The group of 18 players, which has won together at all levels of football, needs a victory tonight to take the Warhawks to a new one.
By BOB PUTNAM
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 23, 2001
SEMINOLE -- When T.J. Layfield arrived on the Seminole High campus four years ago, he didn't know much about the football team's past, which was a good thing because the rest of the school would just as soon forget it.
From 1994-97, the Warhawks went 12-28. They were coming off back-to-back 3-7 seasons.
A losing record?
Layfield claimed amnesia upon hearing it.
"I don't know what losing is like," said Layfield, a quarterback and defensive back. "All I've ever been associated with is winning teams."
He's not alone.
Layfield and 18 other seniors have been part of a career to remember. The Class of 2002 has gone 30-6 the past three seasons and advanced to the playoffs each year. It is a feat that had never been accomplished at the school before.
"It's nice because we keep on taking these steps forward," Seminole lineman Bobby Fox said. "We make the playoffs my sophomore year, we get to the region finals my junior year and now we have a chance to go farther."
Tonight, the Warhawks host Naples in the Class 5A region final. If they win, they will advance to the state semifinals for the first time.
Experience is what Seminole is relying on against the upstart Golden Eagles, who are in the playoffs for the first time in 19 years.
"Our guys have all accomplished a lot since they've been here," Seminole coach Sam Roper said of his seniors. "It would be neat for them if they can keep it going. This is a special group who have bonded for a long time."
Success has followed the seniors. Most played on championship teams in youth leagues and were on the junior varsity squad that was undefeated (7-0) their freshman year.
"I've been playing with these guys most of my life," Layfield said. "Everywhere we've gone, we've won. It was nice to see people get excited about the football team around here, but, to us, winning was nothing different. Most of us were pretty accustomed to it."
Funny what a couple of players -- and wins -- can do for a program's reputation.
Now, four years later, Seminole is viewed as one of the county's best teams and is getting better.
"The past few years have been something to cherish," Warhawks linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said. "Look at where we started to where we are now. People remember that. It's going to be nice to walk in here years from now, after I'm done playing and see district titles and remember the playoff games and know we were the ones who were a part of that, who helped get things started."