I CONTINUE TO look at Midlands-area football teams and speculate on where their focus this spring will be in preparing for the 2014 season. Today, we’ll look at Region 5-3A.
Region 5 will be down in terms of state contenders, but parity will make for an interesting region race. The changes in structure include the evacuation of Strom Thurmond down to Class 2A, while Aiken moves down from Class 4A.
Aiken should be competitive out of the gates in their new region. The Hornets lost tremendous talent to graduation. They lost three impact players in quarterback Caleb Heath, two-way all-star Dramel Coleman and running back Nakeem Spann. There is a lot of work to be done to fill the holes in that triple-option offense.
Airport should be improved from its two-win campaign in 2013. The Eagles will see Brett Burnett taking the reins at quarterback to lead an offense that will have slight changes in schematics. Zack Fiester will be helpful at fullback and linebacker, Jonathon Earl will step up as a running back and strong safety on defense. Senior defensive end Stan Jones will anchor the line. Kicker/punter Brady Nelson returns to give the Eagles strong talent in special teams. This will be a young team, but that youth saw playing time last season.
Brookland-Cayce has a big hole to fill at quarterback, but the Bearcats return solid talent at running back, led by senior Ty Myers and an offensive line anchored by Alex Wilkes. Romello Cook returns at wide receiver and has the potential to be a playmaker. Defensively, the Bearcats will be anchored by senior linebacker-end Marquise Inabinet.
Gilbert has empty spots all over the depth chart. The Indians return the region’s top running back in rising junior Jakayus Leaphart on offense, but will need to improve on defense without the same firepower.
Midland Valley will return some talent that could allow it to compete for the region crown. Returning are quarterback Daniel Carr and running back Dre Carr, and each is a big threat. The trenches and at linebacker will be areas to focus on during spring practice, but the skill positions on both sides are solid.
Swansea will enter spring workouts with the region’s top prospect at linebacker, Johnathan Sutton, but will need help elsewhere on defense. Quarterback Clay Lucas returns, and his top target will be senior Craig Johnson. This team returns enough talent to be considered the favorite heading into the season, but a replacement must be found for running back Travis Loadholt.
Early Projection for Region 5-3A:
1. Midland Valley; 2. Swansea; 3. Brookland-Cayce; 4. Airport; 5. Aiken; 6. Gilbert