FORT MILL — The Fort Mill football team finished 7-5 and made the state playoffs last year out of a tough Region 3-AAAA, but the Yellow Jackets have their work cut out for them to repeat that feat this year after heavy losses through graduation.
After the season finished, coach Ed Susi and his staff set about that very work, retooling the their defensive scheme to better suit the teams personnel this fall. The defenses spring performance confirmed the Yellow Jackets are marching in the right direction.
We needed to get our defense a little better and moving around, said Susi, whose club will be more aggressive on that side of the line. We were happy with the way our defense came out better, and were happy with the way theyre running to the ball.
Fort Mill was up against the odds last fall, too. The team was sliding back in the Region 3 pack, but reeled off three straight wins to finish the regular season with a winning record and make the playoffs. The Yellow Jackets got bounced in the first round by eventual Class AAAA-DII champs Greenwood 42-7. If the team is going to make a return visit to the postseason promised land, it will be with 16 new starters.
Starters lost: 8 offense, 8 defense
Leaving in June: Fort Mill graduates several top offensive lineman, including Cooper Clegg who is slated to walk on at Coastal Carolina Zach Dulcie, Chris Norman and Scott DeMayo. Those guys also doubled as the Yellow Jackets defensive line too, making their exit doubly hurtful. Susi said the offensive line is his teams biggest concern at the moment.
Theres not a lot of experience there. Were still searching for the right five, Susi said.
The mass exodus is also tough because the Yellow Jackets will lose quarterback Rylan Wells. Running back Tony Godbolt and leading tackler Jaquel Wilson are also gone after they cross the stage in June.
Back in August: The Yellow Jackets top producer in the backfield last fall, Daryan Sanders, returns for his senior year, giving Susis squad dynamic talent in the backfield. He rushed for 775 yards and eight touchdowns last year while splitting time with Godbolt, and should be able to top 1,000 yards again.
Sophomore Rogan Wells, the younger brother of Rylan, and junior Clay Helvey will compete for the starting quarterback spot.
Susi cited Malik Long, a returning linebacker, as a player who stood out this spring on the defensive side, along with fellow backer Danny Marr. The onus will be on that position to help make up for the losses up front this fall. Defensive end Mason Jordan could help ease that burden based on his spring performance.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T