As a former quarterback at South Carolina, Steve Taneyhill loves to watch how the position is played.
Taneyhill, who is now the coach at Union County, will have his eyes on Chapin signal caller Logan Bailey when the two teams meet Friday in the Class 3A upper state semifinals.
“When we don’t have the ball, I definitely will be watching,” Taneyhill said. “I love good quarterback play, and he has all the tools to be successful.”
Bailey has been one of the top quarterbacks in the state this season and is a Mr. Football finalist. The senior has accounted for 3,955 yards and a state-best 64 touchdowns in helping the Eagles to an 11-1 record. He needs seven touchdowns to tie Shuler Bentley’s record of 71 touchdowns in a season.
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Bailey’s counterpart, De’Arius Smith, also has put up big numbers at Union County. The senior has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for 460 to go along with 35 total touchdowns for the Yellow Jackets, who have won six of their past eight after an 0-4 start.
Smith threw for 312 yards and rushed for 90 with three TDs in the Yellow Jackets’ 39-22 against previously unbeaten Greer last week.
“He is a phenomenal football player and throws the deep ball as good as I have seen,” Chapin coach Justin Gentry said of the Union County quarterback. “He has got great wheels and can hurt you on the ground as well.”
The Eagles will have to worry about containing Smith and his top target, Shi Smith. The junior receiver is ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the state for the Class of 2017 by 247Sports and was offered by South Carolina before his freshman season. He had 130 yards receiving last week against Greer.
Taneyhill says the 5-foot-10 Smith is a combination between South Carolina’s Pharoh Cooper and former Gamecock/current San Francisco 49ers receiver Bruce Ellington. Taneyhill says Smith is the most talented player he has coached since he had the late Gaines Adams at Cambridge Academy. Adams went on to play at Clemson and in the NFL with Tampa Bay and Chicago. Taneyhill said Smith has a chance to be a “Sunday type of player.”
“If you are gonna make a run in the playoffs, your best players are gonna have to play great,” Taneyhill said. “And both De’Arius and Shi have played well.”
“Shi Smith is going to get his share of big plays,” Gentry said. “It is what we do for the other 40-45 plays that is going to be the key.”
Gentry said his defense has “spit and sputtered” near the end of the season, He said his team hasn’t put together a complete game in several weeks. He hopes that will change this week.
Chapin’s defense will get a boost with the return of defensive back Caleb White, who has missed the past four weeks because of an injury. White leads the team with three interceptions and has 55 tackles.
The Eagles are in their first upper state semifinals since 1995 and haven’t made it to the upper state final since 1985.
“We aren’t satisfied with just being here,” Gentry said. “They want to make noise. The players and coaches have worked hard to get to this point.”