York did well to win six games, including one in the playoffs, last season considering the unexpected difficulties that popped up on almost a monthly basis, including last-minute transfers before the season started and the death of a parent for two separate offensive linemen. Cougars coach Bobby Carroll is hopeful that his program doesn’t have to repeat what he called “a humbling experience.”
The Cougars should be better on the field in large part because they have some continuity at QB with junior Ethan Mitchell. He did a pretty good job coming out of the bullpen to help save the Cougars’ 2016 season and he should be much further along this August than last.
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Mitchell has five or six receivers to throw to, led by 6-foot-1, 190-pound college prospect Ladarius Allison. He also has a big offensive line led by Lane Towery (6-foot-6, 300) and Jacob Stegall (6-foot-2, 310), and after waiting his turn, senior Joe Wade will get the chance to carry the rock.
The Cougars replace much of their secondary except for three-year starter Tajh Reid-Stanley, but their linebackers should be very good. J.T. Sanders was the leading tackler last year and Seth Wood was an All-Region 4-5A pick. Up front there is talent too, led by FBS recruit Shamari Williams and Kyle Ersek.
Coach: Bobby Carroll, 7th year (106-40)
Assistant coaches: John Moorefield, linebackers; David Hill, defensive backs; Chad Burgess, defensive backs; Jamell Gaines, defensive line; Knox Baggett, quarterbacks; Grady Baggett, wide receivers and special teams; Jamie Bolton, wide receivers; Anthony McFadden, running backs.
Last season: 6-6, lost in the second round of the 4A playoffs to South Aiken
Last 5 years: 46-19, 5 playoff appearances
Playoff wins last 5 years: 7
Returning starters: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
Key number: 100 - The Cougars were outscored 100-48 in the first quarters of its 12 games last season, especially costly in losses to Union County, Nation Ford, Clover and South Pointe. York won the fourth quarter by a combined 123-47 margin.
Key returning players: Sr. LB J.T. Sanders, Jr. WR Ladarius Allison, Sr. DE Shamari Williams, Jr. QB Ethan Mitchell, Jr. OL Lane Towery, Sr. LB Seth Wood, Sr. LB Dondre Douglas, Jr. WR Zion Walker, Sr. OL Jacob Stegall, Soph. DL Jalon Ballard, Sr. DE Kyle Ersek, Sr. DB Tajh Reid-Stanley, Sr. OL Cody Thomas, Sr. RB Joe Wade.
Weakness: York had one of the better punters/kickers in the area last year in Myles Prosser, who is walking-on the football team at Coastal Carolina as a college freshman. The Cougars have several players vying for kicking jobs but no front-runners headed into August.
Strength: The Cougars’ defensive front-seven should be stout. The three starting linebackers are all experienced and productive, while Williams and Ersek give York pass-rushing talent - and considerable length to disrupt throwing lanes - on the edge. They should help cover for a secondary that is far less experienced.
Coachspeak: “You go from coaching really some good football teams over the last 20 years and NFL players and winning state championships, and all of the sudden you’re staring 0-4 in the face. That thing could have really turned the other way but those kids are extremely resilient and kept going. It’s comforting to know that our kids, 99 percent of them, have done everything single thing we asked them to do this offseason.”
August: 18 Bank of York (scrimmage); 25 Rock Hill
September: 1 at Union County; 8 at Nation Ford; 15 Fort Mill; 22 at Clover; 29 at Richland Northeast
October: 6 Ridge View; 13 Westwood; 20 Lancaster; 27 at South Pointe
- York’s opponents won 57 percent of their games in 2016 (69-53) and include seven playoff teams and one state champion (South Pointe).