Stetson Dickerson and his White House Heritage football team were rushing to be prepared for the 2018 season.
He took the job last June, well after other programs had completed months of offseason workouts and spring practice. The Patriots got behind the eight ball, and it showed. The team finished 1-9.
“We didn’t touch a football until July,” he said. “We were just trying to figure out what everybody’s name was, really. We didn’t get our personnel in the best spots until halfway through the season.”
This spring was a different story.
Dickerson has a full coaching staff in place. He is aware of his team’s strengths and what they need to improve. And he certainly knows every player by name.
That led to productive scrimmages against Clarksville Northeast and Jo Byrns, and Dickerson said he feels more confident heading into his second season.
“It was good to go back, teach fundamentals and kind of slow down,” he said. “It feels a whole lot better to have my feet underneath me. We’re far from where we need to be, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
Fall camp will be highlighted by a quarterback battle. Jalen Witham graduated, leaving junior Will Wilson and sophomore Taye Francis to vie for the starting job. Wilson had a solid spring after recovering from a knee injury, while Francis was the junior varsity quarterback last season.
“We’ve let them both work, and we’re going to let this thing figure itself out,” Dickerson said. “Both of them are super smart. We’re going to give them as much experience as possible early on.”
Dickerson has also tinkered with the offensive scheme. The Patriots will run a two-back shotgun rather than the wing-t in hopes of expanding the playbook.
“We’re going to run the football, but we’ll have the ability to spread it around on the perimeter if we need to,” Dickerson said.
The carries will be split between junior Jackson Mapes, senior Parker Deaton and junior Malakhai Illaramendi, with Mapes serving as the workhorse back.
“(Mapes) is going to touch the football and get a chance to pound people,” Dickerson said. “He’s probably our strongest kid in the weight room. We need to make people tired of tackling Jackson.”
The Patriots return six starters on offense and eight on defense. Senior safety Trenton Tuttle, senior linebacker Steven Hensley and junior cornerback Timothy Freel are expected to be leaders on defense.
After an offseason of stability, Heritage is primed to be more competitive in 2019. The Patriots’ first test will come Aug. 23 at Middle Tennessee Christian.
“We told (the team) that, ‘We’re not good enough to show up and beat anybody, but we’re good enough to show up and play with everybody.’ That’s all you can do."