BRISTOL, Fla. (WMBB) – The Liberty County football team is confident they have what it takes to make it to the playoffs after missing the postseason last fall.
The Bulldogs finished the 2022 season 4-6, missing the playoffs in year one under Head Coach Gerald Tranquille.
He said with a full off-season under his belt, the locker room has warmed up to him.
“This year’s team, this is my team,” Tranquille said. “They’re completely bought in, the chemistry is different, energy is different. We’ve got a new coaching staff. It’s just it’s been fun this summer.
Liberty County is returning six offensive starters, including quarterback, Rylan Roddenberry, who was sidelined with a torn labrum for much of last fall.
Coach Tranquille said he looks better than ever heading into his senior campaign.
“He’s got so much confidence this year just knowing that it’s his team, knowing that these guys are bought in, and he’s really found his voice,” Tranquille said.
Roddenberry will have some of his top weapons returning on offense, but they aren’t the unit he’s the most excited to see in action.
“I would say our offensive linemen this year, they are way better,” Roddenberry said. “They work hard every day. I’d say they work twice as hard as anybody else out here.”
The Bulldogs have three seniors anchoring the O-line, two of whom tower nearly six and a half feet tall. But it’s not just their stature that has impressed, as they’re working to be the most disciplined unit in the area.
“After practice, (the seniors) took some of the young guys in and put them on the board, they were going through the offense, and that’s something that they never did last year,” Tranquile said.
Liberty County senior offensive guard Scour Harr said they are spending extra hours outside of practice to learn the plays together.
“You just draw it up on the chalkboard and be like, What was the right guard do? What does the left guard do, and all the younger classmen had no idea. So I got with my other senior linemen, I was like we got to fix this. So we got in the back, drew up plays. We go back every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.”
On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs graduated from key playmakers. But with a new defensive coordinator, Coach Tanquille does not expect them to regress.
“We lost a ton off the defense, so really rebuilding there,” Tranquille said. “But I brought Coach Kuntz over, he was at Vernon last year and his energy, his enthusiasm, it’s contagious. The guys have really bought into him.”
Liberty County’s energy is reportedly unrecognizable as compared to fall camp last year.
They attribute that energy to the strong bond in the locker room. The players all have shirts with the acronym F.A.M.I.L.Y. on the back.
“Forget About Me, I Love You means we’re picking up other players we’re really showing them respect,” Liberty County senior wide receiver Trenton Hires said. “You know, somebody gets down, we bring them back up, because they’re family.”
Playoffs are the expectation for the Bulldogs but their schedule will not make that easy, facing Port St. Joe, Freeport, Sneads, Holmes County, and Blountstown, who all made the playoffs last season.
Coach Tranquille said they will be ready to come out swinging with the very best in the Panhandle.
“They know that we got to put the work in every day, week to week,” Tranquille said. “We can’t overlook anybody and then play every down like it’s our last and just hope we come out with a win.”
Liberty County will open its regular season on the road, visiting Port St. Joe on Friday, August 25.