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Williams reflects on Patriots’ run

There is no denying that Andro Williams wanted to be on the practice field the day before Thanksgiving. A year ago, he was. His Patriots were spending that time prepping for a semifinal matchup with Sweet Water. This year, they spent the day before Thanksgiving looking back on a season that was within a yard and a conversion from having a chance to return to the semi-finals.

Linden’s previously undefeated season came to a screeching halt in a 13-6 loss to Brantley in the third round. But, Williams’ view, the premature derailing does little to take away from what the team accomplished this season.

“I thought we gained a lot of experience,” Williams said plainly. “As a whole, we had some younger kids at some key positions that played for us down the stretch.”

That may be what encourages Williams the most about the way his third year as a head coach went. His team was young. The Patriots entered the year with a freshman quarterback, an unproven backfield combination, question marks along the offensive line and holes in the defensive front seven. Still, it took 13 games before their record suffered its only blemish.

“We don’t have those kids that have been playing for four years,” Williams said of a program that is still very much in its developmental stages. Williams believes his fourth season as the Linden head coach will be the first in which the team enters the season with legitimate experience throughout the roster.

The offense will return nine offensive starters including quarterback Anthony Robinson, who passed for 1,401 yards and accounted for a total of 18 offensive touchdowns during his freshman campaign.

“He did what we asked him to do,” Williams said. “He came out and we didn’t want to put too much pressure on him, being a first year starter and a freshman. He’s a real talented kid and real humble. I’m real proud of the way he performed for us.”

Also counted in the number of returning starters will be a stable of running backs headlined by breakout junior Kendarius Fritts, who rushed for 2,358 yards and 33 touchdowns on the season.

“Our backs were kind of the question mark,” Williams said. “Kendarius, coming in, was a real humble kid that didn’t talk much. He was the kind of guy that would go hard throughout the course of practice.”

The offensive front will also see four of its five starters back, losing only senior Terrance Lucas.

“We’ve grown. We’ve gotten better,” Williams said. “I think we came in this year really knowing what was going on. Our game sort of had to change a bit because of the personnel. We weren’t as consistent as we needed to be on the offensive line. That is something we’re going to talk about starting next week.”

As he looks to next season, Williams realizes that the added experience will be a necessity as the run to a Class 1A crown will become even more difficult. The Patriots will shift to Region 1, where they will compete with perennial power Sweet Water. The South end of the classification also includes Maplesville, Pickens County, Loachapoka and Brantley.

“It’s going to mean that if you don’t have your house in order, any team can get beat on any given night,” Williams said.

Still as he closed up shop on the 2009 season, Williams could scarcely help but take a moment to acknowledge the contributions of his departing seniors.

“They knew that they were the guys that were laying the foundation for where we were trying to go,” Williams said of the group. “It shows with them being 35-5 since I’ve been there in the last three years, with two losses at home in three years, with two region championships in three years. They didn’t reach their goals, but they are the guys that helped lay the foundation for where we’re trying to get to.”