The long offseason is quickly coming to an end for the state’s high school football players. As the summer heat peaks, the teams of the S.C. High School League and Independent Schools Association hit the field this week for their first preseason practices. Here are some story lines to watch:
Immediately after winning the program’s first Class 4A Division I championship, coach Tom Knotts and the Silver Foxes turned their attention to 2014. Their offseason included a solid performance at the National Select 7-on-7 championships this month. Now the Silver Foxes, led by star running back Matt Colburn, are preparing their offense to dominate the region.
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Veteran coach Jerry Brown had several major tasks in his first preseason back with the Vikings — installing the flexbone offense, replacing last season’s two leading running backs and shoring up a defense that lost its top playmaker. The Vikings’ defense will be led by LB Lordan Williams and DB Tyler Frazier.
Who will step up at QB and drive the Wildcats’ offense after the loss of Will Hunter? Rising junior Brandon Blake has a shot, but there is no favorite. The preseason is going to be about the Wildcats receiving corps finding its groove with the new passer. The Lexington defense will feature DB Kordan Carr.
With new coach Reggie Kennedy, the Yellow Jackets might be in for a rebuilding season. Irmo needs to retool on both offense and defense, so the preseason — and much of the regular season — might be used to find its footing.
Young at the skill positions on offense, the Falcons will look to get a lot of experience through preseason scrimmages. Returning quarterback Brendan Greene will lead the offense. The defense should be strong with seniors Denzell Johnson, Rion Davis, Tyler Gray and Tyrell Goodwin.
The 2013 Class 2A Division II championship is in the rear-view mirror for the Panthers, who are adjusting to new coach Perry Woolbright’s offensive scheme. The Panthers proved the past two seasons that they are capable of adjusting quickly to a new coach. Finding replacements for offensive playmakers Jac’Quiel Chandler and Rickie Smith will be the team’s biggest challenge. Paul McIver leads the defensive line.
When longtime coach Scott Jones retired less than a month before the start of practice, the Demons moved quickly and promoted defensive assistant Dave Thomas. Thomas is making changes on both sides of the ball, but his established rapport with the team should help ease the transition.
The Skyhawks barely let up as they retooled a young roster throughout the offseason. Two seasons removed from their seventh consecutive state title, the Skyhawks have senior quarterback Nick Garrett returning and will need to replace key lineman such as Patrick Neese to keep their offense rolling.
Coach Chad Leaphart’s Tigers always seem to have an offensive weapon, but in this year’s camp, Swansea will have to find a running threat to compliment its passing game, which is led by receivers Ron Bell, Brandon Sox and Chance Walker. Swansea also must shore up the kicking game, a job held by Arthur Myers the past three seasons. Linebacker Johnathon Sutton is one of the best players in the state.
The Falcons are aiming to start their climb to the top of the SCISA mountain with new coach Derek White and new offensive coordinator Scott Jones. The offense returns senior quarterback Robert Barrow and most of the O-line. The defense will be reworked, with particular attention to the linebacking corps, which features returners Kitt Capel and Jake Fleshman.