Countdown To Kickoff: Santa Fe Raiders

Young squad can only improve on last year’s winless record
Szymanski leads new era for Raiders
Published: Jul. 28, 2022 at 6:50 PM EDT
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ALACHUA, Fla. (WCJB) -There is a tendency for negative results to have an impact on morale. After a winless 2021 season, Santa Fe brought in former Union County offensive coordinator Joe Szymanski as the program’s new head coach. Step one is instilling his Raiders with confidence.

“We tell them every day the work they’re doing now in the summer and spring is going to pay dividends in the future and to take one day at a time,” said Szymanski. “Build everything and the wins will come.”

There one big reason why the wins never came last year. The Raiders lost four games by a touchdown or less and gave up a season total of 319 points across nine games. The returning Raiders have pointed to an improved level of conditioning--and something else that can’t be measured by stats.

“He is way better at holding us accountable,” said wide receiver Caleb Johnson. “Last year we got away with a bunch of stuff we shouldn’t have gotten away with. Now we’re doing the things we need to do.”

“It’s our attitude,” said senior defensive end Karl Johnson. “If you have a bad attitude, you’ve got to go”

Szymanski has been complimentary of his offensive and defensive line play throughout the spring and summer. Those players will need to be solid as Santa Fe attempts to replace departed quarterback Landon Rogers. The Raiders now play in Class 2A Suburban and open play at Newberry on Aug. 26, with one eye on 2023 and beyond.

“The really big thing this year is getting back on track compared to where we’ve been the last couple of years,” said senior center Nolan Nelson. “We want to set up this program to succeed in the future.”

“We’re really young, which is a good thing for the future,” said Szymanski. “But everybody has been doing a really good job.”

“That’s the worst part of senior year, it goes too fast,” said Johnson.

And although time may fly, time will also tell as to whether these Raiders can get off the ground.

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