High school football spring practices wrapped up this week and as always, the one constant at schools with 300 students or 2,000 was excitement.
The Herald’s 12-school coverage area ranges from tiny Great Falls, where around 30 players practiced for eight days in only helmets and shorts and there was no spring scrimmage, to Northwestern and York, programs with scores of ninth grade, JV and varsity players, able to hold a legitimate intrasquad scrimmage.
Spring football practice is a 26-day period during May. Teams are allowed a maximum of 10 days in full pads and middle schoolers are not allowed to participate and most schools’ spring practices culminated in a scrimmage. Here’s a recap of spring football at Chester, South Pointe, Lancaster, Indian Land, Great Falls and Lewisville.
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Coach: Victor Floyd, first year
Last year: 2-8 overall, 0-5 in Region 3-3A
Starters returning: 5 offense, 4 defense
Key departures: QB Tommy Sanders (Newberry), WR Earl Hinton, OL/DL David Days, DE Temaris Dixon, LB Josh Hicks, OL T.J. Graham, OL/DL Travis Chalk.
Key returning: Jr. RB Jalyn Reid, Sr. RB Javarius Gregory, Sr. OL/DL Stanley Yarborough, Sr. WR Justin Sanders, Soph. OL Anthony Foster, Jr. OL XiQuavious Simpson, Sr. Quay Strong DB/WR, Sr. LB Dre Johnson, Jr. DE Ethan McGriff.
New coaches: N/A
Spring report: Not surprising with the addition of a disciplinarian coach like Victor Floyd, a number of former Cyclone players didn’t show up for spring practice. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm at Chester.
“We had a really good spring to be perfectly honest,” said Floyd, in his first year back at the school after a previous four-season stint from 2004 to 2007. “The guys worked hard, they absorbed, they they really bought into what we were doing. They understood that a lot of guys fell by the wayside because they couldn’t do what they were supposed to and wouldn’t conform.”
This first spring under Floyd was about the basics.
“We got a decent amount of things installed on both sides and I think we got the guys to understand the expectation of how we’re gonna play, and that type thing,” Floyd said. “I thought that part went really well.”
Floyd said the culminating offense versus defense scrimmage was competitive and that his kids “grew, grew a lot over the spring.”
2015 outlook: The Cyclones lose do-everything QB Tommy Sanders, but Floyd thinks he has the guy to replace him in rising junior Malik Williams. He didn’t play football for Chester last year but is a top notch athlete - he made All-Area in basketball over the winter - and has a 3.8 GPA.
“Malik’s our guy,” said Floyd. “He’s had a great spring. Malik’s extremely athletic, very accurate, throws it well. Very cerebral. I think we’ll be just fine there.”
Jalyn Reid and Javarious Gregory return in the backfield to ease Williams’ growing pains.
“Both are big backs and play-makers,” said Floyd.
Chester will be a bit of unknown quantity in 2015. Straddling the line between optimistic and realistic is a challenge for any coach, one that Floyd is dealing with right now.
“We feel as though we can be competitive. From a coaching standpoint that’s how we would phrase it,” said Floyd. “When you’re willing to compete anything can happen. You don’t want to say too much or not say enough to where the kids don’t think you believe in them. But I really feel like we can compete.”
August: 21- Lewisville; 28- at Fairfield Central
September: 4- at Rock Hill; 11- at York; 18- Lower Richland; 25- open
October: 2- at Lancaster; 9- South Pointe; 16- Broome; 23- at Clinton; 30- Union County
Coach: Bobby Collins, second year
Last year: 8-4 overall, 3-2 in Region 3-3A; Lancaster lost to A.C. Flora 41-7 in the second round of the 3A state playoffs
Starters returning: 5 offense, 4 defense
Key departures: WR Jay Hood (Wingate), QB Keendarius Truesdale, OL Trevin Mingo-Watts (Newberry), OL Myles Lathan, DL Ty Miller, DL Juanyae Richardson, LB Cam Meadows, ATH Dre Bailey, ATH Drae Linton (Furman), DB Will Jackson, RB Dreshun Stewart.
Key returning: Sr. QB Darius Robinson, Sr. OT Lewis Johnson, Sr. OL Caleb Funderburk, Jr. RB Ant Foster, Soph. RB JaQuan Stover, Jr. Farricka Grier, Sr. WR Taron Heath, Sr. TE James Killian, Sr. DB DeMonte Bell, Sr. DB Tyree Brown-Washington.
