Irmo preview: Jackets eager to see Lewis’ skills

Explosive QB must step up as defense rounds into shape

Special to The StateAugust 19, 2013 

  • Irmo Yellow Jackets

    COACH: Bob Hanna

    2012 RECORD: 7-6

    KEY GAME: Aug. 23 South Pointe: Irmo opens with a state semifinalist from last season and will face three teams that competed in state championships in the first six weeks.

    KEY PLAYER: QB Demetrius Lewis: The senior showed flashes last season and needs to be more consistent to help the Yellow Jackets improve on offense.

Irmo is traditionally a strong defensive team with enough offensive firepower to win more than it’s fair share of games.

But the 2013 edition of the Yellow Jackets will feature a dynamic quarterback in Demetrius Lewis that might have to carry the load as a young defense takes shape.

Lewis, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior, suffered a pulled groin early last season and played mostly as a backup to Grant Davitte.

But this year, veteran coach Bob Hanna has given the keys to his offense to Lewis. Last season, Lewis threw for 388 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

“He’s legit,” Hanna said. “He’s most dangerous when he drops back to pass because he can throw the football, and he has good vision, so he can escape and make something happen. We’ll try to get him out of the pocket and let him create plays. He’s going to be the bulk of our offense.”

The Yellow Jackets averaged fewer than 19 points per game, and that has to improve. Shyheim Copeland returns at running back after rushing for 360 yards and seven touchdowns in a limited role last season. Amir Ealey is a big target at tight end, and Manny Backs and De’Ares Nelson return at receiver.

The offensive line is rebuilt with guard Josh Johnson and tackle Elisha Jenkins having the most experience.

“We’re going to have to be better offensively to be able to compete,” Hanna said. “We’re so young defensively, the offense might have to carry the load, especially in the early going.”

The defense will feature several new players, and the defensive front probably will average around 210 pounds. While that might be a disadvantage in bulk, teams will have a hard time matching Irmo’s quickness.

“We’re extremely undersized, but the kids play hard and fast, so hopefully we can do what we need to do on that side of the ball,” Hanna said. “They aren’t big, but we have a couple of good players there. I like the way they’ve been practicing and the way they prepare. We just have so much inexperience over there, it’s going to be tough.”

The defensive front will feature defensive end Khari Stone-Marshall and tackles Shikir Stone-Marshall and Jalen Bell. Marquis Taylor returns at linebacker.

“When you have a 210-pound three-technique guy, you can’t ask him to go up against a 280-pounder all night,” Hanna said. “We’re going to have to move guys around and use our quickness to our advantage to create some plays. Our kids are hard to block.”

The secondary might be the most experienced group with Will Jamison at free safety and Phillip Barrett at strong safety. Brandon Rowland will be counted on to play one of the corner spots.

Irmo has scrimmaged against Northwestern, Rock Hill and Dorman, and Hanna has liked the way his team competed.

“We did some good things and those are three pretty good football teams.” he said. “I wasn’t disappointed in any of our scrimmages. I thought we made improvement in most areas. Our mistakes are fixable.”

Seeing that type of competition early should help Irmo with a rugged early season schedule. Greenwood and Dutch Fork played for state championships last year, and Friday’s opener against South Pointe is against a team that reached the state semifinals last year. Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard reached the second round of the Class 4A playoffs.

“It will either get us ready for the region or it will break us,” Hanna said. “I’m betting these kids get better as the season goes.”

Irmo 2013 schedule

Aug. 23South Pointe
Aug. 31Hoggard (N.C.) at Myrtle Beach
Sept. 13at Greenwood
Sept. 20at Lexington
Sept 27Aiken
Oct. 4Dutch Fork
Oct. 11at Ridge View
Oct. 18Spring Valley
Oct. 25Richland NE
Nov. 1at Blythewood
Nov. 8at Lugoff-Elgin

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