After the memorable moment of hosting a playoff game for the first time in the school’s history in 2019, junior Gabriel Ward and the Dreadnaughts kept their expectations high coming into the 2020 football season.
“Despite all of the new challenges of playing during a pandemic, I don’t think any of our expectations changed, we always had high expectations,” Ward said. “Because of the risk of canceling games, I think we just learned to be more careful.”
Although there were positive expectations for the 2020 season, Dreadnaughts’ coaches shared their concern on how to deal with COVID protocols.
“The biggest challenges were all the safety mandates,” strength coach Chris Whittaker said. “These kids started playing and practicing in masks which was tough. But the kids and staff adapted and got into the rhythm of following the protocols and doing what we had to do to compete and play.”
Added Head Coach Phil Jacobs: “A lesson we all learned from COVID is that if we want to play football on Friday night, we had to do our part and mask-up, wash our hands, and remain socially distant from people outside our house,” he said. “It was a difficult challenge because you don't know what kids do when they leave practice to go home.”
The Dreadnaughts faced new protocols and had to deal with various challenges through the season, including the unexpected change in Week 3.
Dexter was supposed to play against Tecumseh in a Southeastern Conference White Conference contest, but the Indians had to cancel the game hours before the matchup and close their school due to covid cases on their roster. This left the Dexter coaching staff and the athletic director scrambling.
Less than eight hours before kickoff, Dexter was able to find a replacement game. Unfortunately for the Dreads, it was against Gladwin and required a three-hour bus ride. Players say it was one of their worst games of the season and resulted in a 26-20 loss.
Dexter went 5-3 overall this fall including the school’s first ever playoff win against Ypsilanti Lincoln. They hosted Lincoln at Al Ritt and won, 56-28.
Coach Jacobs looked back to the beginning of their journey and recalled their achievements as a team.
“Four years ago, this senior class and I arrived at DHS at the same time,” Jacobs said. “At the time, DHS had the state's longest losing record. We established goals, stuck with them, and that has allowed us to qualify for the playoffs three straight years.”
Senior quarterback Colin Parachek also commented on how being a part of the program, from its lowest, to helping the turnaround and get to its highest was the “best feeling ever”.
“Coming in sophomore year on an 0-42 straight losing streak, there were many milestones,” Parachek said. “Winning the first game to break the streak, making the playoffs, hosting a playoff game, and finally getting that first playoff victory! Sophomore year people laughed at the idea of us making the playoffs. Nobody thought it was possible. And the negativity within the community and media continued through the years as everyone continued to doubt the work we put in.”
Regardless of the loss to Livonia Churchill in the second round of the playoffs, Dexter players know they had an outstanding season.
“For a season that wasn't going to even be played a few months ago, I'd say that's a win!” Parachek said. “I'm just so glad that we got what we fought for by the governor allowing us to play this season, and I'm thankful for getting the opportunity to compete safely this fall.”
This group of seniors finished as the winningest team in school history with 19 victories. Coaches were really excited with the qualification for the playoffs, which is a great accomplishment, but winning a district title is their next goal. The Dreadnaughts are looking forward to continuing to develop a product the community can be proud of.
“The football program culture has changed tremendously in the four years our staff has been here,” Whittaker said. “Winning football helps inspire the school and community and brings excitement and school pride to them. We hope to continue and develop a winning tradition here for many years to come.”
Photos by Ryan Maki