Q&A with first-year Dixie County football coach Eric Richeson
Dixie County (Cross City) Bears
Total of nine teams in the region (Top four make the state playoffs) – Bell, Branford Chiefland, Dixie County (Cross City), Hamilton County (Jasper), Hilliard, Lafayette (Mayo), Madison County & Union County (Lake Butler)
Q: Congratulations on the new position. How excited are you about becoming the new head coach at Dixie County?
A: Thank you. It’s been a whirlwind. I’m going into this as a rookie, but luckily I had a great teacher and Coach (Brent) Wilkerson kind of guided me along. When I first got it, I was scared and nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve been a coordinator for most of my career, an O-line coach and a little bit on the defensive side. When Brent told me he was stepping down, it kind of hit me at once. I’ve been waiting for this over 20 years. I got my start at Apopka and worked my way up to Georgia and back down here. These kids have kind of made the transition so much easier. When I got the job they were so enthusiastic. They’ve done everything I’ve asked them to do. They are a fun bunch of kids to coach. They make the job a lot easier. We’ve got close to 20 seniors so it’s like 50% of our team. We’re excited. We’ve got a rough schedule ahead of us, but if we can find through that middle part and try to stay injury free, we’ve got a shot. These kids have really worked hard this summer. We’re looking forward to the fall.
Q: What is a team strength coming into the year?
A: Definitely their grit and their toughness. They’re just tough kids. I’m not going to have your 6’4, 300-pound offensive lineman or your 6’4, 200 pound deers, I’ve got little guys and I’ve got little stumps, as I call them, and they really get after it. They’re just tough kids. They love playing football. They love their football in Dixie. That’s what makes your job so much fun. Every time you put your feet on the ground, you’re just trying to think ‘what can I do to make them better?’ Every challenge I’ve given them they’ve owned up to it. I need to start making these challenges a little bit harder.
Q: How about some of your offensive and defensive starters? How are you looking there?
A: Excellent. We had to replace Kyle Chesser at quarterback but we’re kind of shifting our game plan on offense. We’re going to be Wing-T based but we’re going to run a lot more option. I’ve got three good quarterbacks. They’re all runners – junior Carlos Williams, Jr., senior Aaron Dawson (5’11, 154), and senior James Smith (5’8, 155). All three of them could be playing at one time depending on the situation. They will be rotating to keep them fresh because those guys are going to be playing defense. You’ve got to understand that 1A football is iron man football. If one plays offense, he’s playing three positions – offense, defense and special teams. We’ve got to try and rest some guys when we can, and especially these skill guys. We’re pretty deep with our line but my skill guys I’m not as deep. We’ve got good depth on the line. But I’ve got to keep my skill guys healthy. That’s the key.
Q: For Dixie County to have a successful year, what has to go right?
A: Injuries. We have to be injury free. We go 11 straight weeks if you count the Kick-off Classic. We don’t get a break. Our open week is Week #11. This is the first time in five years since I’ve been at Dixie that we’ve got 10 games. Every year it’s been nine games. Last year we only had eight. So this is kind of a good thing to get the kids to understand what a 10-week grueling season’s going to be. Every week it’s going to be rough. It’s not going to be easy. We have a tough schedule. Everybody in 1A is like that. All of these smaller schools are playing tough schedules so just keeping everybody healthy is going to be like the gold mine trying to keep them healthy. But we’ve got a good plan in store for the kids and we’ll try to keep them healthy because it’s going to be a grueling season. We start off in Week #1 with Jefferson County, then Trenton, then three weeks on the road. So, it’s pretty tough. Then when we get back off the road, it gets even tougher. We’ve got Taylor County, Newberry, Fort White and Williston, so it’s rough. But we’re excited. We’re ready for the challenge.
Q: What do you think about the new playoff system?
A: To tell you the truth, I am not 100% on task with that. I’ve got two assistant coaches who kind of guide me. But here’s the key with the playoff system, if you keep winning then you’re going to keep playing. You want to cheer on the teams after you beat them so they can get some points for you. But that’s my philosophy. We had this kind of point system when I was in Georgia and I used to tell my head coach that all we had to do is win. If we keep winning, we keep playing. This region is going to be pretty tough. Madison County is in there. Union County is in there. Trenton got moved out which helps a little bit but it’s still going to be a rough region.
2017 Dixie County Football Schedule
Aug. 25 – vs. Jefferson County (Monticello)
Sept. 1 – vs. Trenton
Sept. 8 – at Baldwin
Sept. 15 – at Union County (Lake Butler)
Sept. 22 – at Chiefland
Sept. 29 – vs. Taylor County (Perry)
Oct. 6 – vs. Hamilton County (Jasper)
Oct. 13 – at Newberry
Oct. 20 – vs. Fort White
Oct. 27 – at Williston
Nov. 3 – Off