When Josh Palmer came to Franklin County from Leon to serve as offensive line coach and running game coordinator – the same position he held with the Lions – he couldn’t have foreseen that he would soon get his chance to become a first-time head coach at the age of 26.
But after former Seahawks coach Tony Yeomans was let go following the 2018 season, Palmer got his chance and took over just two weeks before the beginning of spring practice.
It was a rough start, with low numbers precluding Franklin County from playing a spring game, but Palmer said he believes the ship has been steadied thanks to a productive offseason.
"We had a slow start, the transition to being a head coach is never easy," he said. "Kids were not bought into the system yet, but in the summer workouts kids really bought in. We’re trying to build a culture here. We’re definitely picking up steam and getting things going."
Palmer has changed things up a bit, shifting from a 4-3 defense to a 4-2-5 that he says will make it easier to adjust to different types of offensive attacks.
He’s seeking a similarly versatile offensive style, which he referred to as "kind of a hybrid offense."
"We want to be able to play old-school, smash-mouth football," Palmer said, "but if we need to spread it out we’ve got some playmakers on the outside who can go up and get the ball. At the end of the day, though, we want to line up and run the ball and make you stop us."
The offense will be led by junior quarterback Lamarious Martin, a dynamic runner who could also get time at running back and receiver while doubling as a defensive back.
"He can play any position on the field," Palmer said. "He’s a very skilled guy who kind of sets the tone for the entire team."
Speedy junior Eden Brathwaite joins the football team after playing for the Seahawks’ Final Four boys basketball team and will give Franklin County a big play threat at receiver while also starting in the secondary.
Fellow junior Charlee Winchester will work at fullback, with younger brother Larry Winchester joining him in the backfield.
"We call them ‘thunder and lightning,’" Palmer said of the Winchester brothers. "Charlee is that big guy that can hammer you down and Larry will kill you with speed."
The Seahawks also return four starters on the offensive line that Palmer said fit right in with the style of football he wants to play.
"We’ve got some big kids for 1A football," he said. "We should be pretty experienced there. They’re familiar with some of the things that we’re doing. These big country boys just like to mash and they’re gonna go real well with our downhill run scheme."
The four returning starters: seniors Zander McCalpin and Nick Hutchins, junior Devin Daniels, and sophomore Will Varnes, also start on the defensive line, while Charlee Winchester, who Palmer called "the leader of the defense," leads the way at linebacker.
Despite the early spring turbulence in his tenure, Palmer said the Seahawks enter the fall with a team fully capable of getting back to the playoffs.
"That’s definitely the goal," he said. "I think the people of Franklin County are happy with a .500 season just because it’s not common here, but I believe we can go 7-3 or better. We’ve got guys believing in our system and everything we’re doing here.
"We’re trying to get them in that championship mindset. If we’re not trying to shoot for that highest goal then what are we out here doing?"
Aug. 23: Bell 6 p.m.
Aug. 30: at North Bay Haven 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: Port St. Joe 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Sneads 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: Liberty County 6 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Cottondale 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: Branford 6 p.m.
Oct. 18: Conference TBA
Oct. 25: Conference TBA
Nov. 1: Conference TBA
(4-6 Region 2-1A)
Florida A&M 6-30
North Bay Haven 13-0
Liberty County 0-6
Lighthouse Christian 40-0
Franklin County is one of 12 teams that formed the Sunshine State Athletic Conference along with Port St. Joe, Sneads, Cottondale, Blountstown, Vernon, Wewahitchka, Baker, Graceville, Holmes County, Jefferson County, and Liberty County. The teams will have tournament play the final three weeks of the regular season.