FORT MILL — If there ever were a year for patience for the Fort Mill football program, this may be it.
Coming off a 7-5 season and a first-round playoff lost to eventual state champion Greenwood, Fort Mill lost a lot of seniors in key positions.
Fort Mill opens the season Aug. 30 at Lugoff-Elgin High School. Its first home game will be Sept. 6 at against Dutch Fork.
The Yellow Jackets will try and get their feet under them to regroup and stay on track. However, when head coach Ed Susi looks at his team, he sees a lot of questions.
“It reminds me of when we split (with the forming of Nation Ford), because we got a lot of young faces out there,” Susi said. “We got question marks. Experience and depth are definitely question marks. We are young, I don’t know how else to say it.”
Not only did the team lose quarterback Rylan Wells to graduation, it also lost a lot of offense in junior Breshon Simpson, who transferred to Dorman in Spartanburg County during basketball season last year.
The Yellow Jackets have two options under center in junior Taylor Hemphill, a transfer from Nation Ford, and sophomore Rogan Wells, Rylan’s younger brother. Susi is confident that both can get the job done; however, the youth on the offensive line will determine how things go.
“They are both doing fine,” Susi said. “They are young and it’s new to several people. We got a young line, too, that we need to see hit someone else. We need to find out what they are really good at in the throwing game, and that is short stuff. I want them to get their confidence first.”
The one place that Fort Mill can rely on generating offense this season is on the ground.
“We got some kids that can run,” Susi said. “We just need to find some guys that will give them a crease. That is what we hang our hat on, running the ball. That opens up everything else for us.”
Fort Mill has back senior Deryan Sanders and junior Malik Long, both of whom will see the majority of carries on the team.
“They’ve got the most experience back there and those are your guys that can make things happen, but we got some other guys like (junior) Chandler (Kryst) and Antonio Dawkins that can make some guys miss,” Susi said.
The Jackets also are replacing their long-time defensive coordinator Dave Thomas, who is now at Lugoff-Elgin, with former Independence High defensive coordinator and head coach Bill Geiler.
Geiler led Independence High to the 2004 state championship and coached with legendary Independence head coach Tommy Knotts, who is now at Dutch Fork, another Fort Mill opponent this season. He was a part of six state championships at Independence, five as an assistant and one as a head coach.