CLOVER — A quintessential component to any football season is a fresh start. No matter how bad or good the prior season played out, it is critical to put it in the rear view mirror and focus on the task at hand. A new beginning is especially important to the Clover Blue Eagles coming off on a winless campaign last season.
Enter Chad Smith, first year head coach who spent the past three seasons at Easley High School in the Upstate. Smith quickly turned the Green Wave, 1-21 in the two seasons prior to his arrival, from the region’s doormat into playoff participants in each of his three years.
The newness around the locker rooms and practice field is clearly evident and in Smith’s plan, starting with a “midnight madness” practice session kicking off the season as soon as the South Carolina High School League allowed.
“The first practice was a lot of fun for the players and the coaches,” Smith said. “The community came out and supported us. As far as last year, we don’t really want to look at last season at all. The kids have a completely clean slate with us and vice versa. I brought in five members of my staff, so there is familiarity there, but with the kids it is all brand new.
“Many of the players are in their first year of the program so we are starting at ground zero. I have no doubt that this group of kids is as talented as that first group we had at Easley. We will have competition at every position. We just have to work our tails off until we strap it up for real here in a few weeks.”
Smith brings the double wing offense from Easley, which counts on repetition and gaining small chunks of yardage. Clover used some aspects of the double wing a season ago, but for the most part it is a new offense. The Blue Eagles will use a 3-4 defense against one of the state’s toughest regions.
Early practices included rap and country music over the loudspeakers, another new aspect meant to add life to the monotony of two-a-day practices. The major themes of practices without pads were conditioning and camaraderie.
Clover had two groups of players running drills and got off of a play around every ten seconds. “No walking on the field” and “hustle” where two of the phrases tossed around by the coaches, and there was a genuine excitement about the start of the season.
“I am sure I am going to leave practice exhausted, but I think they will be fun,” said first year offensive and defensive lineman Keith Stefurak. “Since Coach Smith got here we have been doing everything harder. More drills, working out, getting it right.”
Veteran running back Nate Morrison echoed Stefurak. “It has been so fun to this point; last night (midnight madness) was so much fun. I loved the fireworks and it was great to see the community come out and support us even though we had a rough season. Right now we are working hard and getting better acquainted with the coaches and other players better.”
All of the new preparation takes effect quickly for the Blue Eagles. Clover opens up at home against South Florence on Aug. 23.
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