Theres tangible momentum in the Chester Cyclones spring camp after a productive 2012 season that saw Anthony Sterlings crew win Region 3-AAA and advance to the third round of the state playoffs.
Oh yeah, you can see it, said Sterling. Theyre willing and ready to take it to another level.
Graduation didnt sap the Cyclones as it did some other area schools. Tackling machine Daryl Foster returns for his senior year after racking up over 200 stops as a junior, and the Cyclones also return road-grading lineman Dakeavis Wilmore. Both are getting a lot of interest from colleges and have been positive driving forces during Chesters spring practice.
Those two play a vital part in our program, said Sterling. Guys follow them and look up to them. Theyve had a good offseason and thats a big deal for us.
2012: The Cyclones won seven of their past nine games to finish 8-5 overall, and 4-1 in Region 3-AAA. They beat Emerald and Greenville in the first two rounds of the Class AAA state playoffs, before falling 35-6 to Daniel in the third round.
Starters lost: 5 offense, 4 defense
Leaving in June: The onus will be increased on Foster and Wilmore and the returning Cyclones due to the departure of the seniors that made their jobs easier. Linebackers Terrance Morris and DeAntre Minter both will play college football this fall, Morris at Wofford and Minter Pikeville University in Kentucky. They can be credited with freeing up Foster on many a defensive snap last season, something hell have to do on his own more often this coming fall.
Wilmore loses his blocking buddy Roger Land (Pikeville), and the Cyclones also graduate elusive scatback JaMarcus Moore, who signed with Catawba, and versatile athlete Derrell Rambert.
Back in August: Foster returns for his senior year and while hell be hard pressed to repeat his tackling feats of last fall, hell be a force on the defensive side of the rock regardless. All-Region linebacker Lorenzo White (who also runs the ball) and Shyheim Wilson should ably help Foster shoulder the load at linebacker.
Up front, Wilmore will be paving the way for Tommy Sanders, who started at quarterback last year as a sophomore. Sterling has been impressed with Sanders maturity during the year, which has seen him garner college interest.
He had his sophomore blues last year, Sterling said, but he had a good offseason and come spring-time he just looked tremendous. He really grew up.
Quan Caldwell can spell Sanders at quarterback when needed, but his real value comes on the flanks as a receiver where he pairs with C.J. Chisholm to give Chester a pair of pass-catching threats.
McMurrays Bruins missed out on the playoffs last year for the first time in three seasons. Lancaster struggled to finish games last fall, losing leads to Central Pageland, Nation Ford, Fort Mill and perhaps the most painful, a 13-7 lead over South Pointe in an eventual defeat.
We werent that bad, we werent that good last year, said McMurray. We just couldnt finish games. We didnt have a go-to player on either side of the football that could make big plays for us.
Lancasters efforts to find that player this spring was hampered by bad luck in the health department. The Bruins suffered a rash of injuries, including a broken collarbone and a torn hip flexor (during track season) that forced the teams coaches to dial back the contact during practice.
Our numbers and our depth doesnt allow us to just go pound and pound, McMurray said. Our spring has basically just been teaching and teaching and teaching.
2012: The Bruins went 3-8 last year and mustered just a single Region 3-AAAA victory, a 26-21 victory over winless Clover.
Starters lost: 8 offense, 5 defense
Leaving in June: McMurray said graduating quarterback Kadarrius Jackson did a lot of things for our offense, and the senior signal caller will be missed, despite missing a chunk of last year due to injury. Dante Speight is an experienced defensive lineman that also walks this June.
Back in August: Linebacker Deshaun Evans is back for the Bruins after an All-Region season in 2012, and Don Reid and Darius Truesdale both return on the defensive line.
Kendarius Truesdale will get the chance to replace Jackson at quarterback after filling in for him as a sophomore. Hes part of a group of nine or 10 sophomores that played extensively for McMurrays club last year, or as he put it, kind of got indoctrinated, thrown in the fire.
• Indian Land
Indian Land returns skill position players, but longtime head coach Michael Mayer has concerns up front where he only returns one starter each on the defensive and offensive lines.
Well real thin O-L and D-L, said Mayer. Well probably have one or two sophomores playing on both sides.
Indian Land had as many as 80 kids out for spring practice, while Mayer reported the adjacent middle school had 60 out, both numbers indicative of the areas growing population that could see it shoot up to Class AAA in the next realignment jigsaw.
Were having to buy more helmets over the summer, Mayer said. Its the most kids weve had out here ever.
One player who will benefit from just playing on offense is freshman Rakym Felder. He returns to the Warriors offensive backfield after showing a promising flash of talent near the end of the 2012 season. Felder rushed for 608 yards and six touchdowns in just three games at running back, while racking up 50 tackles in the first eight games of the season at linebacker. He did all of that as a ninth grader, suggesting the future is bright for the Warriors.