New coaches: none
Spring report: Spring No. 2 under Bobby Collins went well for Lancaster.
“The kids’ enthusiasm in the spring was really high,” said Collins. “I want to keep practices a very teaching environment. We want to make sure kids are being taught and are being prepared to win football games.”
Collins said his 2015 Bruins will be the youngest team he’s ever coached. Lancaster graduated nearly 25 seniors and needs players to step into the leadership vacuum quickly.
“You’ve got a bunch of juniors that are gonna be seniors that are looking around trying to figure out who’s gonna be the next guy,” said Collins. “I thought we had a couple of guys that stepped up this spring, not so much that they’re talking about it, but they’re being about it.”
Lancaster’s younger players will get plenty of chances to prove themselves over the summer, with Collins taking about 80 Bruins down to the Florida State team camp, in addition to a full slate of 7-on-7 action in June and July.
2015 outlook: While the Bruins lost a starting wide receiver, running back, tight end, three linebackers and three offensive linemen, they do return four seniors that will play on the offensive line and a quarterback, Darius Robinson, who started the latter portion of 2014 because of injuries.
If Lancaster’s 2014 bunch was physical and smash-mouth, this fall’s team will play a similar run-focused style to the great Bruins teams of the late 1980s, early 1990s. Two of the focal points will be rising junior running backs Ant Foster and Farrika Grier, a pair of bowling balls.
“I’m looking for each one of these guys to go for over 1,000 yards,” said Collins. “I call them ‘thumper backs.’ Their shoulder pads are always down, they’re always leaning forward, fighting for the next yard.”
Sheer inexperience may prevent Lancaster from duplicating the success it had in 2014, but Collins’ next team shouldn’t drop off much.
“I’m excited about the direction the program is going right now,” he said. “Kids are allowing themselves to be coached, they’re competing on the field, everybody is doing really good with their academics, kids did a really good job in the weight room, and spring football, we came out without any injuries, so we’re excited about that.”
August: 28- at Andrew Jackson
September: 4- Richland Northeast; 11- at Central; 18- Camden; 25- Lewisville
October- 2- Chester; 9- at Clinton; 16- at South Pointe; 23- Union County; 30- Broome
Coach: Strait Herron, fifth year
Last year: 12-3 overall, 5-0 in Region 3-3A; South Pointe beat Hartsville 21-7 to win the 3A state championship
Starters returning: 5 or 6 offense, 5 defense
Key departures: OL Bryan Binford (Union College), OL Steven Bledsoe (Union College), LB/S Marveon Mobley (Fullerton College), LB Demon Davis (Fullerton College), LB Ty Barber, RB Shawn McCullough (Mesabi Range C.C.), DE Dontae Thompson (Mesabi Range C.C.), DE Brandon Fisher (Tusculum), WR Deshawn Davis (Tusculum), CB Devion Williams.
Key returning: Sr. QB Greg Ruff, Sr. LB Nick Yearwood, Sr. WR Josh Wilkes, Sr. DB Chris Smith, Sr. DB Nick McCloud, Sr. WR Quay Brown, Sr. ATH Zaylin Burris, Soph. DB Derion Kendrick, Soph. DL Elijah Adams, Jr. DB Ken’darius Frederick, Jr. RB Voshon St. Hill, Sr. OL Paden Lipe.
New coaches: none
Spring report: South Pointe usually dresses in just helmets and shorts on the final Thursday of spring football practice, but this year the Stallions were in full pads, “because we still had stuff to work on,” said coach Strait Herron.
The environment at Thursday’s practice was upbeat, to say the least. South Pointe enters 2015 on the back of a 3A state title, and returns a number of key contributors from that team.
“Spring’s gone well,” Herron. “We know where our spots are that we’ve got to get better at.”
2015 outlook: South Pointe is blessed with skill position players as usual, including high level college prospects Nick McCloud, Chris Smith and Josh Wilkes. But in a Region 3-3A where most teams are strongest in between the tackles, the Stallions have to replace all five starting offensive linemen, a concern for sure.
“With all our skill guys being back that’s a good thing,” said Herron, “but we’ve got some OL that we’ve got to get worked out and our DL, our defensive front, is gonna have to get a little bit better.”
