Randolph Southern head coach Ottis Griggs
SHELLMAN -- Randolph Southern football coach Ottis Griggs knows his team might have been a bit stronger had three senior players opted to return.
But he likes what he sees from the guys he does have.
Left without a senior member in advance of their Aug. 26 season opener at Central Fellowship, the Patriots have been working diligently through a "patient" offseason with hopes of competing in a small way, Griggs said.
"I'm just trying to explain to the kids what we're doing, how we're doing it," Griggs said. "We lost three of our seniors, and that really hurt us, but the kids who are out there now are really working hard.
"They're a happy group, and when we get on the field it's all business."
The team will take that approach into what it hopes will be an improvement on its 5-6 campaign in 2010; the Patriots finished third in GISA Region 2-IA behind state champion Westwood School and Terrell Academy.
The three would-be seniors include Randolph Southern's previous quarterback as well as an All-Region guard and a wide receiver, who Griggs said "would have been a great player."
"They just chose not to participate," the coach said.
Not that the Patriots are complaining. It's just next man up, junior defensive end Grant Ward said.
"The people who played last year, they've got to step up and be the seniors that we don't have," Ward said.
One such player is junior Blake Lamb, who figures to be in the thick of the quarterback competition.
"We have a few new guys who will fill those voids pretty good once they get in the swing of things," Lamb said. "We'll have to be scrappy on the offensive and defensive side. It won't be high-scoring games."
Whatever the pace of the game, Griggs said just playing in a game setting will best help him to evaluate where his team stands.
"I like the effort that I see from them," Griggs said of his players, "but you know game experience, you can't take that away. If you have game experience, you'll be able to adjust to plays, adjust to defenses when the game starts. We don't have that."
The Patriots believe that experience will come against the powers in their region.
Westwood and Terrell Academy figure to present plenty of challenges for Randolph Southern, both Griggs and the players said.
The Wildcats, who went undefeated on their way to a GISA state crown, enter the season as favorites once again.
"Westwood's going to be tough," Lamb said. "They're going to be about as good as they were last year."
Griggs was hesitant to put his young Patriots team in the conversation of favorites for the 2-IA title, but he did say one never knows with this game.
"Everybody else we play, they have more players, they've got some returning, things of that nature," Griggs said. "We'd have to have a few breaks and stuff happen for us, but that's our goal.
"Our goal is to win our first football game. The rest of it, we'll take them one at a time."
Randolph Southern's 2011 season outlook
HEAD COACH: Ottis Griggs (9th season at Randolph Southern).
2010 RECORD: 4-6.
ASSISTANT COACHES: Curtis Stanfield (offensive/defensive line), Ben Skinner (offensive/defensive line, defensive backs), Jordan Simpkins (special teams).
RETURNING STARTERS: Blake Lamb (Jr.,QB/DB.); Matt Kendrick (Jr., RB/CB), Grant Ward (Jr., OT/DE), Owen Deal (Jr., TE/LB).
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Drew Weathersby (Jr., OL/LB) Brett Sauls (Jr., OL/DE), Cameron Barley (Jr., TE/LB), Dallas Baker (Jr., OL), Jonathon Davenport (So., RB, DL), Scotty Milner (So., OL/DL), Trey Gore (Jr., RB/S), Jarred Sauls (Fr., WR/DB), Logan Eubanks (Fr., RB/LB).
2011 Randolph Southern patriots schedule
Friday at Central Fellowship, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 2 . Harvester Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. Southwest Georgia Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Valwood, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 at Windsor Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 vs. Crisp Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 7 at Westwood, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Dawson Street, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 27 vs. Fullington Academy (1-A), 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 at Terrell Academy, 7:30 p.m.