Chipley, FL-- To say the least, you have to be impressed with coach Joel Orlando and his Chipley basketball players are doing this season.
Heading into Thursday's game at Holmes, the Tigers are 17-3 overall and 9-0 in 1A district 2 play. On it's own that's impressive, but it's even more so when you consider the Tigers lost 7 seniors from a team that won the state title last year.
He wound up coaching a relatively young squad, with freshman and sophomores carrying heavy loads. When we asked coach Orlando if he was surprised by the early success of such a young team, he gave a pretty straight forward answer,
"It's not surprising when kids get up at 5 o'clock in the morning in the summertime and go to a court. It's not surprising where every time you see them they have a basketball in their hand. It's not surprising when you coach them up and they want to be coached."
And as Coach Orlando tells us, it's something he will have to do out of necessity,
"Our team is very young and they have handled things as a young team."
One of those young players that was on last year's team is point guard Tyrome Sharpe, now a sophomore. He can testify to the differences as well as the similarities between the two teams,
"It's completely different but we're winning and we got the same coach. So we all just want to win from last year and this year."
Another player to watch is freshman standout Trent Forrest, who has a pretty good formula to rack up those wins,
"We just gotta play to the best of our ability and keep working and just get better and better"
That ability and work ethic is the reason Coach Orlando loves working with such a young team,
"The most exciting thing is, when you have talented kids, that work, you know they are going to get better."
Short of some disaster in the district tournament, in which Chipley will be the top seed and get a bye to the semifinals, expect the Tigers to be in the playoffs again this season, poised to take a legitimate shot at another long postseason run.