Santa Fe expects to improve toughness
Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 19, 2013 at 1:23 p.m.
Veteran coach Bill Wiles minces no words when it comes to last year's 1-9 record in his inaugural season at Santa Fe.
Santa Fe Raiders
2012 record: 1-9
Coach: Bill Wiles (second year)
Key games: Sept. 13 at Suwannee; Oct. 25 at North Marion; Nov. 1 vs. Eastside
Players to watch: A.J. Mack, Sr., DB; Tray Presley, Sr., RB; Marcus Archer, Sr., ATH; Bradley English, Sr., FB/LB; Lee Washington, Sr., OL/LB; Matt Bednarek, Sr., OL/DL
(all games at 7:30 p.m.)
Aug. 30 at Newberry
Sept. 6 Jacksonville Episcopal
Sept. 13 at Suwannee*
Sept. 20 Dunnellon*
Sept. 27 at Interlachen
Oct. 4 Idle
Oct. 11 at Crystal River*
Oct. 18 at Belleview*
Oct. 25 at North Marion*
Nov. 1 Eastside*
Nov. 8 Keystone Heights
* District 5-5A games
“Our problem was that we were as soft as a cotton ball, and you can't play football soft,” he said. “Start with that and add the fact that we probably led the world in turnovers. If you turn the ball over, you're going to get beat.”
From 1984-2004, the Raiders were one of the most tradition-rich programs in the state, reaching the playoffs 12 times and winning a pair of state titles.
During that time, Wiles was mentoring one of the state's top small-school programs in Graceville, leading the Tigers to the 1993 Class 1A state title. Most recently, he took another area school, Branford, that had faced some lean times before his arrival, to four straight winning seasons from 2007-10 before returning to the Northwest Florida area and serving a one-year stint as head coach and athletic director at South Walton.
Entering his second season at Santa Fe, Wiles, who has compiled a 132-87 career record over a 19-year coaching span that includes six district titles and eight playoff appearances, is hoping to revive another program.
After finishing last season by upsetting district champion Eastside, 19-14, and then playing rival Fort White, another playoff-bound team, tough before falling 22-7, the Raiders are an upbeat bunch heading into the 2013 campaign.
“We closed the way we should have played all season,” said 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior lineman Matt Bednarek. “We based all of our offseason off of that and have basically been working to build that even more. Now that the season is almost here, I can tell that when we put the pads on, we're going to be a better and different team.”
Wiles is taking a more cautious approach.
“This team is a completely different team, so I don't really buy into the carryover deal,” he said. “These guys are going to have their own personality. What that is has yet to be seen.”
The Raiders' offense should get a boost from the addition of former running back Tray Presley, who played for Newberry last year. He has rejoined Santa Fe for this, his senior season, filling the void left by the graduation of last year's leading rusher, Damian Johnson, who ran for more than 900 yards.
“Defensively, we've got to stick our nose in there and stop people,” Wiles said. “We probably led the free world in giving up big plays last season, and if we do that again, we'll continue the ways of the last 14-15 years of this program, which we don't want to do.”
That is abundantly clear when talking to the players.
“We're definitely stronger and should be a pretty physical team,” said senior fullback/linebacker Bradley English, an honorable-mention All-Area performer in 2012. “We had a lot of momentum at the end of the year, and we have worked really hard in the spring and in the offseason. I think this will be a really good year for us.”
Wiles is anxious to see his second-year squad perform under fire.
“In the spring we were tougher, and we had a good offseason that the kids carried over,” he said. “We beat the tar out of each other in the spring, and it showed on a daily basis. If we carry that over and maintain it up until the season starts, then there's no doubt that we will be a better football team.”