CHESTER — Patience is the key word being used in the Chester Cyclones' camp.
Having lost 19 seniors, including Shrine Bowl running back/defensive back Julius Pendergrass and Clemson signee Tony McNeal, the Cyclones must rely on patience as the team develops their young players.
That patience was tested last Friday in a 30-7 loss to Blythewood in the Chester Football Jamboree.
Being so young, Chester coach Anthony Sterling realizes his team will have inconsistent moments.
"The seniors which were lost were very key players. So now it is a little challenging with so many young players," Sterling said. "We are not at the point where we are suffering from a complete lack of experience.
"Many have varsity experience, but being so young right now, we are making so many mental mistakes. We are spending plenty of time with repetitions in our schemes and looking at film."
Friday night's loss reflected the Cyclones' growing pains.
The Bengals completely dominated the action on both sides of the ball, scoring on its first three possessions and limiting Chester to only 19 total yards and one first down in the opening quarter.
That experience, however, resulted in a more focused and determined effort in Monday's practice as the Cyclones prepare for Friday's season opener against Abbeville, the defending Class A Division I state champ.
"It woke us up and today's practice was at a high level. You could see it in our attitude, Sterling said. "We are using that to get better. These guys may be young, but they are working extremely hard to get better."
The quick-strike Cyclone offense, which lit up scoreboards at nearly 30 points per game the past three seasons under McNeal, is now under the control of junior Jamarcus Moore, also a two-year starter in the secondary.
Moore, a Division I prospect at cornerback, will handle the quarterback duties as highly-touted freshman Tommy Sanders develops.
"We would like to have Jemarcus playing more on defense because he means that much to us on that side of the ball," Sterling said. "Tommy Sanders has done a good job learning the schemes of this offense with his reads of defenses."
Moore said he prefers playing defense, but is looking forward to the challenge at quarterback. He predicts it will only be a matter of time before he hands complete control of the signal-calling duties to the talented freshman.
"He can run and he has a powerful arm. He has learned a lot in the short period of time."
Otherwise, Sterling said that the running back position is extremely fast with K.J. Dixon and Derrell Rambert. He is also optimistic about the development of the defensive line and linebackers.
"Our defensive line has been a pleasant surprise, considering that we lost some studs up front. Our linebackers are young, but they have been impressive with the way they have been getting to the football."
The Cyclones finished last season 7-5, good for third place in Region 3-AAA.
The five losses came at the hands of Central, the Class AA state champ; Mallard Creek, a state semifinalist in North Carolina; Fairfield Central, the Class AAA Upper State runner-up; South Pointe, the defending Class AAA Upper State champ; and Belton-Honea Path, who advanced to the third round.
With the exception of Mallard Creek, all of those opponents remain on the Cyclones' schedule, making the rebuilding task even more challenging.
"We have a lot of work to do," Sterling said. "But hopefully by the time the region rolls around, we will be ready to go."
Chester will get an early test against Abbeville at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Newberry College.