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Vernon hopes to 'get over the hump' in 2020

Dustin Kent
Washington County News

The end of Vernon's 2019 season couldn't have come in much more heartbreaking fashion, falling one point and 50 seconds short of advancing to the 1A state semifinals. 

The 21-20 loss to Baker was the second straight regional final elimination at the hands of the Gators, and the Yellowjackets and coach Gerald Tranquille hope that a talented core and a pair of key transfers will allow them to take that next step in 2020. 

Vernon running back K'wan Powell

"They really want to get over the hump, man," Tranquille said of his players. "Baker has got a great program out there and they put us out the past couple of years, but it really gave these kids a chance to look at what we did and didn't do last year. They want an opportunity to make this their season and get us over the hump and possibly get to a final four or a state title opportunity." 

At least on paper, the Yellowjackets certainly have the type of team that could make such a run. While they lost their top receiver and defensive back Darrell Powell to graduation, the Yellowjackets do return their top rusher and passer from last year's group along with two of their top four tacklers. 

Senior running back K'wan Powell returns for his final season following a spectacular junior campaign in which he rushed for 1,753 yards and 26 touchdowns on 9.5 yards per carry. He also finished with over 2,000 all-purpose yards and 30 total TDs. 

Senior quarterback Dyvion Bush is back after posting 1,747 total yards and 19 combined passing and rushing touchdowns in 2019, though he'll get some competition from Rutherford transfer Markus Hammock. 

Hammock passed for 1,057 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Rams' starter last season while adding 377 yards and seven TDs on the ground. 

Tranquille said that Hammock's addition will allow Bush to make more of an impact at other positions than quarterback, something that he said the athletic 6-foot-2 senior was more than open to. 

"It's funny because Dyvion actually pushed for it," Tranquille said. "He knows having both of them on the field gives us an opportunity to succeed, so he's taking time with Markus to get him caught up on the offense. I'm still playing Dyvion at quarterback and he still has some things he's gonna do well and Markus has some things he does well, but having them both on the field just makes us that much more potent from an offensive standpoint." 

Tranqille said both Bush and Hammock will get their chances behind center but he'll be open to the possibility of sticking with one guy at quarterback if either emerges during the season. 

"I think early on I'll probably have some packages for both and give them the opportunity to do some different things in the game," he said. "As the season goes along, whichever one gives us the opportunity to move the offense along, I'll probably go with the hot hand. That's the beauty of having two senior quarterbacks. 

"They both understand it and they both want the best for the other. There hasn't been any type of conflict or anything like that. It's really been a good problem to have." 

While whoever is at quarterback will have the luxury of being able to hand the ball to Powell at any time, there are some question marks along the offensive line after Vernon lost some key figures up front like Daevon Foreman and Tyler Isenhoff. 

But the Yellowjackets do return starting center Kenny Vaughn along with a couple of seniors in Lane Wells and Isaiah Walston, with former Graceville lineman Austin Angerbrandt giving Vernon an instant impact transfer on both sides of the line. 

Wells and Walston will also help anchor the defensive line with Angerbrandt, with senior South Walton transfer Elias Foreman providing help at linebacker, and junior EJ Reddice looking to fill the void in the secondary left by Darrell Powell. 

Reddice is also the top returning receiver for the Yellowjackets, with senior running back Wayne Potter looking to build on the 203 yards and three touchdowns in 2019 with an even more productive 2020. 

While the Yellowjackets sport several dynamic athletes on offense, they will still need another big season from K'wan Powell, who Tranquille said comes in highly motivated to atone for the end of his junior year. 

"You wouldn't think a kid with as many Division-I offers as him would need a lot of motivation, but that Baker game really got to him," he said. "He didn't play his best game and he took it to heart and he has used it as motivation." 

Motivation shouldn't be an issue for Vernon or any area teams for matter, who weren't sure until recently that they would even get to play a season at all. 

"When we got word that we'd be able to (play), the kids kind of had a new sense of purpose," Tranquille said. "They realized everything they did this summer wasn't for nothing. The kids are excited. We've all been looking forward to this." 

2020 schedule

9/11 at Port St. Joe 6:30 p.m.

9/18 at Chipley 7 p.m. 

9/25 Jefferson County 6:30 p.m. 

10/2 Bozeman 7 p.m. 

10/9 at Graceville 7 p.m.

10/16 Taylor County 6 p.m. 

10/23 at Providence School 6 p.m. 

10/30 Wakulla 6:30 p.m.