What better to take the pressure off a green offensive line and rookie starting quarterback than a dynamic running back tandem? Lancaster is fortunate to have that in seniors Ant Foster and Farrika Grier, who both averaged right around 6.4 yards per carry and combined for 23 touchdowns in 2015.
Senior Jamias Shropshire takes over at QB behind a revamped offensive line replacing all five starters. Lancaster coach Bobby Collins has hope for this group, though, which is physically bigger than the five from last season and includes just one senior.
Provided Shropshire is left enough time to throw, the Bruins have a complimentary receiving corps that could do some damage. Junior JaQuan Stover is a quicker short route-runner, fellow 11th grader Desmond Stowers is the big-bodied pass-catcher running over the middle and senior Tee Tinsley is going deep down the sidelines.
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Lancaster returns nine starters on the defensive side of the ball. Collins’ stoppers could raise eyebrows, especially up front with an undersized but very mobile group led by junior Markees Watts. Collins thinks he could be a defensive player of the year candidate in the area, and Watts’ three fellow starters from last year - Alex Steele, Houston Brantley and Roderick Johnson - return as well.
The defensive leader is senior linebacker Desmond Ricks, a college prospect that ranges from sideline to sideline. He’s supported by returning starter Casey Hegler, and a solid secondary led by senior C.D. Catoe at safety.
Lancaster has its toughest non-region schedule yet under Collins. While there are plenty of questions to answer, especially on offense, the Bruins look like another typical Collins team: built to run the ball and solid on defense.
Returning starters: 5 offense, 9 defense
Key returning players: Sr. LB Desmond Ricks; Sr. RB Farrika Grier; Sr. RB Ant Foster; Jr. DE Markees Watts; Sr. QB Jamias Shropshire; Jr. WR Desmond Stowers; Jr. WR JaQuan Stover; Sr. WR Tee Tinsley; Sr. DB C.D. Catoe; Sr. LB Casey Hegler; Sr. DB Keenan Barnes.
Coach Bobby Collins (3rd year at Lancaster)
Career record 41-27
Assistant coaching staff Roderick Robinson, offensive coordinator; Marcus Surratt, defensive coordinator; Ricky Brown, defensive line; Joe Watson, running backs; Lamont Elder, wide receivers; Kenneth Schofield, quarterbacks; Charles McEachin, defensive backs.
Last season 8-3, lost to Wren 43-41 in the first round of the 3A playoffs
Last 10 years combined 54-62 (46.5 percent)
School state championships 1 (1958)
August 19 at Indian Land*; 26 Open
September 2 Fort Mill*; 9 at Chester; 16 at Nation Ford*; 23 Lugoff-Elgin; 30 at Westwood*
October 7 at Richland Northeast*; 14 at South Pointe*; 21 York*; 28 Ridge View
▪ Lancaster’s opponents won 56 percent of their games last season; star denotes 2015 playoff team; cursive denotes Region 3-4A opponent.
Numbers to know
2008, 2009 the last two-season stretch in which Lancaster had winning campaigns. The Bruins have won eight games each of the last two years.
224 yards per game on the ground last season for Lancaster, which figures to have a very strong running attack again this fall.
2,155 combined rushing yards from senior running backs Farrika Grier and Ant Foster last season. That total could have been larger but for a nagging injury that hampered Grier part of the year.
3 schools on Lancaster’s 2015 schedule that were 2A or smaller; the Bruins don’t play any teams in 1A or 2A this season, instead opting to face two 3As, a 4A and two 5As in non-region action.
22 points or more were scored on the Bruins just twice last season, in the final two games of the season. Lancaster’s defense will be tested more often this season by a harder schedule, but with nine starters returning, it should be ready.