Fort Mill football has a big senior class but less playing experience coming back in 2016.
The Yellow Jackets have a new QB, Ryan DeLuca, who has the skill set that coach Ed Susi wants but is still a little raw at the position. DeLuca was Fort Mill’s starting safety last season and is a capable runner. His growth will be aided by returning skill players, including tailback Ronnie Hughes. The senior should be a focal point of the Yellow Jackets’ scoring unit, though Susi doesn’t have the bigger, more physical rushing complement that he’s had the last few years.
Four receivers return, Thomas Chrisley, Ethan Piercy, Ryan Heriot and Gus Jarosz, and Susi said that group’s expectation level has gone up. Jarosz, in particular, could be very productive in the slot.
Three senior offensive linemen are back as well, Patrick Thomas, Trey Reed and Nolan McGraw. Four of the Yellow Jackets’ likely five starters up front are seniors.
Fort Mill’s front seven on defense was hit hard by graduation, with just linebacker Patrick Mead returning from last season’s starters. A gaggle of guys will get a shot to play on the defensive line with a pair of sophomores, juniors and seniors all in with a shout.
Senior Jordan Markowski switched over to linebacker and will be joined by Mead and junior Jake Ajemian. The back end of the defense returns in tact, led by safeties Grant Stevens and Heriot.
After Fort Mill’s first scrimmage of the preseason, Susi didn’t have much positive to say: “our punt team looked good,” he half-joked. The Yellow Jacket coaching staff will value the team’s scrimmages, as well as the non-region slate, which effectively doesn’t matter any more due to the SCHSL’s realignment and rejigging of the playoff system. Susi’s team needs to peak in October and November when region play commences.
Returning starters: 5 offense, 5 defense
Key returning players: Sr. WR Thomas Chrisley; Sr. QB Ryan DeLuca; Jr. DB/WR Gus Jarosz; Sr. RB/DB Ronnie Hughes; Jr. DB Grant Stevens; Jr. DB/WR Ryan Heriot; Sr. OL Patrick Thomas; Jr. OL Trey Reed; Sr. LB Patrick Mead; Sr. OL Nolan McGraw; Sr. DL J’Quan Johnson; Sr. LB Jordan Markowski.
Coach Ed Susi (10th year)
Career record 75-91
Assistant coaching staff Chuck Tauchman, defensive line; Frank Ambrose, offensive line; Eddie Therrell, quarterbacks; Shon Kendall, tight ends; Jimmy Reeves, offensive line; Matt Dow, defensive line; Dameon Chisholm, linebackers; Jeff Jarosz, defensive backs; Byron Fridie, wide receivers; Allen Runyon, head freshman coach; Adam Marullo, freshman defensive coordinator; Butch Fewster, freshman coach.
Last season 6-6, lost to Lexington 45-14 in first round of 4A Division II playoffs
Last 10 years combined 51-62 (45 percent)
School state championships N/A
August 19 at Spring Valley*; 26 at West Florence
September 2 at Lancaster*; 9 Orangeburg-Wilkinson*; 16 York*; 23 Open; 30 Northwestern*
October 7 at Clover; 14 Rock Hill; 21 Dorman*; 28 Nation Ford*
▪ Fort Mill’s opponents won 52 percent of their games last season; star denotes 2015 playoff team; cursive denotes Region 4-5A opponent
Numbers to know
7 opponents on Fort Mill’s schedule are in the new 5A classification.
11.5 miles, Fort Mill’s average one-way trip to face Region 5-4A opponents.
23 years since the Yellow Jackets had three straight seasons without a losing record, a feat Ed Susi’s team could match this season.
28 seniors on the Fort Mill roster this season.
8 Fort Mill football statistical career records were in QB Rogan Wells’ name when he graduated in May. He’ll be replaced by former starting safety Ryan DeLuca.