By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC
What’s the best thing to do the season after winning two nail-biting playoff games in the final minutes – a quarter final and a semi-final – before advancing to your first state championship game in 30 years?
Forget about it. Move on.
While 2012 was a special season for Dooly County and the folks in Vienna, a town of just under 4,000 in southwest Georgia, it ended with a sobering 47-7 beat down by Emanuel County Institute at the Georgia Dome in the Class A Public School Final. To make matters worse, the Bobcats’ leader, defensive tackle Montravius Adams, widely considered the top defensive lineman in the country, was negated by a severe ankle injury and a nasty group of ECI offensive linemen. Adams played only a handful of snaps in the second half of the game.
“You can’t continue to look back. We talked about the game when we came back to school in January after the [winter] break,” said Dooly head coach Jimmy Hughes, now entering his fourth season. “But then, it was time to move forward. That was a special team and it was a special year for our community, a great year. But now it’s time for the next team to try to finish the deal.”
Hughes said the Bobcats will have to win differently than they did last season, when their offensive and defensive lines – led by Adams, along with Jalen Daniels, JaSean Wiley and Dequan Daniels – overwhelmed most opponents. All four of those players have graduated. Adams will line up at Auburn this fall, Daniels at Troy, and Wiley at Mississippi Delta Community College. Hughes believes that something will open up late at the college level for Dequan Daniels.
“Last season our strength was our front four and everything we did was designed for them to make plays,” Hughes said. “This year we’ll be young and inexperienced there for the most part. But we’ve got about seven guys who are young and talented, and were able to play a little bit behind Montravius and those other guys. They’ll get their chance this year.”
Hughes said the leadership displayed by last year’s linemen will be missed just as much as their talent and size.
“Our young guys were able to see how hard Montravius and those guys worked,” Hughes said. “They were right there with them every day and they saw the success those guys had. Hopefully that will rub off on them.
“This year we may utilize those guys in a way that frees up our linebackers and defensive backs to make plays,” Hughes said. “You always want to get your playmakers in the best position possible to make plays.”
On the back end those playmakers are defensive backs Tay Daniels and Kereon Merrell, and linebacker Mark Clark. On offense, everything will revolve around rising junior running back Chanin Hamilton, who rushed for 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns.
And the Bobcats’ “12th man” will return as well. Nearly every resident of Vienna made the two-hour trek to Atlanta to see Dooly in the state finals.
“That support really means a lot,” Hughes said. “When we went over to Seminole County and Lincoln County (in the playoffs), we had tremendous crowds. The people in this town have high expectations for us, and we like that. It makes us all work harder.
“But the support is nothing but positive,” Hughes said. “This town, like a lot of others, has been hit hard by the economy. Things are getting better but it’s slow. Around here, Friday nights are like a festival. Everybody wants to be at the game because that’s the place to be, and we love that.”
Hughes won’t promise another deep playoff run, but he believes the 2013 Bobcats will be good, due in large part to their predecessors advancing to the post season the last three seasons.
“We lost a lot of good players, but we’ve got a group of seniors who have played in a lot of football games, 36 games in three years,” Hughes said. “We won’t be as big as we were last year, but I think we’ll as fast or faster as a team than anyone we play, and sometimes speed can make up for being undersized.”
Dooly County Bobcats
2012 record: 11-3 (6-1 in Region 4A; lost in Class A Public Final to Emanuel County Institute, 47-7)
Starters returning: 5 on offense, 7 on defense
Key players lost: DL/K Montravius Adams (Auburn), DE/OLB Jalen Daniels (Troy), OL/DL JaSean Wiley (Mississippi Delta Community College), OT/DE Dequan Daniels (Pending)
Key players returning: RB Chanin Hamilton (5-10, 175); OL/DL Larry Glover (6-1, 315); WR/DB Courtney Clark (5-11, 175); OL/DL Terrell Deriso (6-1, 280).
Spring practice dates: May 6-17
Schedule: (Scrimmage) Aug. 16 vs. Crisp County, Aug. 30 vs. Macon County, Sept. 6 vs. Americus-Sumter, Sept. 13 at Wilcox County, Sept. 27 vs. Brookstone, Oct. 4 at Hawkinsville, Oct. 13 vs. Central-Talbotton, Oct. 18 at Marion County, Oct. 25 vs. Pacelli, Nov. 1 at Greenville, Nov. 8 at Schley County.
Outlook: Dooly advanced to its first state final since it lost to West Rome (35-0) in the 1983 Class AA final, which has raised expectations even more in Vienna. Look for the Bobcats to be in the thick of things this fall, as rising junior running back Chanin Hamilton will most likely become the next big thing at Dooly, post Montravius Adams.