Fort Mill opens the 2017 season with three consecutive home games at a gussied-up Bob Jones Stadium.
In the corresponding three games last fall, Fort Mill went 1-2, losing to Spring Valley by eight points despite a 13-0 first quarter lead and dropping another game at Lancaster on a late field goal. Maybe those games go the Yellow Jackets’ way at home this year, a feeling that would generally gee with coach Ed Susi’s increased optimism headed into 2017.
Check out the stadiums where Fort Mill will play its 2017 high school football season:
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Fort Mill has a breakout candidate in Ryan Heriot, a two-way player who only emerged late in 2016 as a potential force at running back. Expect to see him carry the load earlier and more often this coming season. The Yellow Jackets have a big question mark at quarterback where Susi doesn’t expect to make a decision until after preseason scrimmages. Dylan Helms, J.T. Marr and Drew Hartman are competing for that job.
The Yellow Jackets have a couple of starters back on the offensive line, led by senior Trey Reed, and return all four defensive line starters. They should be solid in the secondary with Heriot and Bartow Keller back there, and senior outside linebacker and slot receiver Grant Stevens is another two-way player that will be one of the Yellow Jackets’ best performers.
Coach: Ed Susi, 11th year (78-98)
Assistant coaches: Frank Ambrose, ofensive line; Chuck Tauchman, defensive coordinator; Dammeon Chisholm, linebackers; Matt Dow, defensive line; Eddie Therrell, quarterbacks; Shon Kendall, tight ends; Byron Fridie, wide receivers; Neal Smith, defensive backs.
Last season: 3-7
Last 5 years: 29-28, 3 playoff appearances
Playoff wins last 5 years: 0
Returning starters: 13 (7 offense, 6 defense)
Key number: 103.7 - Senior Ryan Heriot averaged nearly 104 yards rushing on just over 14 carries in Fort Mill’s final three games of 2016. He’ll be a featured back for the Yellow Jackets starting in Week Zero.
Key returning players: Sr. RB/DB Ryan Heriot, Sr. OLB/WR Grant Stevens, Sr. OL/DL Quinn Vandermark, Jr. DE Mel Plankenhorn, Sr. OL Zach Szwed, Sr. LB Jake Ajemian, Sr. DE Josh Cairns, Sr. OL Trey Reed, Sr. DB Bartow Keller, Sr. OL Ronin Costanzo, Jr. DL Nick Brown, Sr. WR Shayne Boyle, Sr. WR/DB Gray Thomas.
Weakness: Game experience at quarterback will be an issue, whichever Yellow Jacket wins the starting nod. Helms, Marr and Hartman have 15 combined varsity pass attempts (all 15 belonging to Hartman).
Strength: It’ll be a scrap in a much tighter Region 4-5A this fall and Susi thinks Fort Mill will have a small but important advantage: excellent team chemistry. The Yellow Jackets aren’t the most athletic or dynamic, but Susi says his guys have each other’s backs. That could really mean something in October.
Coachspeak: “It’s something the coaching staff have been harping on about, everything for the team. Hopefully it pays off for us. These guys have done everything we ask them to do. This is a close group of guys. Just hoping this is one of those years where it gets turned around.”
August: 18 Spring Valley; 25 West Florence
September: 1 Lancaster; 8 at Orangeburg-Wilkinson; 15 at York; 22 Bye; 29 at Northwestern
October: 6 Clover; 13 at Rock Hill; 20 at Dorman; 27 Nation Ford
- Fort Mill’s opponents won 53 percent of their games in 2016 (61-54) and include nine playoff teams.