High school football

Airport’s Burnett happy with depth

Veteran team expects to make some noise

ainelson@thestate.comAugust 1, 2012 

Airport head coach Kirk Burnett talks to his quarterback during the Airport vs. Battery Creek game Friday night.

TIM DOMINICK/TDOMINICK@THESTATE.COM

  • PREP PREVIEWS This is the first in a series of prep football previews. Thursday: Camden
  • More information Coach: Kirk Burnett 2011 record: 10-2 overall, 5-1 in Region 5-3A Key game: Strom Thurmond, a perennial power in Class 2A, could stand toe to toe with Airport’s offense in its first season at Class 3A. Airport, annually a region title contender, might have big competition on its hands with the Rebels. Key player: Marquise Jenkins, running back Schedule 8/17 at Westside 8/24 at Brookland Cayce 8/31 vs. White Knoll 9/14 vs. Lower Richland 9/21 vs. A. C. Flora 9/28 at Swansea 10/5 at Strom Thurmond 10/12 vs. Gilbert 10/19 at Midland Valley 10/26 vs. Brookland Cayce

The numbers seem to be in Airport’s favor.

The Eagles, who finished last season 10-2 overall and 5-1 in region play, have the largest roster in the program’s past 10 years.

“We’ve got a lot of bodies out there and we’re going to have a lot of depth in a lot of positions,” coach Kirk Burnett said. “I feel like we have a lot to put on the field on Friday nights.”

And it is not just a matter of quantity. The Eagles’ roster is full of quality players.

The quarterback spot could have been a sore one for Airport after losing Kelvin Harris, the cornerstone of last year’s offense.

But the four players vying for the starting QB spot all have great potential.

Sir Sutton, a rising senior, is the most seasoned of the contenders, having piloted the Eagles’ offense in a playoff win last season.

Then there’s new-to-the-game Forrest Arnold, a 6-foot-6 senior who played basketball and baseball for Airport last season. Junior Dylan Harrington hit the practice field after quarterbacking the Eagles’ junior varsity team to an undefeated season in 2011.

Another strong option is KD Jackson, who Burnett said “throws a very good ball and reminds me really of one of our former quarterbacks, a Shrine Bowl player.”

With such strong bright sides, Burnett cannot make a wrong choice.

“With those four guys out there taking snaps, practice has been fun and it’s added some excitement,” Burnett said.

“It’s kind of cliché but I’m going to have to decide what’s best for Airport. I think it depends on what those guys do in the scrimmages and how they move the offense. It’s not how many good plays you make, it’s how many bad plays you don’t make, and that may be what it comes down to,” he said.

Whoever the new quarterback, he will have the benefit of a strong and experienced offensive line, with four returners: Taylor Key, Colin Copeland, Adam Fuller and Trevor Sandness.

“It enables us to add plays quicker, because up front, those guys know what they’re doing and we can have that confidence,” Burnett said.

Also in the Eagles’ favor is the return of running backs Marquise Jenkins, who accounted for eight touchdowns last season, and Corey Bradley with his added speed.

Airport is big and solid on defense, too, with defensive tackles Dewayne Pugh and Michael Collins leading the effort.

“As of July 31, they are all healthy and all eligible and that’s a good start,” Burnett said.

The Eagles need all the advantages they can get as this year’s schedule includes region matches with Strom Thurmond and Swansea, and what could be a tough match with former region rival A.C. Flora.

“We’ve played well on Friday nights in recent years, so I think that gives us some added confidence as we go out there,” the coach said.

Reach Nelson at (803) 771-8419

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