New coach Travis Homewood brings familiar formula to Dragons football program thirsty for success.
The FSDB football team has won one game in the last two years. There may be more interest in playing in the marsh behind campus at sunset than under the lights at Usina Field.
First-year coach Homewood has fewer than 18 players on his roster.
None of those facts, from the outside, appear conducive to a successful football season. But the fact the Dragons are playing for a 105th season is more important than any of that.
It means there is an opportunity for young men like Bryan Raffa to play football for the first time. It means young men like Fernando Dopico-Fernandez, Walter Douglas, and Alex Aldridge get to return to the gridiron. It means Homewood is going to pour everything he has in his first year as a varsity coach.
“I don’t know if we will be champions, or not,” Raffa said. “I want to try again and again, and I want to keep going.”
Raffa transferred to FSDB in March after a spell at Boone High School in Orlando. He did not play athletics at the 2,800-student school or feel welcomed.
Both have changed since he arrived in St. Augustine. His best friend, team manager Nathan De Los Reyes Diaz, encouraged him to play football and he has embraced the challenge. Raffa’s leadership, and willingness to endure, was immediately apparent. Homewood named the 18-year-old tight end a team captain before suiting up in red and white.
The Dragons were forced to cancel their spring scrimmage due to a lack of numbers. This year’s team tentatively has 18 players and is tasked with introducing a new quarterback and two running backs to operate the Power I, wishbone and double wing sets that Homewood expects to run.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t that important,” Homewood said. “It’s very important FSDB continue to have a program.”
Homewood was an assistant under Eric LeFors when the Dragons won the school’s third DeafDigest national championship in 2013. He doesn’t hide the fact he learned about deaf culture and deaf football through being an assistant under LeFors and being an assistant on a staff when his son, Wes, was on the team.
Wes Homewood is one of three FSDB alumni on the staff. Ryan Santana is a 2010 graduate and Rodney Cook was a Dragons running back in the 1980s.
The success of this year’s team may not be seen on the field. There is less depth and more inexperience returning from a 2017 squad that lost three of its four North Florida Football Conference contests by 50 points.
Sophomore Matthew Guillou will quarterback the team when the season kicks off at home on Aug. 23 against Gainesville Oak Hall. Homewood expects Dopico-Fernandez to play fullback while Luis Merced and Reynaldo Suero-Perez will be the running backs.