CORDOVA — During Geremy Saitz’s time at Blythewood High School, he was an assistant for a 2006 state championship team and was led another to an undefeated regular season as the head coach a year later.
Orangeburg Consolidated District Four has now entrusted Saitz to produce similar winning results for the Edisto High School football program. He was officially hired Thursday to replace longtime head coach and athletics director Andy Palmer, who served in both positions for 13 years and finished with the second-most wins in school history.
“It’s an opportunity to be back closer to home,” he said. “Edisto is a great school. The community has always been supportive of athletics and has got a great group of young men and supportive staff makes it a whole lot easier when you get everybody with the same shared vision.”
Saitz has spent the past two seasons as the Cougars’ defensive coordinator under Palmer. Prior to Edisto, Saitz spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Brookland-Cayce, Richland Northeast and Ridge View High School.
He arrived at the newly opened Blythewood High School in 2005 as a defensive line coach and special teams coordinator.
A year later, Blythewood won the Class 3-A championship under head coach Jeff Scott. After Scott left to take the Presbyterian College job and successor Reggie Shaw resigned after the school was cited for violating the S.C. High School League rules for practicing in full pads before fall practice, Saitz was promoted to the top spot on an interim basis.
The Bengals went 10-0 in the 2007 campaign, but were ineligible for the postseason. Blythewood took the interim tag off Saitz and he coached three more seasons before parting ways in 2010 with a 27-17 record.
The Cougars posted a 6-5 overall record last season, but lost their final two home games against Highway 301 rival Bamberg-Ehrhardt and Waccamaw. In looking to make a turnaround in 2014, Saitz is a strong advocate of offseason workouts and summer conditioning in preparation for the regular season.
“The commitment level that we have in the weight room, I think it’s gotten better both years I’ve been there and hopefully, it will continue to improve,” Saitz said. “So many games are really won or lost during those summer months. A lot of people don’t realize that.”
Another challenge Saitz faces is replacing All-T&D Region and Shrine Bowl quarterback Tyrell Maxwell. Rising junior Rufus Anderson took most of the snaps during the spring and Saitz wants him to improve his work ethic and leadership on and off the field.
Edisto kicks off the regular season Aug. 22 at home against Orangeburg-Wilkinson.
Ex-North coach now a Gamecock
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It’s been a decade since John Jones was the head football coach at North High School.
Aside from a 2010 stint at Kingstree High School, he’s spent most of the past decade as a top assistant for Reggie Kennedy during his tenures at Orangeburg-Wilkinson, Kingstree, Fairfield Central and Sumter.
With Kennedy replacing Bob Hanna as football coach and athletics director at Irmo High School, Jones will get another shot at the head coaching spot.
“It means a lot,” Jones said. “I’ve learned a lot when I was at North. Hopefully, the opportunity to get another chance, we can take everything that we’ve learned since then and during my time as a head coach and keep everything on the straight path.
Ironically, Kennedy replaced Saitz at Blythewood High School in 2011 and spent two seasons there before arriving last season at Sumter. In the former South Carolina State linebacker’s lone season with the Gamecocks, he led the program to a 9-6 record and runner-up finish in Class 4-A Division I.
Looking to maintain the blueprint established by Kennedy, the school decided to promote Jones from offensive coordinator. He does bring back seven starters on offense and three on defense and the entire coaching staff will return, but acknowledges the pressures of duplicating last year’s playoff run.
“There’s pressure whether you’ve won or lost the year before,” he said. “You’ve got to get better every year.”
Voorhees in market for head coaches
DENMARK — School athletics director Willie Jefferson confirmed coaching searches are underway in men’s basketball and baseball.
Men’s basketball coach Michael Cheaney departed the program to take a similar job at the University of Alabama-Montgomery, while the school parted ways with Robert W. Platts after two seasons.