SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Kevin Dawkins’ first season in Social Circle didn’t go exactly according to plan.
After playing just 10 games — and winning two of their previous three — the Redskins were forced to press pause in early March due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, the elongated stoppage developed into an outright cancelation as the remainder of the 2020 campaign was washed out.
Dawkins’ first season as head coach at Social Circle resulted in a 3-7 finish. Fielding a young roster in the early stages of a rebuild, he knew success was never going to be measured by figures in the win column. Dawkins’ biggest disappointment wasn’t the program’s losing record, but rather the anticlimactic send-off for his three seniors.
“I felt bad for those guys because they didn’t get to finish their senior season out like they had hoped,” Dawkins said. “It’s really disappointing because we were — right there at the end — kind of on a hot streak. We were starting to figure it out. I felt bad for everybody, but especially for those seniors.”
With six freshmen penciled into the starting lineup each day, the Redskins had their fair share of growing pains through the first month of the 2020 season. They won’t be much older this spring. Dawkins is expecting to have six freshmen and 13 sophomores in his program on Opening Day, alongside a small crop of upperclassmen.
But don’t be so quick to quick to overlook this club.
Last summer, Social Circle brought in Rob Patton and Nate Ethridge to coach the football team and help revamp the weightlifting program. The move has already impacted the entire Redskins athletic program, including Dawkins’ young prospects.
“Coach Patton and Coach Ethridge came in with the football staff as our weightlifting coaches and have really set the tone early,” Dawkins said. “It helps when you’ve got all the coaches in the athletic department bought in. These players have bought in, too. You can tell the progress and improvements in the weight room have transitioned out here.”
After seeing the fruits of their labor in the weight room, the Redskins are starting to carry themselves differently on the diamond. Dawkins’ believes this accelerated maturation process could pay off over the course of a season.
“I think these guys — you could already tell by day two, day three of practice — are already more confident,” he said. “They’re stronger, they’re bigger than they were last year. They’ve just got a little bit more swagger about them, which is nice to see.”
Among notable returners for Social Circle this spring will be sophomores Mason Moore and Mitchell McCullough, who split time behind the dish as freshmen. Jason Ball, a junior, has the potential to emerge as the team’s No. 1 starter on the mound.
Other names Dawkins’ advises people to keep an eye out for include Ty Lemaster, who is expected to take over at shortstop, Landon Davis, who will compete for a job in the infield, and Mason Hill, a contender for significant playing time in the outfield.
The Redskins have their work cut out for them in Region 8-A Public. Commerce, a preseason top-10 program in Class A, Lake Oconee Academy and Washington-Wilkes will provide stiff league competition. But as the rebuild continues, Social Circle continues to set its sights on lofty goals.
“The No. 1 goal is always win the region, make the state playoffs, then compete for a state championship,” he said. “This program has a storied history of having success, so you always want to continue that success.”
The Redskins were slated to open their 2021 campaign at home against George Walton Academy on Tuesday, Feb. 15. They’ll travel to Alabama later this week to square off against Glenwood and Tuscaloosa Academy in the Border Wars tournament Friday, Feb. 19, at 5 p.m. ET and Saturday, Feb. 20, at 1 p.m. ET.