Ending the season without achieving the ultimate goal of a state championship is always a bitter pill to swallow for a high school football team.
But at least on the offensive side of the ball, a look ahead at next season should already have a sweet taste for many of our area teams.
Take a look at the quarterback position. Eight of the 10 Aiken-area football teams already know or at least have a good idea who their quarterback will be next fall, including seven of the top eight passers from this season. Only Aiken and Silver Bluff will likely be starting from scratch, and Aiken returns several players that saw time at the position in the 2012 season, including speed demons Will Heggs and Nakeem Spann.
Fox Creek’s Trey Mock, the area’s fifth-best in passing yardage, is the lone graduate of the 1,000-yard quarterbacks, and he’ll be replaced by Deondre Baskett, who shared time with Mock this season.
South Aiken’s Will Holbrook finished eighth in passing in the area with 715 yards, and he likely won’t even be the starter if Bo Baldwin is healthy for his senior year.
North Augusta’s Trib Reece came within a few yards of Strom Thurmond’s Jauveer Hammond for the area passing lead, and Reece was only a sophomore, splitting time for much of the season with Cody Turner as the Jackets’ signal caller. Hammond is a junior this year, and he was the lone player to secure 1,000 yards both throwing and running, also scoring 17 touchdowns passing and 18 rushing.
Compare the situation this offseason to what the same schools faced last year, when eight of the area’s starting quarterbacks graduated after the 2011 campaign. This year, not only has that statistic completely reversed, but the returning quarterbacks have some real weaponry at their disposal.
Midland Valley’s Daniel Carr, now a freshman, gets his first cousin and feature running back Dre Carr, only a sophomore this season, back in the backfield. On top of that, he’ll likely have sophomore Kameron Brown and junior Christian Beecher back in the receiving group.
For his senior campaign, Wagener-Salley’s Malcolm Stroman gets back Eric Corley in the backfield, who rushed for more than 850 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, and RJ Tyler, who caught six of Stroman’s 11 touchdown passes this season, will return at tight end. Similarly, RS-M’s Reggie Preston has Travious Wigfall and AJ Hopkins to rely on next year.
In Williston, Blue Devils’ signal caller Dalton Mundy will be joined by the area’s second-leading rusher in Jarius Jenkins, who racked up 1,593 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns as a sophomore. He also has receivers Faheem Richburg and Josh Owens coming back.
The list could go on. Every area team except Silver Bluff returns a player that saw significant time at quarterback in the 2012 season, and most of them return at least one more impact player besides that. And while the Bulldogs lose quarterback Jalen Jackson, they return 1,000-yard back Shaquez Wright and backfield mate RJ Stallings. Also, whoever replaces Jackson will have McKenzie Wilson and Jaylen Lawrence to throw to, unless one of them takes the reins as signal caller.
Every program has some big names coming back to cheer for, especially on offense. That should make for an exciting 2013 season.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.