Baconton Charter head football coach Glenn Palmer, left, knows he needs big things out of Bakare McDuffie, center, and team captain Richard Watson this season for the Blazers to be successful in their second year as a varsity program.
BACONTON -- A fledgling high school football program goes through two kinds of growing pains: Losing big and losing small.
After enduring the "losing big" phase in 2010 as a first-year varsity program -- the Blazers went 2-7 with one win on a forfeit and were outscored by an average of 37 points in their losses -- Baconton Charter head coach Palmer believes his team is ready to enter the second phase in 2011.
"I've always been told you're going to lose big when you start off. There's no way around that. We've done that," head coach Glenn Palmer said. "And then you lose small. What we mean by that is you get competitive and you get a chance to win some games, and maybe you win three or four, but you get competitive. "We don't know how many games we're going to win, and we're not even talking about that. We're just talking about getting better one day at a time."
Just don't tell that to the Baconton players, who have loftier ambitions for their team this season.
"We're trying to go for a winning season this year," senior Richard Watson said. "When the program first started up, it never even looked possible, but for the first time I think we could possibly get a winning season."
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WHO: Baconton vs. Pelham.
WHAT: Season opener for both teams.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. today.
WHERE: Centennial Stadium, Camilla.
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Watson then added: "We've had a lot of growth and a lot more commitment this year. We've got a bunch more dedicated players. We're all into it, we get the team going and they all inspire each other."
While Palmer preferred a more cautiously optimistic approach to the Blazers' second varsity season, which begins with a showdown today at 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Field in Camilla against neighboring Pelham, he did say his team was in position to make strides.
One of the reasons he and Watson offered was the addition of two assistant coaches, former Pelham head coach Jim Morrell and former Bainbridge defensive coordinator Johnny Hayes, both of whom bring extensive experience to the table.
"They've got a lot of new things for us to try out," said Watson, who will utilize their tutelage on both sides of the ball, manning both lines and spending time at linebacker.
Baconton hopes the new assistants' arrivals help offset the losses of five seniors, including James Davis, the star tailback and strong safety from last season who has ambitions of walking on to a major D-I school this fall.
"We lost five seniors. To most teams, that's not much, but to a little bitty school like us, five seniors is a lot," said Palmer, who only has one senior returning starter on this year's squad to go along with a host of juniors. "We were relatively young last year. We only had two juniors, so most of our kids were those five seniors and a bunch of young kids, and we had a lot of freshmen play last year that really grew up.
"We're expecting those kids to step up and play this year, and play consistently and play a lot."
One player looking to do just that, particularly looking to fill the void left by Davis, is junior Bakare McDuffie, who said he expects to see action at Davis' old posts at tailback and strong safety.
McDuffie said he and the Blazers are more than up to the challenge.
"We're going in," McDuffie said. "We're getting after it, working hard, executing plays, getting ready for Friday nights."
However the players step into those roles this season, Palmer said it all comes back to the task at hand for a program still looking to make its mark.
"We just want to get to the point where we're playing competitive football right now," said Palmer, whose Blazers will once again play a non-region schedule with the hopes of fully competing in 1-A next season. "We're not talking about wins and losses. Some of that stuff's not controllable. We want to control what we can control, and we can control our effort.
"That's where we're at right now is trying to get better, trying to become a competitive football team."
Baconton's 2011 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Glenn Palmer (fourth season as head coach at Baconton, fourth overall).
2010 RECORD: 2-7.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Johnny Hayes (defensive coordinator); Jim Morrell (offensive coordinator); Robert Williams (assistants); Stacey Butler (assistants); Brian Beck (assistants).
RETURNING STARTERS: Brock Pinson (Jr., QB); Richard Watson (Sr., OG); Marcus Allen (Jr., So.); Haram Jackson (Jr., FB); Bakarie McDuffie (Jr., TB); Queinten Smith (So., DE/FB); Brandon Shiver (Jr., DT); Gage Brettel (Jr., C); Zack Jones (So., TE); Tony Holland (Jr., WR/CB); Jacob Pollock (Jr., WR)
2011 Baconton Blazers schedule
Today vs. Pelham, in Camilla, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 at Lee County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 3 vs. Bacon County, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Randolph-Clay, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 at Georgia Military, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 vs. Hebron Christian, in Pelham, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 vs. Stewart County, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Jeff Davis, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 vs. Glascock County, 7:30 p.m.