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GRANITE CITY — Keyon White felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

When the dust settled after the Warriors' 49-0 playoff loss at Batavia last season, the Granite City junior linebacker looked up at the scoreboard and gritted his teeth in anger and embarrassment.

The scoreboard seemed to shout the score as the Warriors walked out of the stadium.

"The crowd was really hyped and it just kind of hurt me because I didn't want to get beat that bad," White said.

While it hurt to see the score, it gave White, now a senior, something else too - motivation.

With a new coach, Orlando "Doc" Gooden, and a host of returning players, the Warriors are hoping to do some damage in the post season.

"We want to try and make the playoffs again and try to make it as far as we can and go out with a bang," defensive back Montre Snead said. 

Gooden takes over for Brad Hasquin after Hasquin coached the Warriors to a 5-5 record and their first playoff appearance in seven years before resigning in January.

Gooden was named the new coach in March.

"It's an ideal situation in Granite City," Gooden said. "You come here with an upcoming program with a solid schedule. They made the playoffs last year, there isn't a lot of history making the playoffs, so it's somewhere to grow as a coach and you can see the impact you make on the team."

Gooden is trying to lead Granite City to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in program history. 

"To get back to the playoffs, we've got to be consistent in our work ethic," Gooden said. "We've got to come out here and like I told the kids, don't count the days, just make the days count. Each day you want to come in here and win the day. We've got about 45 days until we play, so if we come in and win each day, we feel confident that we can win that first game."

Gooden served as an assistant coach at Cahokia for eight years but took 2017 and 2018 off before getting lured back to the sidelines by Granite City. While at Cahokia, Gooden learned under veteran coaches John Clay and Antwyne Golliday. 

"Both of those guys really know the game of football," Gooden said. "Both of them had the ability to play in the NFL and played big-time college football. They've been around the game, so they have a lot of knowledge, and I was able to be around those guys and soak up the knowledge they have."

The difference in coaching style has been noticeable for the returning players.

"These guys are very serious on us and how we're going to play, how we're going to look and how we're going to act," wide receiver Alec Bonvicino said. 

Even the play-calling has changed drastically from a year ago.

"Last year, we had wristbands, but now he's calling the plays," White said. "It's a really big difference. We're learning a whole new system."

Senior Freddy Edwards, who piled up over 2,500 yards of offense, returns under center.

"Freddy is a very gifted athlete and has tremendous upside," Gooden said. "Any time a program has an athlete of that caliber, you can certainly gather the troops around him to help him lead the team."

Gooden is hoping to put a stamp on the up-and-coming program.

"As a coach, you want to go somewhere you can have a direct impact," Gooden said. "There was enough talent here that this was a place I could come here and call home and build."

Gooden has some lofty goals for his Warriors.

"Every year the goal is to win state. If that's not your goal, you're settling for less," Gooden said. "It's going to take a lot of work to do that, but that's the ultimate goal. I don't ever want to come here and lower the expectations because I'd be serving the kids short."

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