Herron said the other issue to confront is complacency, among the college-bound guys, and in the team as a whole, after winning the 3A state title last fall.
“We’ve just tried to make them understand there’s gonna be a bigger target on their back,” he said. “Our region is gonna be a lot better than last year with coaching changes and things we’ve seen and heard. It’s gonna be a different year for us, plus we start out playing five 4A teams before we get there too.”
South Pointe also scrimmages Byrnes, Independence and Gaffney, as Herron makes sure his team gets a healthy dose of humility before region play begins. If the Stallions can sort out the offensive line and remain focused mentally, there is no reason to believe they won’t be playing on the first Saturday in December again in 2015.
August: 21- at Nation Ford; 28- Rock Hill
September: 4- York; 11- at Vance (N.C.); 18- Northwestern; 25- open
October: 2- at Union County; 9- at Chester; 16- Lancaster; 23- at Broome; 30- Clinton
Coach: Michael Mayer, 15th year
Last year: 5-6 overall, 3-3 in Region 4-2A; lost to Newberry 52-10 in first round of 2A Division I playoffs
Starters returning: 9 offense, 9 defense
Key departures: DE/WR Brandon Sellers, DE Dwyante Bates, DB Derian Gueldner, K/P Shea Rodgers (Newberry), RB Charles Turner.
Key returning: FB/LB Austin Gordon, Jr. TB/LB Lee Massey, Jr. LB Dillon Howie, Sr. OL Jacob Williams, Soph. OL John Locklear, Sr. OL Dakota Brigman, Sr. LB Trevor Martin, Sr. LB Chris Blakeney, Sr. QB Dillon Mackey.
New coaches: none
Spring report: Indian Land coach Michael Mayer had about 80 kids out for spring football, the most Indian Land has ever had.
“It doesn’t look like Indian Land football numbers-wise,” said Mayer, who received shocked responses from a number of Warrior alumni who came out to check out spring practice.
Some of those kids came from a JV team that went 7-2 and Mayer expects to add kids from a middle school team that produced its best ever record of 7-1. Those new kids are coupled with 18 returning starters, including more than a few that have been in the first 11 at least three seasons.
“Our enrollment’s gonna be over 900 when school starts,” said Mayer, who is confident his school will be in the 3A classification in the next realignment. “We’ve got 30-plus freshmen that are gonna play JV football next year.”
2015 outlook: Asked if there were any position groups particularly hit hard by graduation, Mayer said, “yeah, we’ve got to find a kicker!” The Warriors lose Shea Rodgers, a North-South all-star headed to Newberry, who adeptly handled place-kicking and punting duties last fall. Mayer has several candidates lined up to compete for the job.
One thing that won’t change is Indian Land’s ability to pound the football on the ground. The Warriors return four out of five offensive line starters, led by stalwart three-year starters Dakota Brigman and Jacob Williams, and four-year fullback starter Austin Gordon, a sledgehammering senior. Mayer hopes the team will be able to throw the ball a little better to improve offensive balance.
“We’ve got a lot of experience returning. Still don’t have a lot of speed,” said Mayer. “But we’ve got a lot of hard workers. Lot of grinders here.”
Mayer is banking on those traits to help his team push through and win seven, eight, nine games.
“You follow this senior class back through, we’ve won a few more every year,” said Mayer. “We need to make that next step.”
August: 28- at Buford
September: 4- Blacksburg; 11- at Lewisville; 18- Cheraw; 25- at Chesterfield
October: 2- at Central; 9- at Mid-Carolina; 16- at North Central; 23- Buford; 30- Andrew Jackson
Coach: Kenneth Schofield, 16th year
Last year: 7-4 overall, 1-3 in Region 3-A; Great Falls lost to Ridge Spring-Monetta 33-21 in the first round of the 1A Division II state playoffs
Starters returning: 5 offense, 5 defense
Key departures: OL Tyquan Ross (Coastal Carolina), ATH Shyheim Kelly (Notre Dame College), OL Tyler Langley, QB/LB Chris Culp (Presbyterian), WB Hakeem Simpson, WB Lemarion Craine, WR Christian Twitty (O-C Tech).
