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Perhaps mercifully, the Coffee County football season came to a close with a loss Friday.
A season full of hope and big promises in July and August slipped into the cool October air without much of a grumble from a few hundred in attendance on the home side watching Cookeville roll to a 33-7 win over the Raiders Friday.
The first two seasons of Lee Davis’ tenure have been far from spectacular – combined 5-15 in the regular season or 5-16 if you count a playoff loss. Far from the promises of “this isn’t the same old Coffee County that gets beat up by 45 every Friday night and then tries to start a fight on the way out of the stadium,” that Davis matter-of-factly stated at 2011 District 6-AAA media day. In fairness to past players and coaches, I don’t remember the last time Coffee County started a fight after the game. In fairness to Davis, the Raiders didn’t lose by 45 this year but they were outscored 289-151 over 10 games, an average of 28.9-15.1. That’s almost a two-touchdowns-per-game deficit against a favorable schedule – Red Raider opponents combined to finish 41-59.
What will the offseason bring? Coffee County isn’t sitting on a goldmine of talent. It never has been. But when a talented player or two does come along, Coffee County can’t afford to let them slip through without maximizing the gain (See Chris Elam in 1997 and Jake Nunley in 2003 and 2004). Coffee County is in danger of letting a special opportunity slip through the cracks. I haven’t seen any Chris Elam’s walking around, or even a Jake Nunley, but it is hard to miss the six-foot Deangelo Rozier walking around the school.
Elam was one of a kind – bulldozing his way to 1,565 yards in 1997- plus another 385 yards in a playoff loss. Nunley put together back-to-back 2,000 yard seasons. I’m not sure anyone is asking Rozier to be the next Nunley, but it’s fair to say people hope to see him take over a game like those two players did. So far, glimpses have been visible (see Franklin County, 32 carries, 230 yards). But his ability to take over an entire season hasn’t happened yet – and the coaching staff and Rozier himself have one more crack at it.
Maybe putting those kinds of expectations on a high school kid isn’t fair. But it is reality. Football here has been about as simple as this – struggle for four or five years, maybe more, before a special player comes along to help drive a winning season and inject enthusiasm across the town. The proof is in the numbers – 1997 saw a 7-3 record, 2003 saw a 7-3 record and 2004 a 6-4 mark. The Raiders’ next winning season came in 2007 when they went 6-4. We haven’t seen one since.
Now it’s time for Davis to step up and lead Rozier and this football team to something special before Raider faithful are robbed of a chance to see another winning season; before another season dwindles away with a few hundred people in the seats – mostly because of senior night. One more losing season would be the longest drought between winning records since prior to 1997.
The offseason is important. It starts now. Talking about not being the “same old Coffee County” is too easy. Some players have followed their coach, talking about how things have changed. But 5-15 doesn’t prove that statement, does it?
Talk is cheap. It’s time for action.