Brookland-Cayce football is coming off a 1-9 season that included losing the final nine games of the 2012 campaign. The motivation to rebound is there.
Added incentive for the Bearcats include dedicating the 2013 year to coach Abby Bray, a long-time fixture at the school who passed away in the offseason.
Junior offensive lineman Alex Wilkes, who is the son of former South Carolina All American Del Wilkes, is Bray’s stepson and will wear the name Bray on the back of his jersey this year in honor of his stepfather.
“He wanted to do that, and we have dedicated the season to coach Bray,” third-year head coach Rusty Charpia said. “Everyone at the school was touched by coach Bray so much, so we wanted to do something in his honor this season.”
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Brookland-Cayce has not won more than four games since at least 2008, and the nine-game losing streak could be a damper going into the season. But there is hope. The Bearcats were tied or leading in five games last year at the half, and Charpia has preached during the offseason that they must learn to finish off games.
“Some injuries took place, and we had to remove a player or two because of discipline, so we had a chance to be a little bit better than our final record indicated,” Charpia said. “We’re trying to build on the fact we were leading at the half in so many games. We have to learn to play the second half and finish.”
One of the injuries that had to be overcome was to quarterback Zeke Walker. The senior has been the starter the past two years but has missed significant time both seasons because of injury. He also is a standout at safety, so that affected two key positions when he was out.
Walker has been offered by The Citadel, and hopes to stay healthy for the entire season.
He will operate the Pistol offense this season. Junior TJ Myers will be the main guy behind Walker, with Charles Balkcom and A.J. Brown being featured in the wing back positions. Both of the wing backs excelled on the junior varsity team that finished with a winning record for the first time in 10 years.
Wilkes will be one of the leaders up front but has experience next to him in Trey Hucks and Cory Jump.
The Bearcats might not throw it much but have reliable, big targets in Da’jon Amaker and Bernard McCall.
“We have just about everybody back on the offensive side of the ball, and that has us excited,” Charpia said. “We expect big things this season and think we have a chance to put some points on the board.”
The defense has experience in the secondary with Walker, Amaker and McCall expected to join All-Region selection Kyle Stinson. Marquise Inabinet will man one of the defensive end positions and is probably the strongest player on the team. Jordan Henderson has emerged at the other defensive end spot, and Matt Petrey leads a group of five seniors at linebacker.
This group will have to make strides if the Bearcats are going to enjoy a successful season.
“We have a large group of dedicated seniors that have played for me for two years,” Charpia said. “Everybody got into the weight classes last year, so we feel good about our chances. I knew coming in it was going to take a few years. I don’t think schools are much different from one place to another when it comes to kids. It’s what you do with them when you get them, and the type of support you get from the administration. We feel like we’re just now scratching the surface.”