It's been a triumphant return to Byrnes for Bobby Bentley, who is back at his alma mater, back with the players he coached as freshmen.
"I can definitely tell a big difference in him," said Chas Dodd, Bentley's stepson and the Rebels' quarterback. "He's really happy. This is what he loves doing. He loves being able to bond with high school guys and make relationships."
Bentley and Dodd will be back in the state championship game today at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia. Byrnes (13-1) will play Dorman (13-1) for the Class 4A, Division I title at noon.
Bentley played quarterback at Byrnes, served as an assistant on the staff from 1990-94 and then led the program to a 107-52 record and four state championships in 12 years as head coach.
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Bentley spent the last two seasons as the coach at Presbyterian College, also his alma mater. He returned to the Rebels this year as the offensive coordinator.
"It's been great, especially being able to watch this group of seniors grow up," he said.
He coached them all as freshman, but he said he felt pressure coaching Dodd.
"When you're coaching your son, you want your son to be good, because you don't want to have to deal with, if he's playing, he's playing because he's a coach's son," Bentley said. "Now that he's older, he's kind of come into his own."
In a big way.
Through 14 games this season, Dodd, a Rutgers University recruit, has completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,896 yards. His 51 touchdown passes are two shy of former Rebel Willy Korn's state record. Bentley has had an up-close view of Dodd's success.
"The past two years, he would help me at home if he saw something on Friday night, but now, getting to watch the game on the sideline, that really helps out a lot," Dodd said.
Bentley said he has seen improvement in Dodd's game from the first week to last week's 51-16 victory over Spartanburg.
"He understands blitz concepts, reading defenses and our pass protection as well as any quarterback I've had, and I think that's gonna help him as he goes on to the next level," Bentley said. "When I was (coaching) in college, I was always having to coach him after the game. We'd watch video, or I'd see pictures and I'd talk to him about his footwork or something like that.
"It's so much neater now. A lot of times during the game, he'll look at me and say, 'I know, I know, I made a mistake,' or he'll pat on his chest, and I'll know not to say a whole lot, because he understands his mistake. He's a fun guy to coach. He takes it personal. He goes out to practice every day and works hard. I'm proud of him."