Head football coach Chad Smith, entering his third season, sees a bright future for the Clover program, and the spring workouts did nothing to dim his outlook.
“We had some things we wanted to get accomplished, especially offensively,” Smith said after Saturday morning’s spring game. “We were trying some stuff to make us more explosive and were able to get those things in.
“Defensively, we want to continue to go the route we’re going and get a little more aggressive. We’ve been able to do that.”
Smith, whose high school football philosophy is physicality from the double-wing alignment, liked what he saw during spring practice.
“We had a very physical spring,” he said. “We used all the days we were allotted to go full pads.”
Smith added: “One of the things I liked today was that we heard pads popping a lot more than in the past. We’re going to be a physical football team and we are gonna get after you.”
The Blue Eagles finished the 2014 season with a loss to eventual AAAA Division II state finalist York.
“Rushing for 400 yards against a team with a defense the caliber of York really says something about our program. It indicates that we are going in the right direction,” said Smith.
“We moved the football, but couldn’t contain quarterback Deshaw Andrews and their Shrine Bowl participant,” he said, referring to Daurice Simpson. “I’m really excited about the coming season.”
While Smith is convinced the program on the rise, he knows there are voids to fill.
“We’re definitely going to miss Garrett Courtwright and Harrison Gibson,” he said. “They were two kids that were great football players. We’re trying to still maintain what we do. We will do it in different ways to kind of hide their absence.”
Rising senior Noah Lindsey returns at quarterback with a wealth of experience. Lindsey has been a main cog in the Blue Eagles’ re-emergence on the high school football scene.
“Our program continues to improve,” he said. “We’re getting a lot stronger and faster.”
Lindsey is in his second year as quarterback and third year as a varsity team member.
“We’ve got our whole backfield back from last year,” he said. “Our offensive line is stronger.”
Lindsey said the Blue Eagles enter the 2015 campaign with visions of postseason play.
“We want to make it to the playoffs,” he said. “We’ll see where we go from there. It means a lot as a senior. Everybody in Clover will know we’re ready.”
Though Gavin Jenkins is the lone returning starter in the offensive line, the senior left guard points to a size advantage along the offensive front.
“We have young players with the potential to fill in,” he said. “Jack McDowell is a big boy at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds.
“Another junior lineman is 6-2, 290 and our center weighs 270 pounds. He’s gonna be good. We’re just trying to get used to each other.”
Jenkins said he believes the key to the coming season is for the Blue Eagle players to maintain their focus and composure.
“The key to the first game is not to get nervous,” he said. “Just go out there and do your job. All of the new kids making the jump to varsity will have to get used to it.”
Smith said the Blue Eagles will have more bulk in the offensive line this season. “We’re much bigger up front than we have been,” Smith said. “We’re not quite as quick as we have been. We’ve got to do some stuff there.”
Smith said speed is in abundance in the backfield.
“Our backfield is extremely fast,” he said. “All of our yardage kids are back. They know how to tote it and take care of the football.”
Smith, who rebuilt Easley before arriving in Cover, knows what it takes for the program to turn the corner.
“Team chemistry is a big deal,” said Smith. “If our team chemistry is good and we are physical the correct way and play disciplined football, we’re gonna have a great year.”
The coach continues to marvel at Clover’s fan base.
“We had a good turnout for the spring game today, and people have been standing at practice all during spring,” he said. “The community wants to see us and that’s exciting.”
The Blue Eagles open the 2015 season Aug. 21 at home against Westside in newly-turfed Memorial Stadium.