The Dixie County (Cross City) football team is getting excited about the start of the upcoming season.
It rubs off from their head coach, former football alum L.B. Cravey, who enters his third season as the head coach of the Bears. He is proud to wear the red and white.
“I feel that way when they cut the grass at Dixie County, the smell of it, the old locker rooms, the small towns with their signs up when you drive through Cross City,” he explained. “All of that stuff I treasure and being able to be a part of it now and kind of help promote it has definitely been a blessing and I’m really excited.”
There’s plenty of reasons for optimism on both offense and defense in 2021.
Despite the loss of quarterback Sam Cannon, the ground game will be in good hands with the return of seniors Kolton Hunt and Paras Clines.
Hunt, who averaged 5.9 yards per carry, is a three-year starter for the Bears.
“He’s explosive,” Cravey said. “If you put the ball in his hands, he knows how to make moves and get away from people.”
The rising senior also scored six rushing touchdowns and had two receiving scores.
“We have a lot of explosive players on offense,” said Hunt, who will also play safety. “And on defense we only lost two starters, so we’ve got a lot returning. I’m excited because we can go a long way this year. We’re a very talented team. We’re a very explosive team.”
Clines (6’2, 217), who is more of a fullback type player, averaged 5.6 yards per carry as a junior.
“I feel like offense will be better than it was in the past,” Clines said. “We have a lot of weapons.”
Leading receiver Brenden Hall (72 yards per game, 6 TDs) is back for his senior season, along with wide receivers Nate Chesser and Luke Thomas.
“Hall was our most explosive receiver,” Cravey said. “He has a lot of speed. He’s one of the better and faster boys in 1A in my opinion. He’s definitely going to help us out.”
Trace Smith, who is a three-year starter, will anchor the offensive line. He got moved over from guard to center to try and fill the gap.
“The line is on the younger side but definitely on the bigger side coming into this season,” Cravey said. “In the past we’ve had smaller guys on the line, but they’ve been working really hard to get stronger and bigger.”
Clines will play outside linebacker and defensive end for the Bears.
“He can be a train wreck over there,” Cravey said.
Defensive end Jaydon Bray is a three-year starter, while Smith will play some middle linebacker as well.
Cravey said the team strength will be speed.
“We’ve got a lot of skilled athletes,” he said. “The senior class was sophomores when I took over and they’ve grown, they’ve matured, they’ve gotten stronger, and some of them have gotten faster. They’re a tight-knit group who have fought well for each other since their sophomore year. With the skill set that we’ve got I feel like we can be successful.”
The Bears are in Class 1A-Region 3 which includes Bell, Branford, Chiefland, Fort White, Hilliard, Lafayette (Mayo), Trenton, and Union County (Lake Butler).
Cravey said he likes playing 1A football.
“It’s a different style of football,” he said. “Nothing prepares you for life more than that. I always look at 1A football as an opportunity. The boys flip over to both sides of the ball. They have to keep pushing.”
Dixie County will also compete in the Sunshine State Athletic Conference, which will play its postseason before the end of the regular season to give teams an opportunity to also play in the FHSAA playoffs.
“It’s an opportunity to try to play for more championships within the season and then move on to state so we jumped on that opportunity,” Cravey said. “We tried to do it a few years ago but we had scheduling conflicts, and then COVID-19, but now that we’re in the boys are excited about that.”
Cravey said that in order for this to be a special year a couple of things have to happen.
“We have to play four quarters,” he said. “I feel like if everyone will buy in, and they are on the right track, but if they continue to do that every week no matter what then we’ve got to get better. We have to be better than the week before or the day before, but as long as we finish and we’ve gotten better, I feel like this team can be really successful.”
Dixie County will open the season with back-to-back home games against Suwannee (Live Oak) on Friday, Aug. 27, and Trenton on Friday, Sept. 3.
2021 Dixie County (Cross City) football schedule
Aug. 27 – vs. Suwannee (Live Oak)
Sept. 3 – vs. Trenton
Sept. 10 – at Williston
Sept. 17 – at Chiefland
Sept. 24 – vs. Hamilton County (Jasper)
Oct. 1 – OFF
Oct. 8 – vs. Union County (Lake Butler)
Oct. 15 – at Fort White
Oct. 22 – vs. Newberry