Last month, a group of Socastee baseball fans gawked at Myrtle Beach second baseman Drayton Arnold.
The freshman was suited up for the Seahawks, and despite his youth, he was in the starting lineup for the Region VII-AAA contest against the Braves. Those fans – a number of fellow high-school students – weren’t all that interested in Arnold’s skills on the diamond.
When you’re the frontrunner to start at quarterback for the Myrtle Beach football team, your biggest rivals take notice regardless of sport.
“There’s a level of expectation there,” Seahawks coach Mickey Wilson said. “But the main thing, no matter what position you play at Myrtle Beach, is that you try to get better every day. You can’t look forward or look back; you have to live in the moment.
“You’re going to get to throw the ball around. When you do that, you have a chance to put up some big numbers. Something we talk about is people are going to be watching you all the time. He’s in ninth grade and playing a baseball game at Socastee. And they’re talking about him playing quarterback.”
Starting Wednesday, area football teams around the state are allowed a three-week window of spring practices, no more than 10 days of which can include full-pad drills. Arnold will likely be a late addition to the spring sessions, as the Myrtle Beach baseball team was still playing in the Class AAA playoffs, and they’ll play host to Hanahan in a loser’s bracket game in the district tournament.
However, beginning this fall, Arnold is expected to be front and, well, under center. Wilson has tried to temper the expectations. Like he’s always done – and continued to do to this day – Wilson takes a reserved approach. He doesn’t want anyone who plays for him getting ahead of himself.
Still, it’s hard to ignore others are well aware of the facts.
Arnold enters spring practice with an edge on last year’s junior varsity back-up, rising junior Jake Deskins. Wilson said, however, that the starting job has not been locked up and he’s comfortable starting two quarterbacks, as he did in 2011 with C.J. Cooper and Tyler Keane.
In 2012, Arnold backed up Keane on the varsity squad. In that time he appeared in three games and completed seven of his 11 pass attempts for 77 yards and a touchdown. Deskins did not attempt a varsity pass.
“I don’t have a problem playing two guys,” Wilson said. “If two guys can handle it and are successful – as we were with C.J. and Tyler that year – we’ll do it.”
The coach is counting on the two quarterbacks to push each other. He’s also planning on them not being the team’s only weapon. The Seahawks will continue spreading the ball around. Tailbacks Dajour Wilson and Brandon Sinclair, and receivers Malik Waring and Kelton Greene are all coming back after gaining valuable experience last year. The Seahawks also always seem to have a player or two come through the ranks relatively unnoticed.
That’s a luxury Arnold won’t have.
Updated spring practice rules
The South Carolina High School touched up language on the three weeks of spring football practices, which commence today.
Some pertain to when and how specific contact can take place. Much like fall practices, there is an acclimation process to build players’ bodies up toward the heaviest portions of practice.
From the SCHSL
Schools are permitted three weeks of practice from May 1 through 21.
The first three days of spring practice will be in helmets only.
During the first three days of “helmets only” practices, sleds and ground dummies may be used.
No hand shields, arm shields and/or stand up dummies of any kind may be used during the first three days of spring or fall (preseason) practice.
During any practice(s) beyond the first three days of spring practice, a coach may equip his players in any combination of pads that he prefers for a period of up to ten days. (Ten days is the maximum amount of time in pads.) Schools are not required to be in helmets only or in full pads only; any combination may be used. During the time of practice in pads (full or combination of pads) the use of all football equipment is permitted.
Middle school students may not take part in the high school practices, if players are wearing any equipment other than helmets. If players are equipped with more than helmets, middle school athletes must hold their practices apart from the high school. (They could be on the same field, but away from the high school practices.)
Rising 9th graders, (8th graders), are not 9th graders until school is out for the year, thus they may not take part in contact drills of the high school.
Schools may not charge admission for a spring practice (game).
Spring game schedule