At first glance, the Ridge Spring-Monetta High School football team’s 2012 season doesn’t seem like anything special. The Trojans’ 4-7 overall record, including a loss in the first round of the playoffs, matched their 2011 effort. They didn’t fare too well in the region, with a 2-4 mark against Region 4-A foes, compared to 3-5 the year before.

What Ridge Spring-Monetta did have under then first-year head coach Heath Corley was hope.

Rising senior quarterback Reggie Preston played a significant role in the new outlook in Ridge Spring. Because of that, he’s the Aiken Standard’s No. 10 Player to Watch for 2013.

Corley said Preston could play anywhere for the Trojans. But based on how he leads by example, on and off the field, it makes him an ideal quarterback.

“He competes,” Corley said. “I mean, he’s one of the best competitors we’ve got. He doesn’t like to get beat at anything.”

Preston showed that competitive fire early in a 2012 campaign that saw him finish third among area passers in yards with 1,164. Preston also threw 16 touchdowns, completing 74 of 137 passes for the year. He also rushed for three touchdowns.

The Trojans won two of their first three games, with only a loss to Class AA competitor Saluda. Then they fell in back-to-back games to McCormick and Hunter-Kinard-Tyler – the two teams that played for the Class A, Division I Upper State title – before evening their record with a 29-7 win over Fox Creek.

That’s when the injury bug took a bite out of RS-M’s chances at a special season. Playmaker Travious Wigfall and lineman Tripp Padgett both went down with injuries. Even Preston battled a high-ankle sprain, according to Corley and missed another game because of an illness.

“But, of course, he didn’t say anything about it,” Corley said, adding that Preston simply did his rehab, took it easy at a couple practices and kept playing.

This season, Corley said he’s hoping to “put a little more health out there with” Preston, in addition to working on Preston’s skill set. While Preston did exactly what was asked of him in his first year as a shotgun quarterback, Corley felt that Preston could make some progress in his footwork and in his mental game.

“His reads were a little slow last year, and so far this year, he’s done better with that,” Corley said.

Another adjustment Corley’s looking for is in Preston’s approach to the game. As a junior, Preston fought for every yard, his coach said, often sacrificing his body against second-level defenders.

While Corley said Preston had been working on getting stronger, he also said the coaches were working on Preston’s decision making.

“We’re trying to get him to play a little smarter and realize that he is a quarterback,” Corley said.

He added that Preston has shown a willingness in camps to duck out of bounds or take a sack when there are no clear options. But the RS-M coach isn’t so sure his quarterback’s tenacity won’t show back up once real games start. He certainly isn’t placing any bets that Preston will slide to avoid contact.

“I still don’t believe he’s going to do that,” Corley said. “He’s such a competitor.”

Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.

Series glance

This story is the first in a series highlighting the top 10 Players to Watch in the Aiken area for the rapidly approaching high school football season. The list will be revealed in descending order on a daily basis, with the No. 1 player to watch to be revealed on July 21.

• Today – No. 10 Reggie Preston, RS-M

• Saturday – No. 9

• Sunday – No. 8

• Monday – No. 7

• Tuesday – No. 6

• Wednesday – No. 5

• Thursday – No. 4

• July 19 – No. 3

• July 20 – No. 2

• July 21 – No. 1

The order was determined by Aiken Standard sports editor Noah Feit, staff writers Jeremy Timmerman and Eric Russell, North Augusta Star news editor Scott Rodgers, Aiken Standard intern Kyle Dawson, as well as ASTV broadcasters Ed Girardeau and Ken Brace.