Pippin upbeat as Jackets close spring practice
NORTH AUGUSTA — The North Augusta football team wrapped up its spring with the annual spring game Friday night. The game was highlighted by touchdowns from Dre Dunbar, Chaz Mealer and Rashad Byrd.
After the offense put on a display in the early portion of the game, the defense turned it up a notch, stifling the Yellow Jackets’ offensive squad that seemed to be in control.
“This was a good start. It gave us a chance to see what we could work on over the summer.” North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin said. “The summer is a time when you can go seven-on-seven a lot and get work with the DBs and receivers.”
One of the reasons Pippin is so enthusiastic about the team is his quarterback Trib Reece. The junior will be returning after a solid season.
“I think he’s going to be something,” Pippin said of Reece. “He’s got all of his receivers coming back except for one, and those big kids up front help him out.”
Those “big kids” spent most of the spring game working in the running game, blocking for the running backs who will have big shoes to fill. The Yellow Jackets will be forced with the task of replacing DeVonte Pressley. Pressley was an integral part of North Augusta’s offense last season rushing for nearly 2,000 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Pippin has been pleased with what he has seen so far from the committee of backs who will carry some of the load.
“I thought the running backs did really good tonight. I was really impressed with Dashawn Barnes; Willie McCloud did a good job,” Pippin said. “I expect a lot from Willie...I’ve seen him grow up, and I know what he can do.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Yellow Jackets took a while to get going.
“I was a little surprised at the beginning how the offense was moving the ball because that hasn’t been the case all spring. The defense has won pretty much every drill,” Pippin said, “I’m just happy the defense picked it up at the end there,”
The Yellow Jackets were without perhaps their best returning player, Brandon Maddox, for the spring game. Maddox recorded 80 tackles for the Yellow Jackets last year. However, Friday, The All-Region selection and All-Aiken Standard first team member spent most of the time at the spring game limping around in a cumbersome knee brace and cheering on his defensive teammates.
Pippin didn’t seem to concerned about the defensive star. He attributed it to the rigors of his spring practice routine.
“We’ll see how Brandon is, and we’ve got another kid dinged. We’re just a little dinged up right now because we do more hitting in the spring than we do in the regular season. We also see more quality competition because our (first teams) go against each other,” Pippin said.
Pippin is eager to move on and get into the summer portion of the offseason. North Augusta will be back in the weight room Monday and will start its summer conditioning program June 10. A few camps will follow that as the season approaches.
“I’m really happy with the effort this spring, we got after it every day,” Pippin said. “I am glad it’s over and ready to move on. I always tell the kids this is my favorite part of the season because they have to work hard.”
Eric Russell covers sports for the Aiken Standard. He graduated from USC Aiken in 2012 with a degree in communications.