Parents, players led to Indians#039; turnaround

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 17, 2005

When Jerome Tate opened his first practice as Loachapoka's new head football coach 11 years ago he just 14 young men stand before him.

Since then, Tate has honed a school that has been known for its basketball prowess into a solid contender for the Class 1A title each year.

Now there are 51 guys surrounding Tate, and the Indians are back on the warpath after getting knocked out in the quarterfinals last year by Sweet Water, which went on to claim the 1A crown.

&#8220I can't put but 11 out there at one time, but I sure do wish I could put all 51 up against Brantley Friday night,” Tate said about his team's quarterfinal opponent.

So what was the magical formula to turning a struggling football program into a winner?

Tate said he had little to do with the metamorphosis.

&#8220I got a lot of parental involvement. The parents and the kids got this program turned around,” Tate said. &#8220They made sure these kids to and from practice and to and from weight training during the summer.”

While Loachapoka advanced with a convincing 29-0 victory over Millry in the second round, Tate believes that everyone has already counted out and overlooked his team.

&#8220They are waiting for a matchup with them and (American Christian), Tate said of a possible semifinal matchup for Brantley. &#8220That's all we heard was the (possible) matchup between Brantley and ACA.”

Still, the Bulldogs will be charged with the challenge of facing another powerful running team.

Quincey Smith leads the Indians in rushing with 1,560 yards and 19 touchdowns.

&#8220He's an excellent runner for his size,” said Reeltown coach Jackie O'Neal. &#8220Pound for pound, he's one of the hardest runners in the state.

Since Loachapoka is less than 5 miles from Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, O'Neal said that Smith has patterned his running style to that of first-round NFL Draft picks Ronnie Brown and Carnell &#8220Cadillac” Williams.

&#8220He has good vision and feet,” O'Neal said of Smith. &#8220Looking at him on film, he sets up his blocks well. And he doesn't mind running you over, either.”

Reeltown was one of two teams which were able to slow Smith down this season. The Rebels came away with a 16-12 victory over Loachapoka in Week 8. The Indians dropped their first game of the season in Week 3 to Autaugaville in overtime.

Tate is winning with a relatively young team, too.

The Indians have just one senior along its massive offensive line.

The lone senior along Tate's offensive line is Bryant Pitts, who is the cousin of Auburn cornerback Montavis Pitts.

Defensively, the Indians are just as young with just five senior starters. The remainder of his starters are either sophomores or juniors.

&#8220Our kids are good enough to show up on Fridays and play as a team,” Tate said. &#8220There are not superstars here.”