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PREVIEW CAPSULE: Americus-Sumter

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CLASS/REGION: GHSA Region 1-AAAA

2013 RECORD: 4-6; missed playoffs

COACH: Dexter Dawson

RETURNING STARTERS: RB Wesley Fields (Sr., 5-11, 195); WR Dwight Harris (Sr., 5-10, 180); OL Leonard Williams (Sr., 6-3, 280); OL Mycah Jones (Sr., 6-3, 260); DB Isaiah Ingram (Sr., 5-10, 180); DL Tyler Clark (Jr., 6-4, 290); DB David Tyson (Sr., 6-1, 195); DB Rodrick Muff (Sr., 5-9, 175)

2014 SCHEDULE:

Aug. 22 — at Smiths Station, Ala.

Aug. 29 — Macon County

Sept. 4 — at Shaw

Sept. 12 — at Thomas Co. Central

Sept. 19 — Albany

Oct. 3 — at Bainbridge

Oct. 10 — Westover

Oct. 24 — at Worth County

Oct. 31 — Dougherty

Nov. 7 — Region play-in game

LOOKING FOR STABILITY: Of the Panthers’ eight returning starters, seven are seniors — and they will be stepping on the field Friday with their fourth head coach in the last four years.

Dexter Dawson is taking over the team after Reggie Mitchell unexpectedly resigned after one year as head coach, and Dawson says it’s important to bring stability to the program.

“I think that’s vital,” he said. “It’s important to keep people in place to make sure that the various support systems are there for the student-athletes. Coaches tend to move for various reasons, but yet it’s the student-athletes who get affected the most.”

For most of the Panthers, Dawson was a familiar face. The former Georgia Southern standout and CFL and AFL receiver was an assistant principal at Americus-Sumter before taking over the football program and athletic department in April. Dawson previously was the head coach at Twiggs County for one season and also served as an assistant coach at Americus-Sumter in 2012 under head coaches Michael Pollock and Chris Wade.

“The guys have an idea of who I was and where I want to take the program,” Dawson said, “so that has made this transition easier.”

DYNAMITE FIELDS: Running back Wesley Fields is one of just two returning Dynamite Dozen selections this fall, and there’s a reason why.

The senior should be one of the top playmakers in Region 1-AAAA after having phenomenal sophomore and junior seasons.

“From a leadership standpoint, he’s a kid who leads by example,” Dawson said. “You don’t have to worry about him. He’s always early and always has the mindset to outwork the opponent. I am personally putting more pressure on him to be a vocal leader. When he talks, the younger kids listen.”

He partnered with standout quarterback and fellow Dynamite Dozen selection Jonathan Thomas last season, but Thomas has graduated and the Panthers have several kids competing to fill his shoes, including Mekall Yancie, Floyd Fitzpatrick and Austin Sandwich.

“At quarterback, I will have to play a kid who has never played that position on a varsity football field,” Dawson said. “I know I might have to take my lumps at that position, but we hope the kids rally around that position and take on the added responsibility.”