2017 Chiefland football preview
By Mike Ridaught
This year, Chiefland is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first state football title.
However, the Indians haven’t been to the postseason since 2004.
They came close in 2013, but they finished third in the district despite finishing 7-3 overall. That might have gotten the Indians in the playoffs under the FHSAA’s new playoff format.
This year, Classes 1A-4A don’t have districts. Chiefland will compete in the nine-team Region 3 with the top four teams advancing among Bell, Branford, Chiefland, Dixie County, Hamilton County, Hilliard, Lafayette, Madison County and Union County.
The playoffs haven’t been in the conversation for a long time, but first-year coach Adam Gore, a Chiefland alum, is trying to change the mindset.
“If the kids will figure that out, that this is who we are, that this has been our tradition to be physical, then we can be a playoff team,” said Gore, who noted he and the team have a chip on their shoulder. “But the kids have to believe in themselves.”
This year Chiefland will only have six returning seniors. They are an extremely young team.
But seniors Brian Norris, Jr., Lance Horne, Dalton Tiner, Brian-Caiden Fehmerling, and Tramaine Brown all have experience and will be instrumental in the Indians’ success in 2017.
“Those five guys will have to carry our football team because they have been in the fire,” said Gore. ”We expect them to be leaders – leaders on the stat board and in their positions, leaders in the locker room, leaders in the community, and leaders on campus.”
On offense, Gore will use a two-QB system, going with junior Wyatt Hammond, who played some quarterback last season, and sophomore Ty Corbin.
“We’ll let it sort itself out,” he said. “We’ll go with the hot hand.”
The Indians will have some D-I talent in the backfield to help make it a smoother transition. Brian Norris, Jr., who combines size and speed, is playing with a chip on his shoulder.
“I feel like I will do everything in my power to make this team successful,” said Norris, whose father played for the Indians only state title in 1997. “We are trying to get our respect back, like we used to have. Every game will be an opportunity to gain respect.”
Norris (6’1, 225), who committed to USF this summer, said he picked the Bulls because it was the school that made him feel most comfortable.
“It was like home,” he said. “It was my first time being on campus. All the coaches were down to earth. It made me feel like home.”
Senior running back Tramaine Brown is the ‘Lightning’ to Norris’ ‘Thunder.’
“You want him (Brown) in the fox hole,” said Gore. “He’s a guy you want to go to battle with. He’s a great kid also.”
The 1-2 punch gives the offense a little more balance in the backfield. There’s a sense of confidence about he offense this year.
“I think we’re going to score more points than we did last year,” said senior right guard Lance Horne (6’, 200). “The offense is a whole lot better. Everything is better. Passing is better, the blocking is better and the running is better.”
Look for the Indians to be physical on defense.
‘We want to play fast and physical,” said Gore. “We have our best 11 players playing on defense first and then we go from there offensively.”
Gore said the plan is to have the defensive line and linebackers play defense only “so we can keep those guys fresh. They are all head hunters. We want physical guys on that side of the ball.”
Expect the defense to be better too.
“It’s (defense) going to be pretty nasty this year,” said senior DT/G Dalton Tiner (5’8, 218). “Our defensive line is pretty stout. We all bench over 300. It’s going to be a strong defense.”
Tiner is tied for first in the bench press with rising sophomore Brandon Bowers. They can each bench 350.
“This year is looking way better than last year’s team,” said Brown (5’10, 170), who will also play free safety and defensive back. “Everyone is really committed to the team. We are way closer as a team this year.”
The schedule will be challenging early. The Indians open the season at home on August 26 against rival Trenton.
“The front half of our season is a pretty tough half,” said Gore. “We play Dixie County, Lafayette, Trenton in the first half of our season. We’ve got a tough schedule early so we have to be ready to go at it.”
The players seem up to the task.
“We have a tough schedule but I think with our commitment to go to practice, to the weight room, to the film sessions, our unity is going to make us a stronger team,” said Fehmerling (6’1, 195), who will play tight end and defensive end.
Chiefland will close the season with games at 2A Agape Christian Academy (Orlando) and Williston, giving the Indians an opportunity to compete for a playoff spot.
“We want to play good teams,” said Gore. “We’re looking forward to the challenge. We’re going to let the pads do the talking for us.”
2017 Chiefland Football Schedule
Aug. 25 – vs. Trenton
Sept. 1 – vs. Branford
Sept. 8 – vs. Lafayette (Mayo)
Sept. 15 – at Hamilton County (Jasper)
Sept. 22 – vs. Dixie County (Cross City)
Sept.29 – Off
Oct. 6 – at Hilliard
Oct. 13 – vs. Hawthorne (Homecoming)
Oct. 20 – vs. Bronson (Senior Night)
Oct. 27 – at Agape Christian Academy (Orlando)
Nov. 3 – at Williston