When the Southeast Whitfield High School football team celebrated its first win of the season last Friday, it was a first in many other ways.
It was the first victory for the program since Oct. 5, 2018. Last Friday's win came just three days shy of the last Raider football victory. Southeast finished 0-10 last year.
It was the first victory for first-year head coach Todd Murray, who was as an assistant coach during the winless season last year, along with several current players. Murray has been on the coaching staff at Southeast in some role for 16 seasons.
It was also the first win at Southeast for senior defensive back Laine Carden, who transferred from Calhoun High after his sophomore season and sat out last year due to Georgia High School Association rules about transfers and eligibility.
Carden, who picked off Armuchee twice in the 21-7 victory last week, knew he could celebrate a win after his second — a fourth-quarter interception of a deep Armuchee throw.
"After that second one, that's when I knew," Carden said of the pick, which came with Armuchee driving into Southeast territory trailing by just six. Carden returned the ball all the way back to the Armuchee 34, and the Raiders seized control from there. "It was a big moment to get a turnover. They needed that touchdown."
Ethan Hill, the current Raider quarterback, went through that winless season last year playing wide receiver. He said he felt relieved after the victory.
"It's really just a sigh of relief, when we finally got that one," Hill said. "It made everyone kind of realize that we were able to do it."
Hill said that 0-10 season was tough to play through.
"It can get pretty discouraging, but it's given me a chip on my shoulder," he said. "It gives you something to play for."
Another someone to play for, Hill said, for the Raiders is Murray. Murray took over the job in January after former head coach Sean Gray stepped down.
"He stuck with us. I really respect him," Hill said. "He's been with the Southeast program for 16 years through the ups and downs. It's a good feeling to be able to get him that first win as head coach. It's a good feeling for us seniors and leaders to get him that first win."
Murray has preached progress for a Southeast program. The Raiders elected to play a non-region schedule, making them ineligible for playoff contention, but allowing them more freedom in scheduling. Southeast will play under that arrangement for this season and next as the Raiders look to rebuild.
"Our whole thing for this season is to 'beat yesterday.' We're about making progress," Hill said. "We're getting better each game and fixing things each game. Now we just grow off that win."
Carden said he can already sense a boost in morale amongst the team and the school just since the win this past Friday night.
"Now we know that we can win, it's just made a huge difference," Carden said. "We know that we're a good team if we can play like we did last Friday."
Carden echoed Hill's focus on confidence, but his senior class isn't content with just the one victory in 2020.
"We definitely want a few more," Carden said. "There's no doubt in my mind that we can get a few more."