Demetrius Davis has guided Fairfield Central to 18 wins in his first two seasons at the Griffins’ helm, including an 11-win showing and a Class 2A Division I runner-up finish in 2012.
Expectations are as high as they have been in Winnsboro since the glory days when Fairfield Central won 30 consecutive games and back-to-back state championships in 1996 and 1997.
“Our goal coming into last season was to play for a state championship, but just getting there again won’t be good enough,” said Davis, a former FC player under Buddy Pough who graduated before the Griffins reached the high ground.
“I know that’s a lot of pressure, but you can’t reach a goal unless you set one. It’s time for us to take the next step.”
Davis, however, is aware the road to the top in a loaded classification will not be easy.
“Dillon beat us last year, and they should be even better with all the big-time talent they have,” he said. “Timberland is going to be very good. And we’ll have to play very well to just win the Upper State again. We were very fortunate to beat Newberry, and they are going to be strong again with a great coach. But given all that, I think we can be as good as anybody we play this season.”
Fairfield Central is loaded on offense. Guard Davoris Owens and tackles Malik Mickle and Darius Harris are the veteran anchors on the offensive line. Receiver Kewaun Squirewell (25 catches for 554 yards and 6 touchdowns) and Larry G. Bell (67 carriers for 510 yards and 10 scores) are proven players.
But the man who makes it all go is senior quarterback DeAndre Belton, who threw for 1,487 yards, ran for 1,158 yards and accounted for 29 touchdowns last year.
“DeAndre is a dynamic player and a guy I can trust,” Davis said. “I’d take him over any quarterback in the state of South Carolina.”
The big questions are on defense, where the Griffins must find an all-new cast up front and have two perimeter players back with experience.
“I think we have guys who can step in and do the job, but you never know until the lights come on,” Davis said.
Linebacker/Spur Larry T. Bell (63 tackles, 3 sacks) and defensive end Chanti Jones (45 tackles, 6 sacks) are the veteran building blocks in the front seven.
The secondary, however, figures to be strong with the return of starting cornerbacks Compton Walker (25 tackles, 3 interceptions) and Shadarius Hopkins (26 tackles, 2 interceptions) and safety Javahnne Neal (43 tackles).
Belton and Walker are getting the most college attention. Belton has an offer from Charleston Southern, while Walker has offers from Western Carolina and North Carolina Central.
“We don’t have any Division I players right now like Dillon, but we do have a bunch of guys who love to play and play hard,” Davis said.