If experience was measured in weight, the Fort Mill Yellow Jackets would have tons of it.
With 17 starters returning from last year’s squad, that went 4-7, the Jackets have the majority of experience returning from their offense, which sees junior quarterback Rogan Wells coming off a sophomore season where he threw for nearly 1,100 yards and rushed for another 300 plus to account for 20 touchdowns for Fort Mill.
“Being a sophomore last year he had a lot to learn and he kinda got thrown into the role,” said Jackets’ head coach Ed Susi. “From last summer to this summer, he is 100 percent better. He understands the offense much better now. And he has got some play makers next to him. He doesn’t need to be the guy making all the plays.”
One key to the Jackets success this year with be a more experienced offensive line to help block for players like Wells and seniors Chandler Kryst and Malik Long.
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“Up front, we played a few sophomore and a couple juniors last year, and we are counting on that group and we got everybody back and everything goes quicker when you have some experience,” Susi said. “We are counting on those guys to do a lot of things.”
Kryst, can serve as a multi-headed beast for Fort Mill, by returning kickoffs and punts, as well as rushing the ball and playing receiver. He accounted for 455 yards last year for the Jackets on offense alone, not counting punt and kick returns; while Long rushed for nearly 800 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Chandler and Malik both played last year and they know now their roles are a little bigger and that is what they want,” Susi said. “We got a little more offensive weapons than we have had before.”
Apotential addition key offensively for Fort Mill will be tight end Mason Jordan, who made things happen in several short yardage situations last year as well as scored on several occasions.
Another aspect that may help in the long run for Fort Mill is how their spring and summer practices went. Having numerous athletes with a year or so under their belt, made the off-season a smoother transition period for the Jackets.
“We have had a good summer and spring,” he said. “If you want to make a statement, you have to do it. We have always had great support here. Our expectations have picked up.”
However, getting Fort Mill to a winning record and a playoff spot, something that eluded them last year, won’t be an easy task with the region they are in.
“This is a tough region for us,” Susi said. “Our region is the best in the state. You have to be ready every week. If you want to turn the corner, you have to beat some of those schools.”
Some of those schools include defending state champions Northwestern, who has had Fort Mill’s number for years, and new to Region III this season – powerhouse Gaffney.
Teams like South Pointe are off the table for Fort Mill, but they still have to contend with cross-town rival Nation Ford, who beat them for the first time ever last season.
Fort Mill won’t have an easy non-region schedule opening on the road Saturday, Aug. 23 against White Knoll at River Bluff High as part of the Battle of the Bluff. They then host Lugoff-Elgin and River Bluff at home, with road trips to Greenville and West Florence sandwiched in between.
The Jackets open region play against the Trojans Sept. 26 at home and will take on Clover on the road and play Nation Ford on the road in a middle of the season match-up instead of its end of the season game, which has had playoff implications the past several years for both schools.
Fort Mill finishes the season on the road at Gaffney Oct. 31 before having an open date Nov. 7, giving them two weeks off before a potential first round of the 4A playoff game.