The Irmo Yellow Jackets never will be accused of having a weak schedule.
Their scrimmages — against Northwestern, Rock Hill and Dorman — lead into a gauntlet non-conference schedule that rivals the Class 4A postseason tournament.
“We really don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves, we just have to get better,” coach Bob Hanna said.
“I’m cautiously optimistic.”
The Yellow Jackets are making some significant changes from last season.
Hanna put assistant coach Tim Curlings at the wheel on offense, and is concentrating his efforts on the defensive side of the ball, where Irmo has eight returning starters — including Joseph Ishmal and cornerbacks Chris Bethea and Ronald Millhouse.
“The key is that everybody stays healthy. We have the chance to build depth at every position, and that only happens if we stay healthy,” Hanna said.
One advantage for Irmo is placekicker Ben Hinson. The senior is projected among the state’s top kickers.
“I have confidence that on kickoffs, he can put the ball in the end zone,” Hanna said. “Hopefully, the rest of us can catch up with him pretty quickly.”
Hanna also has confidence in quarterback Grant Davitte and his ability to execute the pistol offense Curlings has installed.
“He and the receivers have worked really hard putting pistol offense in and making it work,” Hanna said.
As for the running game, typically the Yellow Jackets’ bread and butter, Irmo has lost the production of last year’s leading rusher, Marcus Smith. True to form, Hanna said the Yellow Jackets have several options to match the ground gains Smith made last year.
This year’s tailbacks are Bryce Fashaw — who missed last season due to injury — and Alex Aiken. At fullback, Hanna is looking forward to seeing the work of David Callahan, a transfer from Greenwood.
The development of their mostly new offensive line — led by South Carolina commitment Taylor Chambers — could be a sticking point for the Yellow Jackets.
But still, Hanna said, “We’ve got potential to be pretty good on that side of the ball.”