All in the family
FORT WHITE — Fort White won its first-ever home playoff game this season, also advancing to the Class 1A regional finals for the first time in school history on top of a district championship.
It was a memorable season for the Indians, so it came as no surprise that the team’s coaching staff made the team banquet one the players will never forget.
Fort White’s season was built upon one word — Tiwahe.
And that mantra still rang loudly in a packed gymnasium Saturday night at Fort White High School.
Players joked and high-fived after each award. Even the coaching staff got into the bit, which included a little banter back and forth between head coach Demetric Jackson and offensive line coach Dan Marsee after Jackson was off on Fort White’s final record (9-3) by one win.
“These guys really enjoyed being around each other,” Jackson said. “They enjoyed each other’s company. There wasn’t a whole lot of cliquish attitudes … they really lived out the true meaning of Tiwahe, and everything was extremely fun coaching these guys. “
The last two awards handed out at the end of the night were the biggest: Running back Don Robinson took home the Most Outstanding Offensive Player Award, and defensive lineman Jon Mattson received the Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award.
Robinson led the team in all-purpose yards with 1,404 yards and also scored a team-high 17 touchdowns.
“This award means a lot to me,” said Robinson, who also won the Lake City Reporter’s Fort White Offensive Player of the Year Award. “We’ve put in a lot of work this year, and we knew that if we worked hard, it was going to be a good season.”
Mattson, a senior, was a mammoth on Fort White’s defensive line, leading a unit with 74 tackles and a team-high 14 sacks. But unlike Robinson, who is a junior, Mattson said goodbye to his teammates one last time.
“I’m gonna remember the rival games against Suwannee and Madison,” said Mattson, who was also the Lake City Reporter’s Fort White Defensive Player of the Year. “Those were big games.”
Robinson’s partner in crime in Fort White’s backfield, JacQuez Pelham, won the Running Back Award after leading the Indians with 869 rushing yards this season. Corey Dryden wasn’t to be forgotten in the backfield either, taking home the Rising Star Award after a stellar freshman season.
Bryson Brady won the Wide Receiver Award, Jarod Queen won the Offensive Line Award for the second straight year, and JaQuan Robinson and Matt DiMauro each received the Most Improved Offensive Player Award.
While Mattson anchored the defensive line in 2015, C.J. McCoy won the Linebacker Award and Shannon Showers received the Defensive Back Award. Dylan Cason and Jabari Rivers each took home the Most Improved Defensive Player Award.
Saying goodbye to the seniors is never easy, and that was never more evident after the banquet, when Robinson and Mattson hung together to take pictures one last time.
“I’m gonna miss this big guy so much, man,” Robinson said. “We’ve made a bond this year from football, and it’s something we can never break. We’ll always be friends because of football.”
They may have fallen short of their ultimate goal, but Mattson and the rest of the seniors have left behind a foundation at Fort White that the football program is confident will only continue to grow.
“Fortunately we got to the second round of the playoffs,” Jackson said. “We didn’t quite finish off the way any of us wanted to, but it wasn’t because of a lack of effort and desire. I’m extremely proud of our Class 1A District 6 regional final appearance for the 2016 Fort White Indians.”
ACADEMIC AWARD: Justin Young
INDIAN AWARD: Nathan Thomas
WARRIOR AWARD: Toby Clements
COACHES AWARDS: Justin Young and Jake Thomas
MOST VERSATILE AWARD: DJ Jackson
CAPTAINS AWARDS: Mattson, Queen, Young and McCoy