High school football in the SCISA ranks, at least around The T&D Region, starts off rather simply this Friday, in Week Zero.
The Calhoun Academy Cavaliers open at home against Northside Christian (Lexington), while the Dorchester Academy Raiders open at home against The King's Academy.
Both teams are coming off 3-7 campaigns in 2018, looking to improve on that record this year.
The Cavaliers are once again led by head coach Todd Layton in the 8-man ranks, while the Raiders are led in SCISA Region 2A by first-year head coach Thomas McAlhany.
CA has just five seniors in uniform this season, but 24 players were listed on the active roster for an 8-6 jamboree win at home last Friday against the Providence Athletic Club team.
"Our numbers (of players) are a lot better and they have been picking back up," Layton said. "We have 24 right now, including a few transfers; but out of that group we have three hurt.
"The boys have been working hard. The first couple scrimmages we came out flat, but for the jamboree we looked really good early, up until the rain/lightning delay."
With such a young team, Layton is looking for more focus and maturity as the season begins. Junior Seth Tyson is behind center at quarterback, while seniors Bates Felder (WR/LB), Noble Moore (RB/LB), Evan Inabinet (FB/LB), Blake Edmunds (OL/DE) and Hunter Warren (TE/DE) will be looked to for on-field leadership. Meanwhile, sophomores Kade Strickland (OL/LB) and Matt Layton (RB/DB) will look to build on solid contributions they made as freshmen.
"We've got to work on the passing game some more, but we want to run the ball," coach Layton said. "We have more expectations for this team this year, but our schedule is tough.
"Our conference is loaded. 8-man football really has some tough regions. But, our guys have been in the weight room, we've gotten bigger and stronger."
The Raiders, meanwhile, compete in SCISA Region 2-A, along with Bethesda Academy (Ga.), Colleton Prep, Thomas Heyward and Spartanburg Christian.
You have free articles remaining.
And in his first season as head coach of the varsity, McAlhany expects to have his team playing with energy and excitement from the opening kickoff at home this Friday.
"We are ready to attack it head on," McAlhany said. "We are going to be completely different from last year.
"It will be a team with a completely different look this year, a new old-school look."
Having coached nearly all the current varsity players when they played junior varsity, McAlhany believes this team knows what is expected of them.
"In scrimmages the guys have looked good, and we've made in-game adjustments; but it all changes when the lights come on," he said. "We just hope everyone is on the same page and clicking."
This Raiders team has six seniors, along with a big sophomore class that is expected to see major playing time.
Senior Colby Weeks is back at quarterback.
"Colby knows what to do and is the guy to do it for us at quarterback," McAlhany said. "We're going to take it one game at a time with things, but we're going to try to open it up (on offense) this week and next week.
"The plan is to have the best 11 on the field at all times, even if that means playing a different position than what you played last year."
Seniors Ben Stokes (RB/LB) and Rhett Mizzell (WR/DB) are established on-field leaders, while the sophomore class that includes Hunter Hartzog (WR/DB), Haden Hartzog (WR/DB) and Dylan Price (FB/LB) has plenty of playmakers to make a difference.
"We want a huge crowd and everybody ready to go on Friday," McAlhany said. "It will just take that one big play to get things going for us to play winning Raiders football again."