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Rivalry clash ushers in new football season

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Trenton comes to Chiefland Friday (Aug. 25) for 7:30 p.m. kickoff

By Sean Arnold

Chiefland head coach Adam Gore says his young team has to grow up in a hurry.

Right out of the gate, the area’s most successful program of the last half a decade is coming to C. Doyle McCall Field this Friday for the season opener.

The Indians are seeking their first win against the Tigers since 2009.

There’s an air of optimism surrounding the Chiefland program as its turnout has nearly doubled to begin the Gore era. Trenton, which has reeled off six-straight district championships and Class 1A state titles in 2013 and 2015, presents an early major test for the Indians, who are attempting to fast-track the development of its promising but inexperienced talent.

The narrowest margin of victory by Trenton during Chiefland’s recent winless streak in the rivalry is 12 points (2012).

Games like this are the only way the team can ultimately grow, Gore says, but the team isn’t after so-called moral victories.

“We’re to the point where we don’t really understand, ‘Hey this is tough to win,’” he said after the team’s 14-7 preseason win at Bell. “It’s really hard to be winners, to do the little things we need to do. It’s not just snapping the ball and let’s go get the guy with the ball.

“Even our older guys don’t comprehend that, and it’s a process of getting to it. That’s just as important as running fast and lifting weights.”

The Tigers, meanwhile, are looking to replace mega-back Montrez Jackson, who ran for 1,433 yards in 2016, and longtime quarterback Michael Smith. The new pieces will be surrounded with returning experience, as the team welcomes back most of its offensive line and defensive front seven, including standout linebacker Randy Fuller.

Trenton finished 9-2 last season and lost in the regional finals to eventual state champion Pahokee. Chiefland mustered just 54 total yards in a 42-0 loss to the Tigers last September.

“They’re mentally tough, and they’re senior-heavy,” Gore said of Trenton.

There are big changes for Trenton this season. The Tigers are under new leadership in first-year head coach Lyle Wilkerson, brother of longtime Dixie County coach Brent Wilkerson, and defensive coordinator for the two state championship teams under former Tiger head coach Andrew Thomas. Trenton is under its third head coach in as many seasons, as Bill Wiles, in his second tenure as head of the program, stepped aside after one season in succeeding Thomas.

“I feel like it’s been pretty seamless with me having been here,” Wilkerson said. “The kids already knew me, already trusted me. We didn’t change a lot of things. It’s kind of business as usual to be honest with you.”

Trenton also comes into the season in a new classification, 4A, due to penalties accrued for a recruiting violation. Friday’s game will still count toward the new playoff points formula for both teams, though they’re not competing for playoff spots in the same region.

“Our goal is still to make the playoffs, whether it’s 1A or 4A,” Wilkerson said. “Our big key is going to be staying healthy, because we’ve only got 25 or 26 kids, which is generally around what we have.”

Gore and Wilkerson once shared time together on the staff at Dixie County.

“There’re a lot of things out there that he can do well,” Gore said of Wilkerson, “but at end of the day, he wants to run the ball and play good defense.”

Gore was critical of his team’s self-inflicted miscues against Bell. Still, there were encouraging signs, particularly on offense, where running back trio Brian Norris Jr., Tramaine Brown and Williston transfer Jarrett Jerrels are leading the charge in the backfield behind quarterbacks Ty Corbin and Wyatt Hammond. The Indians churned up 201 yards in the first half, and had to overcome three turnovers and 125 yards in penalties. The team is starting three sophomores on the offensive line.

Kickoff at Wayne Pridgeon Stadium Friday is 7:30 p.m.