Brookland-Cayce football is coming off a 1-9 season, but as the official start of football practice got underway Friday across South Carolina, there’s a little more optimism and pep around the Bearcats program.
Rusty Charpia is entering his third season at the helm and, with 20 seniors on the roster, he believes the fruits of his labor might soon pay off.
Brookland-Cayce has not won more than four games in a season since at least 2008, and has won four games total since Charpia arrived.
But none of that mattered as the Bearcats went through team drills late in the afternoon.
“You live your whole life — if you love this game — waiting on the next football season so you can get out here and do the things you love,” Charpia said. “I’m a little more excited than maybe the first two years for the simple fact that I feel like we’re seeing the benefits of our groundwork. The kids are bouncing around and eager and ready to get things started.”
Zeke Walker, one of 20 seniors, wants to quickly wash away the nine-game losing streak that clouded last season. He’s seen a new approach to things this offseason.
“It feels good to get back with the team to start practicing and getting ready for the season. Just getting back into the swing of things feels pretty good,” Walker said. “This is our third year under Coach, and the transition has been better. The team is more committed and dedicated, and we hope that can translate to wins on the field.”
High school teams across the state began practicing as soon as the clock reach midnight Friday morning but Brookland-Cayce elected to go out in the heat of the afternoon. Charpia left that decision to his 20 seniors, and they wanted to have something closer to the normal kickoff time than an early morning practice.
Walker, who is expected to play quarterback and safety, said the seniors thought the late afternoon start was the best decision.
“The seniors talked about it, and practicing in the afternoon is closer to our regular game times, so we want to get accustomed to going at this time and having a game feeling to it,” Walker said.
The Bearcats open the season against C.A. Johnson on August 23, and they were already preparing for their first opponent. They were going over formations and tendencies they might see in that opening game.
That is a change from what schools have done in the past. Long gone are the two-a-day practices during the first two weeks of camp where conditioning was stressed.
Teams now practice in several different ways during the summer and have shorter practice times in preseason camp with school starting earlier.
“That’s a little different than in the past,” Charpia said. “The way the rules are now, you start playing so quickly and have a limited amount of time to practice. You actually work on things all summer long. You look at what the opponents are going to do, and this is just a carryover of that. You want the guys to see it as much as possible.”
Brookland-Cayce has been displaced from its regular practice field. The district is in the process of building a new multimillion dollar stadium along Knox Abbott Drive in front of the school gymnasium. That has forced B-C to load a bus and practice at the Granby Adult Education Center behind the Cayce Police department.
It’s not the ideal situation but one Charpia will happily trade for the return.
“There’s a price and sacrifice for progress,” he said. “We have a nice new stadium with field turf going in with state of the art locker rooms. It’s all being built right now so it’s a slight inconvenience but for what we’re getting in return, I think it’s well worth it. We have to win some games to justify that new stadium. I think it’s getting ready to happen.”