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Forfeit in their rear view, Indians set for playoff push

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

DONALSONVILLE -- Alan Ingram calls them the "Silent Majority.''

Why not? His Indians, who seemed to slip off the radar after a controversial decision by the GHSA cost his team a chance to win the Region 1-A title, are back stronger than ever -- a force heading into the postseason after a strange ride through a season no one at Seminole County will forget.

"We've been overlooked by the state rankings,'' Ingram said. "But that's fine with us. We're the silent majority. We had to win out to get here, but we're here,'' he said with a smile.

Seminole is here, all right. The Indians (6-3, and 5-1 in the region) wrap up the regular season Friday night at Randolph-Clay, and win or lose, they will be at home in the first round of the playoffs next week as the No. 2 seed from Region 1-A. And for the first time all year they will have running back Chris Brown.

Brown, who gained more than 1,400 yards and scored 26 touchdowns last year, has missed the entire season with a dislocated hip.

But now he's back.

"I'm sky-high to get back on the field,'' Brown said Wednesday. "I'm excited. It was hard to sit there and watch my team on the sidelines. It made me mad, made me angry.''

How good is Seminole?

No one knows, because Big Brown hasn't been there to deliver, and because the Indians have had such a strange season.

The only game that separates the Indians from No. 1 Mitchell County is a forfeit they had to swallow after a tough decision by the GHSA wiped out the entire Seminole roster, which had to sit the game out because of an on-field altercation in Daleville, Ala. on Sept. 27.

That seems like a lifetime ago now at Seminole, where the Indians somehow regrouped and won their next three games, including last week's 29-7 win against rival Miller County, which nailed down the No. 2 seed.

"We knew we had to win out to get the No. 2 seed,'' Ingram said. "I didn't know how the kids would respond. We had a five-week stretch where we played about one game. We had to sit out the Mitchell game, then we played Pelham, and then we played Stewart, but played the first team only about one quarter in that game. Then we had a bye week before we played Miller. It was just a strange time.''

Kids could have quit the team or just packed it in for the rest of the season after the Daleville game. It started with a couple of players pushing and shoving each other, and the Seminole players left the bench to go onto the field. No blows were thrown except for the two players involved, but the GHSA ruled every player who left the bench had to sit out the next week, and that was the biggest region game of the year -- against Mitchell.

"It was controversial,'' Ingram said. "The officials should have thrown a flag at the kids (who were involved in the altercation) and we should have kept playing the game. We just hurt that Mitchell won the region without a contest. It hurt us, hurt other teams in the region and hurt Mitchell, too. I know (Mitchell coach) Dondrial Pinkins would have wanted to have played the game.''

Instead of falling apart, Seminole came together. It started the Monday after the Daleville game when Dee Virgin, the player who was involved in the altercation, asked Ingram if he could apologize to the team.

"It just ate me up all weekend,'' Virgin said. "I felt like I let my team down. It really hurt me. I had a lot of pressure on me. I wanted to tell the team I was sorry. We were losing and they were talking a lot of trash, and the guy hit me and I reacted. I shouldn't have done that, and felt like I let everybody down.''

The Indians listened to every word, then rallied around each other.

"We forgave him,'' LB/FB Barren Rambo said. "It wasn't his fault. The guy pushed him. But we became a better team after that. We worked harder and became closer. We stood by each other.''

If they wanted to make the playoffs, they knew they had to beat the teams left on the schedule.

"It made us stronger,'' said Sammy Buczek, a fullback and linebacker.

And somehow they made it through that awkward month-long stretch before the Miller game.

"It was weird,'' Buczek said. "I've never experienced anything like that before. But we knew what we were capable of doing. We just kept practicing hard. No one let up. We practiced even harder after that happened.''

It was difficult to take the loss to Mitchell, and practice for two weeks without a game.

"It was sickening that Mitchell got first place in the region,'' Rambo said. "We didn't know what to do that Friday night, so almost half the team went to the Pelham-Miller County game.''

They felt a little lost and confused by the dominoes that fell against them, and it seemed the whole season was that way. Four starters left the team in August and then Brown, the premier returning back in this part of the state, went down with his hip injury.

Then the forfeit.

"It was awful. I've never seen anything like it in 39 years of coaching,'' Ingram said of the forfeit and funky period that followed. "But it is what it is, and we had to move on from it. Our kids were looking forward to the Mitchell game. But we (didn't have anyone quit the team). Our kids would just as soon be with us as anywhere else.''

Something else happened along the way: Seminole just kept getting better. Several players stepped up and made up for the loss of Brown. QB Antwan Buggs rushed for 893 yards and 11 TDs, and Virgin (660 yards and seven TDs) and Rambo (563 yards and nine TDs) filled those big shoes. Freshman JaVonte Smith ran for 199 yards and a touchdown, and four other Indians combined for 230 yards on the ground. Seminole scored 30 rushing touchdowns this season without Brown.

"We had eight guys running the ball this year,'' Ingram said. "Last year, we had three or four.''

And when the team came together after the forfeit, Ingram saw something else.

"Our second-tier players, a lot of whom were just going through the motions, stepped up and really started playing better,'' Ingram said. "We played a lot more (kids) this year. We were looking to play 12 to 14 players this year, and we've played 22, using different players at different times.''

The defense has made a statement, too. Linebacker Andrew Ingram leads the way with 84 tackles, including nine for losses and four sacks. Buczek has 54 and seven tackles for losses, and Rambo has 45 with three for losses and one sack. Defensive end Desmond Wright leads the team with five sacks.

And now Brown, who also plays defensive back, is back.

"He's our chosen one,'' Ingram said. "Whether he likes it or not, he's the chosen one for us. He's 100 percent, and having him back means everything to us. All of our kids are excited to have him back.''

Seminole is definitely back. And whether the state poll or anyone else in Georgia knows about Ingram's "Silent Majority,'' the Indians and Brown are ready to make some noise.