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Wewa football readies for 2023 season

Even though the Wewahitchka Gators will not be playing a Spring football game, head coach Bobby Johns knows the value of having a few extra weeks of practice in the spring, and this year may be even more important. 

“We’re installing an entirely new offense,” said Johns, “and we’re taking small steps to get some learning done.” 

“Spring practice has been good, attitudes have been really good, and the kids have worked hard,” he said. “You can tell the strength gains we made during weightlifting season are starting to pay off.” 

“They look stronger, and most of these kids have been with us for three or four years,” Johns said. 

“We’re always short on kids, especially in the spring,” he added, “and this year we had three of our main guys qualify for regional track competition,” referring to Bailey Cox, Corbin Hysmith, and Tyrann Williams. 

Cox and Hysmith also qualified for the state track meet, and “all three of them start on both sides of the ball.” 

Johns noted that the three were still able to be at practices, but “we’re not letting them have any contact because I don’t want to get them hurt before the state track meet.” 

Of the eight seniors on the Gator squad, Noah Taunton and Preston Stacey will anchor the two tackle positions. 

Another senior, Zay McDaniel, missed virtually all of his junior season due to a serious injury, but Johns thinks that the talented speedster will be 100% percent at the start of the regular season. The dynamic McDaniel rushed for 1,031 yards his sophomore year, and scored 10 touchdowns. 

“He’s been cleared for everything except contact,” said Johns. “All drills and all practices, but even if he’s cleared early, we’re not letting him have any contact this spring.” 

In addition to McDaniel’s running abilities, Wewa will display more skill on both sides of the ball this season. “We’ve got a lot more skill than we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Johns said. 

“We don’t have the Alex Williams-type kids, but we’ve got a bunch of (players) who can do a bunch of things,” he said. “Everybody can run, and everybody can catch. We’ve got some guys who can throw, so we’re just more evenly skilled than we’ve ever been.” 

Known for its heavy reliance upon the running game, fans and opposing teams should not be surprised to see a Gator passing attack this upcoming season. “I would say that is the goal,” said Johns, “depending on how the off season goes.”

“We’re not the team that is really big up front, with big, bruising runners who can line up and just knock you off the ball and go four or five yards at a clip,” he said. 

“That’s just not who we are, so we’re trying to change some things to fit more of our skill set this year. We’re spending a ton of time trying to get where we can throw and catch. You’re not going to be good at anything unless you do it, and we’ve never done a lot of throwing because that’s not who we felt like we wanted to be.” 

In between Taunton and Stacey at the offensive tackle slots, Johns will start a freshman and two sophomores, “and our only backup on the line is a ninth grader, so we’re just really thin and really young on the offensive line,” he said. 

Johns also pointed out that this team will have more versatility than in the past. 

“The drop off between the guy who starts and the next guy is not nearly as big as it’s been in the past. We may not be quite as elite in a couple of areas, but there’s not as big of a drop off, which for us is important. We can put other people in and not change what we do,” he said. 

Although kicking extra points is something of a rarity at Wewa, other parts of the kicking game are sound. “Bailey (Cox) is one of the better punters in the area, and he’s gotten much better with kickoffs,” Johns said. “Extra points? I just don’t know.” 

“Our kickoffs have to be better, because we can’t keep giving people the ball at midfield. We’ll try to kick it deeper and trust our guys to not let them return it,” he added. “With us being able to run better, I have less of a concern about a long return.” 

In addition to long-time assistant coach Gene Rollins, Johns also has John Rodgers, Chaz Johns, Cameron Lister, Ray Glisson, David Peavy, Wayne Flowers, and Gary Sassnett on the staff. 

The Gators open 2023 with a pre-season contest at Maclay on August 18 at 6:00 Central. Here is the rest of the Gator schedule (all times are Central): 

8/25 – Brookwood School 7:00 

9/1 – at Bell 7:00 

9/8 – Open 

9/15 – Dixie County 7:00 

9/22 – at Bozeman 7:00 

9/29 – Cottondale 7:00 

10/6 – at Liberty County 7:00 

10/13 – at Franklin County 6:00 

10/20 – FAMU 7:00 

10/27 – Jay 7:00 

11/3 – Franklin County 7:00

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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