It’s been more than nine months since Georgetown played a football game.
But the memories of how the 2011 season ended are still fresh.
The Bulldogs went into the fourth week of region play still competing for the title. However, Georgetown was blown out by Myrtle Beach, then lost by a touchdown to Wilson after missing a pair of field goals that would have won the game.
The three-game skid continued in the playoffs, where the Bulldogs lost in the first round to eventual Lower State champion Bluffton by 40 points. That three-week stretch put a damper on what was an otherwise outstanding season.
“It hasn’t left our mind, not one bit,” coach Bradley Adams said of the final three games last season. “We all know and all the kids know that we were very close to being an 8-2 football team [at the end of the regular season]. We lost a game that the players … knew was for a No. 2 seed. The kids pay very close attention to it. It led us and fed us in the offseason. They’ve been working since November. It has not left their head and their hearts one bit.”
Some believed the Bulldogs simply ran out of gas. More likely, though, is that the growing program simply wasn’t ready to compete with the top talent.
And while Georgetown has yet to play a game this year, Adams’ team is start to look – at least on paper – like the next transition from solid team to high-quality one is underway.
It doesn’t matter that defensive line standouts Trenton Grate-Reed (Newberry) and LeeShawn Cromedy (North Greenville) have moved on to the college ranks or that leading rusher Leonard Leake and top receiver Kysheem Muhammad have graduated.
What the Bulldogs bring back far outweighs the losses.
In the mix are six returning starters on offense and seven on defense. There’s quarterback Caleb Hughes, who last year set the school’s single-season passing record with more than 1,300 yards.
Running back Julian Lunsford steps into the top spot after splitting time with Leake, and receivers AJ Walker and Tarik Tucker give Hughes a pair of targets to make the spread offense that much more effective.
Defensively, Adams contends linemen Dominique Wigfall and Anthony Blair could be better than Grate-Reed and Cromedy. Behind those two will be a stable of experienced linebackers and defensive backs that could make Georgetown’s defense into one of the best in the area by season’s end.
Again, it all started with the kick in the pants that was the final three games of last season.
“Those last three losses made us more hungry,” Hughes said. “What happened against Wilson was bad luck. I think the playoff game at Bluffton really matured us as a team. We learned a lot from that.”
Enough so, it seems, that Georgetown’s regularly scheduled battle of attrition was limited to graduations – not players transferring out or quitting football altogether.
Adams said that is a product of winning, but also the connection between the coaching staff and the players. Either way, it’s built toward this.
Twenty-four seniors aim to not only take the Bulldogs back to the postseason, but help the program win its first postseason game since 2005. Even that, though, isn’t something the Georgetown coaches and players talk about.
They keep their goals in relatively generic terms, in part because they’re not exactly sure how good they can be. The Bulldogs found out the hard way a year ago how one loss can spiral into three.
“We believe they are beginning to grasp that,” Adams said. “They have grasped that understanding and they firmly believe what’s going on. They have worked so hard that they are going to fight it until the end and they are going to see what the reward is going to be at the end of the tunnel.”