn't have long to put his stamp on the program before last season, with COVID-19 causing the cancellation of spring ball and delays in the start of summer workouts and fall practice.
With a full offseason behind the Raiders, Murray said his players have finally had the opportunity to get acclimated to his system.
"We changed offenses last year, and we had to stay very basic because we didn't have much time to put it in," Murray said. "Having spring this year and the summer has helped us out tremendously."
Another year of weightlifting and training hasn't hurt either.
"We're a little faster and a little bigger this year, so we're hoping to have a really good season," Murray said.
Like they did last year, Raiders are playing a non-region schedule this season. That makes them ineligible to reach the postseason, but allowed them to create their schedule without playing all of the Region 7-4A teams.
Herrera went through that winless season in 2019 with Southeast. He said a lot has changed about the Raiders program since then, including an attitude.
"We're more as a team, we're more focused on becoming better than in years before," he said. "It's a different team this year and we have improved and we have a different mindset and different focus this year."
The Raiders lose a few key contributors from last year's squad, including quarterback Ethan Hill. Herrera should be an impact player on both sides of the ball at tight end and defensive end, while senior running back and linebacker Jordan Trevino will lead from the backfield.
Jayden Calhoun, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman, will create some holes for Trevino to run through.
Murray and the Raiders hope to keep making progress in 2021. For that, Murray said, his key players will need to stay healthy.
"We've got to keep all of our kids healthy," Murray said. "For the most part, we don't have the numbers like Northwest and Dalton has. As long as we stay healthy, we'll have a good season."
Southeast has 43 players on the roster headed into the season.
Herrera knows he and his fellow seniors play a special role.
"Being a senior, I have to show leadership to the lowerclassmen and the other seniors as well," Herrera said. "This year's seniors, we're all trying to play together and our best to prove what we can do."
Colors: Maroon and silver
Classification: Region 7-4A, but playing a non-region schedule
Head coach: Todd Murray
Last year's record: 1-7
QB Ethan Hill
RB/DB Chandler Dyer
TE/DB Bryson Lofton
DB Seth Hilley
DL/TE Jose Herrera, senior
RB Jordan Trevino, senior
OL Jayden Calhoun, junior
Circled on the schedule
@ Coahulla Creek, Aug. 27
• Southeast travels north to face Coahulla Creek in what will be an early opportunity for each program to get a momentum-building win.
@ Armuchee, Sept. 17
• The Raiders' lone win in 2020 came against Armuchee. They'll look to get another when they hit the road to play the Class A school.
East Forsyth, Oct. 29
• The Raiders close the 2021 season by hosting East Forsyth, a school in its first year of competition after opening this fall.