Chiefland building off past success

Chiefland's Zachary Dumas (55) and Jon Adams (21) will anchor the offensive and defensive lines, respectively, for the Indians.
Chiefland's Zachary Dumas (55) and Jon Adams (21) will anchor the offensive and defensive lines, respectively, for the Indians.
Photos by C.J. Gish

Outside of the COVID-19 year in 2020, Chiefland football has been on an upswing.

In 2018, head coach Adam Gore led the Indians to a 10-2 record and a spot in the Class 1A region final, where they lost to eventual state champion Madison County.

It was Chiefland’s first playoff appearance since 2004.

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The following year, the Indians advanced to the Class 1A-Region 4 Final, falling at Pahokee, 32-27, under then head coach John Palmer.

And in 2021, the Indians advanced to the Class 1A state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Madison County.

In his first season as head coach in 2022, alum James Corbin led the Chiefland football team to a 7-3 record a spot in the Class 1R state playoffs.

The Indians dominated Newberry in the regional quarterfinals but lost at Pahokee in the second round.

“Last year I feel we made a lot of headway for our team as a program,” Corbin said. “Ultimately, coming in and taking over a new regime, we just want to build off of where we were. That’s the biggest thing from a year to year standpoint, a week to week standpoint, just continue to get better and build off our previous successes.”

While Chiefland does have some key returnees, there are some concerns heading into the season.

A total of 17 seniors graduated, a starting defensive lineman (Shawn Watkins) had knee surgery and will miss this year, leading All Area running back Dakota Fisher (1,401 yards) transferred to Fort White, and starting linebacker Lawrence Rivers will play with a broken foot this season.

Plus, the Indians will compete in a tough Class 1R-Region 4 which includes defending state champion Hawthorne (12-0), regional finalist Pahokee (9-3), Williston (10-1), Wildwood (8-3) and Newberry (6-4).

“Our region specifically is tough,” Corbin said. “There’s no real way around it. I really do wish that we had districts, which would help out with scheduling. Overall, it’s tough, but it’s good because you’re going to see that competition throughout the year and get better because of it.”

Despite the setbacks, the cupboard is not bare. A total of five starters are back on offense.

Corbin said you’re only as good as your offensive line, which returns three seniors in Brody Ellis (6-1, 270), Zachary Dumas (6-3, 290) and Zach’s brother, Nathaniel Dumas (6’2, 245).

“We’ve been grinding in the weight room, five, six days a week, putting in the work, going on the field, getting a lot of drills in, and bettering ourselves for the season,” Ellis said.

Dumas said the line is going to be as good as it was last year, but he’s also optimistic about this year’s team as a whole.

“We have a bunch of people who can do different things,” he said. “We have a tight end (Mike Goodale) who is amazing, and our defense is going to be the same as it was last year. We have two amazing kids coming off the edge. We’re just a bunch of athletes that love football.”

All Area selection Jon Adams, who led the team with 14.5 sacks and 58 tackles, is back for his sophomore season. Rivers (57 tackles), a senior, and junior Reggie Adams (53 tackles, 4.5 sacks) join Jon Adams on a defense that returns its top three tacklers.

Physicality is a team strength, along with run blocking and pass defense.

With a tough schedule that is among the top Tri-County football games to watch this season, Chiefland expects to be tested early and often.

The Indians open the season at Williston, which went unbeaten during the regular season last year, and they close the season on the road against Class 2S regional finalist Frostproof.

In addition to games at Wildwood, Lafayette (Mayo) and Newberry, the Indians will host perennial power Madison County in the regular season home finale on Oct. 27.

“The team that knocked us out in the final four in '21 comes back to Chiefland,” Corbin said. “This is a game I know a lot of our kids have circled on the schedule right now.”

Chiefland will know who they are by the time November gets here. Corbin expects his team to get better every week because of the competition that they will face.

But they get a good early season test against rival Williston. The two teams played each other late in the season in 2022 but this year’s game has been moved to Friday, Aug. 25.

“The Levy Cup is something that always gets our kids and communities fired up,” Corbin said. “This year is no different, and to have Williston for week one means we're going to open up the year with a great ball game versus a great team.”

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