It’s a new start for the Franklin Count y High School football program, and everyone who came out last week to the annual spring game could see it right before their eyes.
On the field, showing their prowess in an intra-squad scrimmage were a good five dozen players, well in excess of the usual total seen in the spring.
In large part, that is due to the stature and hustle of the two men now atop the program, Coach Tony Yeomans and Assistant Coach Jamie Robinson, both of whom have both college and professional bonafides.
Yeomans, 50, has coached 17 years on the high school level, and eight years in college football, after playing offensive guard at Florida State and later for the Green Bay Packers. Robinson played for FSU and later Canadian football.
“In March we walked the halls looking for kids who had an interest, and they went recruiting other kids,” said Yeomans. “We dressed out 65 for the spring game. We’ll have 75-80 kids out for fall.”
He’s playing a robust junior varsity squad for boys in grades six through nine, with the rest on varsity.
He said he wanted to get a solid start so opted against a spring jamboree against another team.
“I’m not going to just play a game to play a game and not be prepared. “ Yeomans said. “We worked on technique and got better as a team.”
Yeomans’ enthusiasm is heavy, as he looks towards this summer and fall. “The kids bought in and they learned. We have a chance to bring something special,” he said.
He’s planning summer workouts Monday through Thursday 5 to 7 p.m. and he’s excited that the school administration has made vans available to transport the boys to and from their neighborhoods.
“Really there’s no more excuses, they got rides,” he said. “We’ve got great support from the superintendent and the entire administration.”
“We’re going to teach these kids how to compete and get them out. We’re going to be young but we’ll be talented,” said Yeomans. “I asked a lot of them, some things that have never been asked for, and they’re excited.
“They’re showing up and doing what they’re asked to do. They’re buying it,” he said. “We’re teaching these kids what it takes to win and how to win. Everybody wants to be a winner. That’s what me and Jamie are showing these kids.”
Yeomans can point to success he has had on the high school level, as offensive coordinator at Class 5A North Marion in Ocala, and in Taylor County and Wakulla County, which has played in recent state championship games.
“That gravy train with Port St. Joe is over with,” he proclaimed. “We’re getting the kids to think ‘Why not us? Why not Franklin County?”
He’s reassuring kids that if they perform, he’ll work with college coaches to get them into a program.
“If you’re good enough, they’re going to come, no matter where you’re at. We’re going to measure it up, we’ll be a a lot better this year than we’ve ever been,” said Yeomans.
The new coach admits he can be “cocky and arrogant,” unlike the more laid-back Robinson, but he plans to use that energy to build a winning spirit.
“When I lined up against somebody I expected to whip his butt. When you get that attitude that’s when your start winning football games,” he said. “That you’re better than everybody else.”
Yeomans is busy assembling a large coaching staff, which he will unveil this summer.
“Our defense is going to be special, we’re going to hit you and we’re going to get 11 people to the football and we’re going to be aggressive,” he said, citing his two inside linebackers, Rufus Townsend and Bailey Segree, as being among the best in the Panhandle.
“It’s a long way from here to August 1. Nobody’s got a permanent job, there’s not starters right now, everybody’s wide open,” he said. “We’re going to be stout up front. Offensively, we’re a little behind right now, there’s a lot of moving parts, but we’ll catch up. We’re going to be able to run the football.
“I like a challenge,” said Yeomans. “Growing up I was always a short fat kid. I’ve always been against the odds. Nobody’s expecting us to do a darn thing around here.”
In the alumni game set up by hoop coach Mackenzie Williams, the White team of Brock Johnson, Sugar McNair, Tyler Howard, Jamie Gordon, Chase Golden, and Kevin Newell, lost 47-42 to the Black team of Williams, Lance Rochelle, Chip Sanders, KK Wilson, and Adam Joseph.
“I’m trying to get the community back involved with these programs,” said Yeomans. “We start winning and I want the stadium to be packed for these kids.We start winning, things will change.”