Swansea’s football rebirth under Chad Leaphart continued in 2012.
The Tigers went 10-2 in their first season back at Class 3A. It was the program’s best 3A showing and the first double-digit win season in 15 years.
Swansea is 24-11 in three seasons under former Strom Thurmond assistant Leaphart, and the 19 wins the past two seasons is the best back-to-back showing by the Tigers in 20 years.
“I thought we could have success here right away, and the kids have bought into it,” Leaphart said. “It’s been great to see the pride restored in the program and in the community. But we still have work to do to get where we want to be.”
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Swansea is facing a major rebuilding project on defense this season with one returning starter — blue-chip junior linebacker Johnathon Sutton (6-foot-1, 215 pounds).
“If we only have one experienced guy to build around, we’re fortunate that guy is Johnathon,” Leaphart said.
Sutton has received offers from a parade of BCS schools — Clemson, South Carolina, Florida State, UCLA and North Carolina among others. Sutton, who has 4.5 speed in the 40, rang up a team-high 89 tackles and 21 tackles for loss and caused six fumbles as a sophomore.
Senior defensive end Cody Wolford, senior free safety Reggie Hampton and junior linebacker Chris Brunswick get their starting shots after being key backups last season. The rest of the defensive cast is unproven.
Offensively, it’s a different story.
Travis Loadholt, the workhorse of the attack the past two seasons, is back at running back and will operate behind a veteran offensive line that features three-year starters Devin Johnson (6-1, 265), Davon Bolton (6-1, 285), BT Saunders (6-0, 250) and Rodney Williams (6-3, 240).
Loadholt ran for 1,364 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
“Even with a new quarterback and new receivers, we can do some damage with Travis and that group up front,” Leaphart said.
Junior Clay Lucas takes over at quarterback and has some varsity seasoning after starting and winning two games in place of Jordan Chavis. Lucas was 15-for-25 passing for 218 yards and three touchdowns.
The primary targets figure to be senior Nick Tompkins, who played sparingly last season, and junior Craig Johnson (6-2, 200).
Kicker Arthur Myers, a three-year starter, also returns. Myers connected on 42 PATs, drilled six of eight field goal attempts and averaged 31.8 yards on 31 punts.
“We have some replacing to do, so we have a little challenge ahead of us,” Leaphart said. “But I think we’re going to be OK if we have some new guys step up, especially at key positions.”