Having learned more about the 2014 Blue Eagles football team during last Friday’s scrimmage at Broome High School, head coach Chad Smith and his staff say they are ready for a closer look.
That look will come when the Blue Eagles face Pickens in Friday’s jamboree at the Pickens stadium.
The event will begin at 8 p.m. at a site familiar to Smith, whose Easely team played at Pickens when he coached the Green Wave before accepting the position at Clover High.
“We look forward to the Pickens Jamboree,” Smith said. “It will be a good matchup to prepare the team for the regular-season opener next week at Westside. There are eight participating teams in Friday’s jamboree; each team will play one half under regular-season, game-type conditions.”
Pickens ended the 2013 season 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the region, finishing in fourth place. The Blue Flame averaged 34.9 points per game last season.
Pickens’ wins included a 31-27 victory against Southside, a 38-14 win against Pendleton and a 45-7 pounding of Eastside.
The Blue Flame scored in bunches in defeating Berea, 55-34, and rolling past Travelers Rest 66-15.
Pickens closed out the regular season by thrashing Liberty 42-8.
Pickens plays in a region that includes Walhalla, Palmetto, West-Oak, Belton Honea Path and Seneca, a team with numerous playoff appearances. Pickens also plays Daniel on a regular basis.
Against Broome, where former Clover head coach Jet Turner heads the program, Smith said the scrimmage offered a glimpse at various stages of the game.
“We learned a good bit,” he said.
Smith said the Blue Eagles swarmed to the ball and did some things well but still have areas of the game to work on.
“We’re working to execute better,” he said of the team’s bread-and-butter double-wing offensive scheme. “We want to be crisp in our execution.”
The Blue Eagles lost one of Region 3-AAAA’s premier players, Ladarius Adams, to graduation, but Smith said help is on the way.
“We have a stable of good running backs that can get the job done,” he said.
While the offense is making progress with the double-wing attack under new quarterback Noah Lindsay, defensive coordinator Chris Bunting said he is pleased with the defensive unit’s improved play.
“We are light years ahead of where we were this time last season,” Bunting said.
“We have good athletes and more speed on defense,” said Bunting, who was head coach at a high school in Hickory, N.C., before joining the Blue Eagles staff.
Bunting said the key to success is continued growth on the defensive side of the ball.
He said high school defensive coordinators face a bigger challenge than they did years ago.
“There are so many spread formations to prepare for, especially in our region,” said Bunting. “The spread requires a lot of defensive adjustments. Our kids are working hard to meet the challenge.”
The Blue Eagles’ defensive improvement was evident in the final game of the 2013 season, when the team limited high-scoring York to 13 points in a three-point loss at Clover’s Memorial Stadium.
Bunting and Smith are on the same page as to what it will take to return Blue Eagles football to the glory days of competing for region championships at the 4A level.
Both said continued improvement every play, every practice, every game is the formula that will take Clover’s football program to the next level. Smith frequently adds: “Reps, reps and more reps.”
After Friday’s jamboree appearance in Pickens, the Blue Eagles make the long trek to Westside in Anderson for the regular-season opener. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
On Aug. 29, the action shifts to Forestview.
The Blue Eagles’ first home game will be Sept. 5 against Westwood.
All games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.