ST. GEORGE — It’s been just more than a decade since Chris Myers was last on the football field as a Dorchester Academy athlete. Now he’s stepping on the same turf as a coach.
This is the first football season in 35 years for DA without SCISA’s all-time winningest football coach Stanley Gruber, who retired after the 2013 football season.
Myers is no stranger to Gruber’s way of doing things. In 2001, Gruber led the Raiders to a state championship — and Myers was on that team as a middle linebacker.
The next year, Myers was selected as The T&D SCISA Co-Player of the Year. He went on the play for The Citadel for three years.
As for what it’s like to be back on Raiders soil, Myers said: “It’s a little bit different coming back here where they know who you are, but the consensus so far is that I’ve felt very welcome coming back.”
Myers said everything about the 2014 football season and return to the school is full of “pleasant surprises.”
Eleven of the team’s 27 members are juniors — some of whom are playing on the team for the first time. The roster also includes five seniors, four sophomores and seven freshmen.
Myers’ squad has size.
Senior Reese Smoak at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds is the team’s “leader on both lines. He’s who the other players look up to when they have questions.
“I depend on him a lot to keep everybody straight,” Myers said.
Another tall order is quarterback Stokes Brownlee at 6-foot-3, 205. Jack Brickle, a sophomore, stands at 6-2, 245.
Other topping 6 feet are: Harley Bozard, junior, (6, 160), starting quarterback; Will Clegg, junior, (6-3, 160), tight end/wide receiver; Cole Cleland, senior, (6-1, 185), tight end/offensive lineman; Aaron Herman, junior, (6-1, 155), wide-receiver/outside linebacker; Alex Wagers, junior, (6-1, 165), offense/defense.
“We’ve been adding conditioning throughout our practices and we had a good summer workout with our players,” Myers said, noting an average of 20 took part in each summer workout session.
At least seven of the returning athletes “had significant playing time last year,” he said.
Senior Austin Mizzell (5-9, 155) will start as a wide receiver and defensive back, Myers said. “We’re going to lean on his hand in the passing game; he catches well.”
Ben O’Cain (5-10, 150), a junior, “didn’t play last year, but he’s really catching on,” Myers said, and fellow junior Landon Payne (5-10, 260) will spend a “good amount of playing time on both sides of the ball.”
Jacob Reeves (5-8, 165), sophomore, started playing football last year and Myers said to look for Reeves to have lots of carries this season.
Brody Taylor, a junior, at 5 feet, 9 inches, 150 pounds, will likely line up as a running back or tight end.
Alex Wagers (6-1, 165), a junior, “wants to play, he’s fast and he’s showed us good things,” Myers said.
Other Raiders are: David Beane, freshman, OL/DL; Zach Bozard (5-11, 215), OL/DL; Lance Brownlee, freshman, third-string QB; Justin Bucci, junior, OL; Jacob Byrd (5-9), junior; Cole Carter, junior, WR/DB; Ryan Childers, freshman, (5-9, 180), OL/DL; David Cleland, freshman, (5-8, 130); Marion Infinger, sophomore, (5-10, 290), OL/DL; Chase Kennedy, sophomore, (5-8, 140), FB; Gabe Marchant, freshman, (5-8, 170) OL/DL; Ben Murray, freshman, (5-7, 115) DB/WR; Cole Mize, freshman, (5-9, 255) OL/DL; Brice Shuler, senior, (5-7, 125) WR/DB; Brody Tayler, junior, (5-9, 150) HB/RB.
The coaching staff at DA includes Richard Purvis, Brandon McClure, Thomas McAlhany and Josh Gruber.
The hallmarks of a winning team and successful coaching are in Myers’ makeup.
His grandfather, the late Dick Hussey, coached at Cameron High School where in 1961-1962 his teams were undefeated in all three sports and captured state titles in football, basketball and baseball.
Hussey coached at Estill High School and St. George High School, and it was there where he coached a young football star, Stanley Gruber.
For Myers, coaching football in St. George at Dorchester Academy means coming full circle – and that’s among the greatest of pleasant surprises.
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Dorchester Academy schedule
AUG. 22 - ROBERT E. LEE ACADEMY
AUG. 29 - at Calhoun Academy
SEPT. 5 - at Holly Hill Academy
SEPT. 12 - COLLETON PREP
SEPT. 19 - PEE DEE ACADEMY
SEPT. 26 - THOMAS HEYWARD ACADEMY
OCT. 3 - Idle
OCT. 10 - at Bible Baptist
OCT. 17 - at First Baptist
OCT. 24 - at Hilton Head Prep
OCT. 31 - CURTIS BAPTIST