GRACEVILLE, Fla. (WMBB) – The Graceville football team is looking for a fresh start as they attempt to rebuild under a new head coach.
“A lot of people think, just because we’re small, just because we don’t have a lot of players doesn’t mean we won’t make an impact in the game,” Graceville sophomore quarterback Devonte Robinson said. “And being with that, being how we’re the underdogs, that doesn’t mean we can’t go out, fight and win any game we go out, just as long as we play with our heart.”
The Tigers were an annual 1A power not long ago, and with the addition of new head coach, Tyrone Bolware, Graceville junior linebacker Chipper Holland said the team has become more organized.
“It’s been way better because he just believes in us, and that really just shows how it gets everyone going,” Holland said. “He just makes sure we don’t miss anything, we’re just always on it, we keep going.”
Bolware comes to the program with 24 years of Panhandle coaching experience, most recently as a defensive coordinator at Sneads High School.
He also played collegiate football at the University of Southern Mississippi, and Graceville junior Rylee Hutchinson said that gives the team confidence they are learning from someone who knows all aspects of the game.
“It definitely helps you trust him when you know his credentials,” Hutchinson said. “He played the same spots that I played, he was an All-American at running back and middle linebacker, and so it helps you understand that he knows exactly what’s going on and he’s been in your spot so it just helps you to trust him to know what he’s talking about and you can believe that what he’s saying is true.”
After a run to the region semifinals in 2019, Graceville has only won two games in the past two seasons. Bolware said his first step in laying a new foundation is to create feasible and realistic goals.
“Just letting them know where we are strength-wise, conditioning, numbers, not trying to pull the wool over their head and letting them know how far we have to go, but letting them know we can make up the ground very quickly if they’ll work,” Bolware said.
Graceville might possibly be returning the youngest high school football team in the state of Florida. Graceville Assistant Football Coach Daniel Cruz said that allows for underclassmen to step into starting roles.
“If we get a hold of our younger guys, work with them, we’ll develop them for the next level,” Cruz said. “Right now, yes our numbers might be low, but that doesn’t mean nothing.”
The Tiger might not be the betting favorites to bring home a state title this season and they’re okay with that. Junior wide receiver Adam Washington Jr. said they love the underdog mentality.
“Just being looked down at by every other school in the area because we’re the smallest, I really love that motivation, it really hypes me to do better,” Washington Jr. said. And I really feel like in this season, we’re going to do way better than any prior season in the past couple of years. So I just feel like we’re shooting for the stars and we’re just going to go high this season.”
Graceville will open their regular season on the road as they visit Holmes County on Friday, August 26.