E.A. Sports Today


Donoho made its stand to return to playoffs in 2022, and the Falcons have makings to stand taller in Satcher’s second season at helm

Editor’s note: High school football practice has started, and East Alabama Sports Today editor Joe Medley has begun his annual round of preseason visits to football-playing schools in Calhoun County. Check out East Alabama Sports Today’s Facebook page for live interviews each weekday leading up to season openers. Columns and key facts will also appear at EASportsToday.com and our social-media platforms.

Jeremy Satcher was a first-year head football coach on a seminal September Thursday night in 2022, looking for the right words to meet the right moment.

His Donoho team needing a fourth-down stop for a goal-line stand at Winterboro last season, he reminded the Falcons of all for which they’d worked. 

Joe Medley, Editor

“I remember telling the guys, ‘If you want to go to the playoffs, this is what it’s going to take, right now. This is the play that’s going to put you in the playoffs, right now,’” Satcher said Tuesday, during a 2023 preseason interview.

Donoho made its fourth-down stop and won 28-20. A week later, the Falcons handled winless Talladega County Central to formally clinch their first playoff berth since 2019.

After two seasons riddled with injuries and COVID misadventures, they’d broken back through.

Satcher enters his second season as Donoho’s head football coach with that important building block in his bag. He hopes to make that bag heavier in 2023.

The Falcons have plenty to overcome, including the loss of All-Calhoun County players Logan Melton, Lucas Elliott and Garrett Orth. 

Will Folsom, Donoho’s quarterback in 2022, transferred to Ohatchee in the middle of the school year. 

Donoho plays in a stout Class 1A region with Spring Garden, Ragland and Wadley, who claimed the region’s top-three playoff qualifying spots last season. Winterboro, which came a goal-line stand away from denying Donoho the fourth and final playoff spot, no doubt wants revenge.

Nothing comes promised, but the Falcons have plenty in their favor.

Their roster includes players from other successful sports. New starting quarterback Kai Cleckler has shown a big arm at baseball’s hot corner and can launch a football nearly 60 yards, Satcher said. 

All-county football returnees Marcus Lawler and Hayes Farrell have also played key roles in helping Donoho’s baseball team make deep playoff runs. 

Linebacker Richard Goad, a college-sized wall in the goal while helping Donoho win two consecutive Calhoun County soccer titles, was an all-county linebacker in 2022. 

Their winning experience in other sports “is huge,” Satcher said. “It’s all about competing, and it’s all about winning.”

The same players helped jump-start winning ways in football again last season.

They did it with an unfavorable home-away schedule in 2022, and the second season of the current two-year AHSAA reclassification cycle brings a more favorable home-away split. Non-region foes Weaver and Pleasant Valley and region heavies Spring Garden, Wadley and Winterboro come to Lentz Field.

Not still stuck on last year’s dreams, the Falcons can dream bigger in 2023.

“We met one goal with going to the playoffs, but we didn’t meet the having-a-winning-season goal, so that’s the first goal,” Satcher said. “Have a winning season then go to the playoffs and then win the first playoff game.

“It’s just all about being consistent, being disciplined and just continuing to pay attention to those small details.”

Having that as their baseline going into 2023 traces back to one Thursday night in 2022, when the Falcons had their backs to the goal line in Winterboro. 

“It meant a lot, because the kids see that hard work does pay off,” Satcher said. “It shows that, whatever they put their mind to, they can do it. …

“It just gave us a sense of, if we could do that last year, we can do it again this year.”

Falcon facts

Things to know about Donoho football heading into the 2023 season:

—Jeremy Satcher enters his second season as Donoho’s head football coach. The Falcons went 4-6 in 2022, making the playoffs for the first time since 2019.

—Donoho finished fourth in Class 1A, Region 6 in 2022, going 3-3 in region play. The Falcons also beat Class 3A Weaver in non-region play.

—Key graduation losses from 2022 include WR Logan Melton, RB/S/LB/QB Lucas Elliott and OL Garrett Orth. All were All-Calhoun County players. QB Will Folsom transferred to Ohatchee.

—The following All-Calhoun County picks return: senior LB Richard Goad, sophomore RB/WR/S/LS Marcus Lawler, sophomore DB Jordan Cameron, junior WR/DB Hayes Farrell and junior WR/LB James Benkwith.

— Player to watch: With Folsom having moved on to Ohatchee, junior Kai Cleckler steps in at QB.

— No change in Donoho’s region alignment. The Falcons will battle Ragland, Wadley, Victory Christian, Winterboro, Talladega County Central and Spring Garden for a playoff spot. Non-region play includes Weaver and Pleasant Valley at home to open the season. The Falcons conclude the regular season at Cedar Bluff.

—Joe Medley

Cover photo: Second-year Donoho head football coach Jeremy Satcher talks during Tuesday’s preseason interview. (Photo by Joe Medley)

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