Coach Tom Knotts is entering his third season leading Dutch Fork and he said he feels good about where the program is headed.
The Silver Foxes have made it to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs in each of his first two seasons, and despite having some inexperience in key positions, Knotts said the make-up of this team might overcome any shortcomings.
“On paper, we look pretty good,” Knotts said. “The one thing we lack is guys going out and performing on Friday nights. But these kids have worked hard. The guys are used to the weight-lifting, used to the conditioning and understand they have to give up their summers. Hopefully, that work will pay off.”
Knotts didn’t take a conservative approach when he put together this year’s schedule. After not getting a commitment from defending Class 4A Division I champion Byrnes for a game, Knotts ventured outside the state for his 11th game. Dutch Fork will open the season Saturday night against Kentucky power St. Xavier High as part of the Bluegrass Classic being held at the University of Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Add into the mix games against Dorman, Rock Hill, Goose Creek, Irmo, Lexington and North Augusta and the Silver Foxes must bring their “A” game every week. Dutch Fork also does not play a true home game until week 5 against Goose Creek. They have a home game against Fort Mill that will be played at Chapin while they wait for the field turf to be installed at Silver Foxes Stadium.
“We might have some growing pains,” Knotts said. “We made a tough schedule and we feel like it should be like this. The only team missing from our schedule is Byrnes. We put this thing together with the plan on being ready for the playoffs.”
Knotts lost Shrine Bowl running back Brandon Quattlebaum to graduation but returns quarterback Derek Olenchuk, who split time as starter last year. Olenchuk will have a go-to receiver in three-year starter Jordan Berry and a group of running backs that includes Trey Gregg, Scooter Roberson and rising star sophomore Matt Colburn.
Dutch Fork returns three starters on the offensive line but all five players expected to start this season gained ample playing time last season.
“We have a good stable of running backs,” Knotts said, “but the key, obviously, is Olenchuk. In a one-back offense, he has to be able to change things up when I don’t call the right play. He’s a very heady player and he knows the system as good as any quarterback I’ve ever coached.”
Defense remains Dutch Fork’s question mark. The Silver Foxes return three starters — tackles Auntrell Mack and Dominique Sabb along with safety Lance Ecton, who started as a freshman. The Dutch Fork junior varsity has been undefeated the past two seasons and many of those players will be counted on to be key contributors.
Knotts said Jarrod Thomas is a lockdown cornerback who might be the best corner he’s coached, and that list includes current South Carolina starter Victor Hampton.