CLOVER -- Two heads -- or in this case, four -- are much better than one.
The Clover Blue Eagles have made their reputation as a running team, one that's rushed for at least 3,000 yards in each of coach Jet Turner's five seasons. The difference they have from a standard three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust team is there's not one guy carrying the load.
At Clover, there's too many carriers to count. At least three line up on any one play and any one can get the ball and run in any direction.
Only one will get the ball on the first carry tonight, earning the "starter" tag. But the tag only sticks for those interested in naming a true starter, since Chris Douglas, Tyron Douglas, Ricky Moore and Steven Sanders will all get their touches tonight.
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"We don't get tired because we all rotate," said Tyron Douglas, a sophomore who's the youngest and lightest member of the quartet. "It keeps us fresh."
The plan is halfway design and halfway necessity. The Eagles, despite their Class AAAA status, aren't particularly deep and can't afford to give one guy 30 carries a game. Plus, Clover prides itself on defense, which bleeds into the offense.
"Defense is their first job," Turner said. "We're going to put our best 11 on D, but a lot of those guys are in the best 11."
Not surprisingly, the game plan for tonight's season-opener game at Wilson is simple. Turner plans to run the wing-T with his stable of backs, but with a slight twist.
Keeping an eye on the Eagles' scant three weeks of practice and the heat -- sure to be a scorcher in Florence, with the humidity rolling in waves off the swamps -- the Eagles might be rotating wingbacks more often than they normally do.
"We're definitely going to have to go deeper, whether we want to or not," Turner said. "You've got to be able to bring fresh running backs in."
The four say they're ready. They have their own good-natured competition, keeping track of who blocks the best and who can pile up the most yards, but the main goal is to win, which they've gotten used to.
The Eagles stormed to the Region 3-AAAA title last season and see no reason why they can't repeat. Even as Turner cautioned them that last year was last year and their only goals were to improve and win the next game, the players said winning the title felt too good to not want it again.
"We have to show people it wasn't a fluke," Moore said.
Moore, a junior, checks in at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. Tyron Douglas is 5-10 and 185. Chris Douglas and Sanders, the two seniors, are each 6-0 and 195 and 205 pounds, respectively.
Waiting in the wings are junior Chris Lindsay (5-11, 150) and senior Montae Monroe (5-8, 145), and there's always a few other defensive backs or linebackers who may be asked to carry the ball a play or two.
"Every game is a challenge," said Chris Douglas. "We know we just can't come out there and dominate people, so we switch off."
It's given opponents fits in the past, since the three usually line up in a crowd behind the quarterback and the handoff is hidden. All three can break in a different direction or hit the same hole, which brings a defensive decision on who to go after.
Clover has often played without ever attempting to pass, although quarterback Matt Endicott has proven he can get the ball downfield if his number's called. Playing Wilson, a team that's impressed with its defensive speed, figures to be a stiff test.
"They're a heck of a football team," Turner said. "A lot of people are picking them preseason to go deep into the playoffs."
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