Key returning: Sr. OL Tyrek Hoover, Sr. OL Mylek Hoover, Jr. OL Cory Roof, Sr. WB Deandre Perry, Sr. QB Pierce Funderburk, Sr. WB Rajean Perry, Sr. WB Zykevion White, Sr. TE Shadarius Brown, Sr. TE Raheem Bowers.
New coaches: a few on the way, none to announce yet.
Spring report: Great Falls coach Kenneth Schofield said spring practice “went as normal. “The Red Devils practiced eight days, never donning more than helmets and shorts. They had around 34 players turn out.
“How many of those were first-time people? Five or six,” said Schofield.
With a number of experienced and strong players graduated, Great Falls has been hitting the weight room hard. It’s not easy to make up for the loss of a player like Coastal Carolina signee Tyquan Ross, who could bench press around 450 pounds, a Great Falls record.
“We don’t have anybody like that,” said Schofield. “So we’re gonna have our concerns in the weight room.”
2015 outlook: Great Falls graduated nine seniors, four of which will play college football. That might not sound like a lot, but constitutes nearly 30 percent of the team’s 2014 roster.
“Our concern is going to be plugging back into our system, guys with experience,” said Schofield. “Now if we can do that, we should be able to put a product on the field that you want to see.”
With Chris Culp gone at QB, senior Pierce Funderburk will get a chance to run the Red Devils’ offense. He’ll be protected by a good group of returning offensive linemen, led by twins Tyrek and Mylek Hoover, the team’s offensive tackles.
“Pierce was our backup quarterback last season and is very capable,” said Schofield.
August: 21- Blacksburg; 28- at Gray Collegiate
September: 4- at Buford; 11- Andrew Jackson; 18- open; 25- Wagener-Salley
October: 1- at C.A. Johnson; 9- Gray Collegiate; 16- at McBee; 23- Lamar; 30- at Lewisville
Coach: Will Mitchell, fourth year
Last year: 2-9 overall, 2-2 in Region 3-A; Lewisville lost to McBee 61-0 in the first round of the 1A Division I state playoffs
Starters returning: 8 offense, 7 defense
Key departures: WR/TE Cody Montgomery (Presbyterian College), WR Hunter Davenport, OL George Busby, OL Tyrone McCullough (O-C Tech), OL/LB Ben Catoe, RB/S Christian Laws, DL/OL Marquis Hart.
Key returning: Soph. DT Josh Belk, Jr. QB Trey Keels, Jr. ATH Mike Hill, Jr. OLB/DE Jene Thompson, Soph. ATH Mikhail Fourney, Jr. OL Chance Millwood, Jr. OL Demetrius Edwards, Sr. WR James Peeler.
New coaches: none
Spring report: Lewisville returns 36 players from last year’s team, 30 of which are freshman or sophomores. Lewisville coach Will Mitchell said this spring has run more smoothly thanks to the extra year of experience for most of his fledgling players.
“Our second semester has been great. We’ve really gotten a lot stronger, really grown up a lot,” said Mitchell last week.
Besides growing physically, Mitchell is making efforts to cultivate team leaders from his group of young players. The Lions will likely have fewer than 10 seniors this coming season.
“You’ve got to go ahead and groom that,” he said. “Your need your best players to be your hardest workers.”
2015 outlook: Lewisville returns basically everyone from last fall’s team, including a number of freshman and sophomores that were chucked right into the fire. The Lions used one freshman on varsity in Mitchell’s first two years; last year they used 12.
“We had some rough times last year,” he said. “Had some good times too, winning at Great Falls and the last two of the regular season. They’ve seen some hard stuff, and I think they feel like we’re about to fight our way out of it, out of some tougher times.”
Included in the bunch returning are rising junior quarterback Trey Keels, rising junior Mike Hill, and rising sophomore defensive tackle Josh Belk, who has the potential to be a special player for Lewisville, one that will bring college coaches from all over the country to tiny Richburg.
“You’ve got some key guys returning and we’re real excited about that,” said Mitchell. “I feel like we have potentially four sophomores and four freshmen that could get money to play football somewhere.”
August: 21- at Chester; 28- at Blacksburg
September: 4- Chesterfield; 11- Indian Land; 18- at North Central; 25- at Lancaster
October: 2- McBee; 9- at Lamar; 16- open; 23- at C.A. Johnson; 30- Great Falls
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T