LAKE PLACID — The Air Force could be in Wyatt Youngman’s future, but the Marines’ advertising slogan – “the few, the proud” – best sums up the Seminole’s senior season on the Lake Placid High School varsity football team.
Lake Placid has spent most of the season with only 15 players, dwarfed in comparison to the 30-, 40-, 50-man squads they face. Such a thin roster means nearly every Green Dragon – including the 6-foot, 220-pound Wyatt – plays entire games, which has led to some notoriety for the Highlands County team.
“You get kind of known when you only have 15 players,” Wyatt said. “We’ve been on the news a couple times. I think it was ABC.”
At the helm for just five months, coach Jerry Hudnell pointed to several reasons behind the sparse numbers, including low participation, ineligibility issues and frequent coaching changes.
“They have performed better than what I expected,” said Hudnell, who is the third varsity head coach in less than a year.
As tiring as playing the full 48 minutes might seem, Wyatt said it’s not a big deal.
“You get kind of used to it. We run a lot in practice,” said the son of Frank and Rita Youngman.
The loneliest place in town on Friday nights might be the Lake Placid sideline.
“Usually the only [player] on the sideline is a quarterback. We have to dig deep,” Wyatt said.
As of mid-October, the team had notched wins against St. Petersburg Catholic and Gateway Charter.
Some of its six losses have been lopsided; others have been close right up to the final buzzer when perhaps having a few extra bodies could have altered outcomes. Playoff hopes were crushed with an overtime loss to Mulberry.
“We play against teams with 50 [players]. We give them a run for their money, but they usually score [late in the game],” Wyatt said.
Wyatt is in his third year on varsity and his second playing center. This season he became a full-time, two-way player with the addition of linebacker duties. He doesn’t have a preference which side of the ball he plays, as long as he plays.
“I just like playing. I love it,” he said.
No matter which position he plays, Wyatt has earned the respect of his coach.
“He is what I would think of if I were to go back 150 years and witness the Seminole Tribe here in Florida; he’s what I would imagine. He’s tough, he’s resilient and he just loves life,” Hudnell said.
Even though this is Wyatt’s final year, the varsity squad might not be without a Youngman at center for too long. Wyatt’s brother Tiger, a seventh-grader, plays center for the middle school team.
Wyatt also belongs to the school’s weightlifting team. He said joining the Air Force is a possibility after graduation. If he does become a military man, his sights are set on being a pararescue specialist, who, as the Air Force website describes it, “do whatever it takes to save a person’s life,” including going into hostile territory.
On Lake Placid’s senior night Oct. 16, Roger Scarborough Memorial Field wasn’t a hostile place for visiting LaBelle, which won 33-0. Wyatt was the last of 19 football players, cheerleaders and band members honored on the field before the game.
After seven games with barely enough players, reinforcements arrived in the form of junior varsity players because their season ended. Hence, Wyatt actually received a well-earned break on defense for most of the game.
Following a shaky first half in which LaBelle took a commanding lead, Lake Placid responded with a sharper performance in the final two quarters and held LaBelle to just three points, displaying the type of determination that the undermanned, understocked and underdog team has personified.
“Everybody on the team plays with all their heart; they really do,” Wyatt said.