The Clover High School football team will open the season Friday against Westside, the No. 4 ranked team in the state, according to South Carolina Varsity.
The Blue Eagles host Westside at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Stadium.
“Westside is very athletic and made a good run last year,” said CHS head football coach Chad Smith. “They are extremely fast and aggressive, with a Division 1 talent at wide receiver. We’ll see what we have.”
Center Preston Vang agrees.
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“I feel we improved last year and will win our share of games this season. The key to Friday’s game against Westside is to stay disciplined and kick some butts,” he said.
But Westside isn’t the only quality team in Clover’s nonregion slate of games, Smith said.
“Honestly, not looking ahead, but next week’s game against Forestview will be a challenge,” said Smith. “They were 11-3 last year. Our nonregion schedule should set us up very nicely for our Region 3-AAAA games.”
Smith said he sees the Blue Eagles as playoff contenders, if everything falls into place.
“If we just win the turnover battle in a couple of close losses last year, we’re in the playoffs,” said Smith. “It really doesn’t take a whole heck of a lot of improvement to get there.”
Friday’s game simulation at Memorial Stadium against Hunter Huss was a continuation of the Blue Eagles’ success in the preseason. “We made plays when we needed to,” said Smith.
Though Smith is still looking for improvement in some areas, it was a dominant performance for Clover. “We scored in every phase of the game,” said Smith.
The Blue Eagles had two offensive touchdowns and scored off the defense and special teams, while rushing for 200 yards.
“We feel like our guys are really prepared,” said defensive coordinator Chris Bunting. “We’re healthy right now. I felt like we had great prep in the spring and summer.”
Mindful of the program’s emergence in the region, the defensive coordinator remembers when times were tough.
“We were kind of joking around back in the spring that it almost felt like we were actually coaching football again,” said Bunting with a grin. “We had a lot to do from the get-go, how to block and tackle and how to do the basic things early that first year. We were able to get in some more things last year and you could see the improvement on the field.”
Added Bunting: “Now that our guys have been around going into their third year, they know how things operate and they know the expectations. That makes life a little easier with some of the things we want to do.”
Bunting is aware of the changes in the game, including spread offenses.
“You try to minimize things as much as possible, survive and live to play another down,” he said. “It is nice to know that our guys are able to step up. The game has changed but it’s still fundamental football. You adjust to the schemes and try to minimize the spread as much as you can.”
With the season opener rapidly approaching, Smith knows a good thing when he sees it.
“We’re really blessed here to play in a first-class facility and to practice in a first-class facility,” he said. “We don’t play second fiddle to anybody. It’s really a special situation.”