2012: It was a rough campaign in Region 4-AA for the Warriors, who finished 1-9 and 0-6 in the region. Despite the record, Indian Land made the Class AA postseason, but lost to Newberry 42-13 in the first round.
Starters lost: 6 offense, 6 defense
Leaving in June: Up front the Warriors will lose Jimmy Locklear, Curtis Groll, Brad Boone and Daron Massey depart, leaving a large hole on both sides of the ball. Filling those voids will be imperative for the Warriors, who have some skill position players that can make plays, with blocks of course.
Wide receiver Chris Barnes is also gone.
Back in August: Quarterback George Morris is back after starting about half of the games last year, while Austin Gordon will also return in the backfield alongside Felder.
Senior Chad Thomas is back at linebacker, as is Terrell White, another senior who moves up to outside linebacker after playing in the secondary last year. Sophomore Chris Blakeney and cornerback Manny Delgado, a senior, return in the defensive backfield.
After a school year in which Lewisville turned its mighty proud football program around and won a state championship in basketball, Will Mitchells Lions football team would have been expected to have some pep in its stride during spring practice.
Its been such a positive year at Lewisville High School in all the sports and in academics, Mitchell said Wednesday. That positive feeling has carried over into the spring.
The feel-good environs were essential for a team with some work to do, namely trying to fill in the gaping holes left by some of the schools best ever gridiron standouts. The Lions graduate two players who each rushed for over 1,000 yards and each scored 20 touchdowns in Malcolm Means and Qua Walls. Means will suit up for North Carolina State this fall, while Walls will play for Limestone when that school hits the field in 2014.
Among the bright notes, the Lions had 36 at high school practices the past two weeks, which is important for such a small school. Mitchells team dressed 27 on Friday nights last fall.
2012: The Lions bounced back from three consecutive losing seasons to go 8-3 and 4-1 in Region 3-A. Lewisville made the Class A postseason, but fell in a first round heartbreaker to St. Josephs, 57-56.
Starters lost: combined 8 starters graduated
Leaving in June: Mitchell has the unenviable task of replacing a talented group of seniors, led by Means, Walls and a couple of tough hogs in the trenches, including Justin Cooper and J.J. McCrimmons on the offensive side, and all three starters on the defensive line- Arkevian Williams, Dequan Evans and Trey McGarrity. Allen Jordan is another excellent athlete that graduated.
Back in August: Senior Tony Gaston, the teams leading receiver with 32 catches last year, and junior Cody Montgomery, who led the team in touchdowns receptions (7), are competing to see who will run the teams offense under center. Gaston and Montgomery are two of the teams four returning players that had at least 20 catches last season, ensuring that whoever wins the QB battle will have receiving targets to hit.
Senior tackles Gill Wilson and Jonathan Martin will anchor the offensive line alongside fellow 12th grader P.J. Lucas. Theyll block for rising junior Dre Bailey, who led the team in tackles as a sophomore but will be much more offensively focused this coming season.
Mitchell can also call on three senior linebackers- Parker Cox, John Robbins and Mitch Langfield- as well as seniors Michael Spence (defensive back) and Holden Littles (defensive line).
• Great Falls
The Red Devils open the 2013 season with the first of two games against their cross-county rivals, Lewisville. Great Falls was beaten handily by the Lions in both of the two teams meetings last season, something theyll be out to avenge this coming fall.
Key to that end will be depth, a lack of which caught up with the Red Devils last season. One positive of being shorthanded was a number of younger players were forced into limelight roles and had to respond. No doubt theyll handle the situation better this coming season.
Despite the struggles the program endured, the Red Devils still made the postseason for the 15th straight year, including each of coach Ken Schofields 13 campaigns at the helm.
2012: The Red Devils went 4-7 in 2012, including 1-4 in Region 3-A. The fell to Calhoun Falls 24-22 in the first round of the Class A state playoffs.
Leaving in June: Great Falls graduated around 10 seniors from a Class A team that only played 24 or so players. The Red Devils will miss blocking back Jake Payseur, who was a tough inside runner too, averaging over seven yards per pop. Payseur was also the teams top tackler.
Clark Schofield, the Great Falls starting quarterback who missed a latter portion of the season last year with a shoulder injury, also departs. Leading receiver Omar Dean and lineman Deandra Hoover graduate in early June too.
Back in August: Wing backs Ladarius Blair and Dequarius Caldwell return for the Red Devils. The pair rushed for a combined 1300 yards, and both averaged over 5.6 yards per carry. Rising junior Chris Culp will likely quarterback the Red Devils, something he did in Schofields stead last year when the senior was sidelined.
David Jeter is the teams leading returning pass-catcher; the tight end caught six passes last year in a run-focused offensive scheme.
Jeter is also the returning leading tackler and has good size. Diques Mack will be key in the linebacking corps and Tyquan Ross, a rising junior, gives Great Falls some heft in the trenches. Like most of the squad, hell play both ways.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T