New coach brings hope to Williston

Williston football Shooby Coleman passing
Gainesville quarterback transfer Shooby Coleman looks to lead Williston's offense this season. (Photo by C.J. Gish)
Williston football head coach Robby Pruitt
Photo by Megan Winslow Robby Pruitt

Heading into the summer, new Williston head coach Robby Pruitt said getting in the weight room was essential to the success of the Red Devils football program.

The pieces and the depth are there (over 60 kids participating daily) to turn Williston around, although Pruitt said it won’t take much to improve.

He takes over a Williston program that went just 1-8 last season.

“If you look at the situation, in the last 12 years they’ve had one winning season and that was 6-4 so we’ve got to get them used to believing in their self and we’ve got to get them in the weight room,” he said this past May. “They just haven’t had a program.”

From a nutrition program, a new weight room, a brand-new field house, to new uniforms, Pruitt’s fingerprints are over everything.

“We’re trying to lay bricks every day but we tell them it’s one brick at a time,” Pruitt said. “They’ve gotten better so I couldn’t ask anymore.”

Williston football Kyree Edwards
Photo by Megan Winslow Kyree Edwards

He’s building a program, but he definitely has some experience there.

“I think he is probably one of the best coaches ever, obviously the best coach I’ve ever been under,” said junior Wyatt Woodford (6-foot-1, 220 pounds), who will play right guard and center. “He’s going to turn this whole program around.”

Pruitt, who coached Union County (Lake Butler) to three straight state titles in the 1990s, has the experience to turn it around. Now, it’s up to the players.

Reyce Knauff (6-1, 205), a senior who will play linebacker and running back, had high praise for his new head coach.

“Coach Pruitt is an amazing coach,” Knauff said. “He’s come in and changed things around like crazy. He’s making things happen. He’s a blessing.”

Pruitt isn’t the only reason for excitement.

Williston football Wyatt Woodford
Photo by Megan Winslow Wyatt Woodford

Quarterback Shamon “Shooby” Coleman transferred from Gainesville High School in the spring.

“We’ve got a quarterback that can throw and run,” said senior running back and outside linebacker Edariyon Wesley. “We haven’t had one of those in a couple of years now so we’re looking forward to it.”

Last year, Coleman helped lead the Hurricanes to a district title by throwing for 649 yards in eight games with 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

“He’s very intelligent and has caught on quick,” Pruitt said. “We’re a Wing-T offense but we can throw the ball out of the wing. He can throw it so we’ve got to develop some receivers. But the things we’re going to struggle right now is in the trenches. It’s just going to take time for them to get stronger.”

It’s so important for a coach and his quarterback to be on the same page. That shouldn’t be an issue at Williston this year.

Williston football Edariyon Wesley
Photo by Megan Winslow Edariyon Wesley

“We clicked as soon as we met,” Coleman said of Pruitt. “I felt, we’re getting a ring.”

Plus, GHS running back Kyree Edwards – a 2021 Mainstreet All Area first team selection – has transferred for his senior season.

“I’ve been playing with him for years, so the chemistry is there,” Edwards said of he and his rising junior signal caller.

Edwards carried the ball 137 times for 839 yards with 10 touchdowns for the Class 6A-District 4 champion Hurricanes.

The senior has a lot of respect for his new head coach.

“He just makes things happen,” Edwards said. “He’s a go-getter. That influenced me to want to go get it with him.”

Their success may depend on the play of the offensive line, which got off to a slow start in the spring but made big strides during a camp visit to Georgia during the summer.

Williston football Reyce Knauff
Photo by Megan Winslow Reyce Knauff

“It was just getting to know each other better,” Woodford said. “We’re locked in now. We know what we need to do. Just knowing the plays now is a lot better compared to how it was in the spring.”

Defensively, expect the Red Devils to be flying around.

“We’re going to be aggressive, that’s the main thing,” said senior linebacker Trace Clemenzi (6-0, 190). “Physicality is the focal point. Holding each other accountable is going to be the biggest thing moving forward.”

Pruitt said they only got 13 offensive plays and 15 defensive plays in the spring game, but they did get some valuable experience in a 37-6 win at Taylor County (Perry) last Friday.

Coleman said in order for the team to have success at the end of the year will depend on how they are on a week-by-week basis.

“We’ve got to stay locked in the whole year,” Coleman said. “From the classroom, to the practice field, to the weight room, to the game field, all of it has to come together.”

Williston football Trace Clemenzi
Photo by Megan Winslow Trace Clemenzi

Pruitt has taught his team so much more than just football, according to Clemenzi, like the aspect of nutrition supplemented with the weight room to help each player become the best athlete they can be.

“We’ve got to stay together through the whole year, follow Coach Pruitt’s leadership, and buy into the program he’s instilled for us,” Clemenzi added.

Williston will compete in the new Class 1 Rural division Class 1R-Region 4) with Bronson, Chiefland, Dixie County (Cross City), Fort Meade, Hawthorne, Pahokee, Trenton and Wildwood.

“Our community is hungry,” Pruitt said. “I think we’ll be competitive this year. We’re definitely going to win more than one game. Heck, if we can win two that will be a 50% increase. But the community has been awesome. I think that’s been the best part of the job for me.”

Williston will host Hamilton County (Jasper) in the season opener this Friday at 7:30 p.m.

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