JOHNSTON — One of the trademarks of the football program at Strom Thurmond High School is its tradition. Throughout their history, the Rebels have built a reputation as one of the elite programs in South Carolina.
Over the past five seasons, it’s fair to say that Strom Thurmond has been a benchmark team, consistently one of the area’s best – if not the best. A lot of things have factored into the success it has enjoyed, posting a 55-11 overall record in that stretch. Fantastic play from its quarterbacks has been one of the most critical components to all of the winning.
Raleigh Yeldell and Jauveer Hammond have made Rebels quarterback a prestige position over that stretch. Yeldell was a three-year starter behind center, who was one of the best passers in the area from 2009-12. Hammond made his transition taking over the position seamless as a dual-threat signal caller who powered the Rebels to victories.
Both have gone on to the college level.
Now, it’s Tyree Stidem’s turn to helm the Rebels’ offense. The rising senior is shifting from receiver to quarterback this year, and how he fares as Hammond’s successor will go a long way in determining Strom Thurmond’s fate.
Those reasons alone make Stidem the No. 8 member of The Standard 10.
“The tradition at this high school, when it’s your turn to step up, your game gets better,” explained Strom Thurmond’s first-year head coach Antwaun Hillary, who also was star player for the Rebels. “He’s not Jauveer or Raleigh, but he’s got the same mindset. He’s shown growth and maturity (in spring practice and summer passing camps). He’s stepped up and embraced the role of starting quarterback.”
Hillary specified that Stidem has gotten stronger and shown improvement with the quickness of his reads. He also lauded his quarterback for stepping up and taking control of the huddle.
“The guys know he’s in charge,” Hillary said.
Stidem said serving as Hammond’s backup the past two years has given him a leg up in his transition.
“I got a good amount of reps,” Stidem explained. “I felt like I had to know as much as (Hammond) did. I felt comfortable I could go in and run the offense because I always paid attention. I prepared for the worst, and that has helped out a lot.”
Stidem also said his time at receiver has benefited him in the transition to quarterback. Stidem was among the Rebels’ leaders with 26 catches for 365 yards and three touchdowns last year, his second season as a starting receiver and third on the varsity squad.
His perspective of the field as a receiver and his understanding of running routes gives Stidem a good idea of what his receivers are thinking. It makes learning the playbook easier and helps him bond with a inexperienced group of receivers he’ll be throwing the ball to this season. He can relate to their responsibilities and guide them on what to do.
“I know how a receiver feels out in routes and know exactly what they need to do,” said Stidem, who would be Strom Thurmond’s top returning receiver if he wasn’t switching to quarterback but has been pleased with the work they’ve done in passing camps. “I feel like I can throw to anybody, and they’ll catch it and make plays.”
Hillary echoed those sentiments, reinforcing Stidem’s status as a team leader.
“He’s been a major support to those guys. Blocking, running routes. He helps them with knowledge of the offense,” Hillary said. “He can be a coach for them.”
Hillary said the core principals of Strom Thurmond’s offense won’t change with a new quarterback. The Rebels will remain a run-first team, a running game that includes significant contributions from the quarterback. And when Stidem isn’t calling his own number – or feeding the ball to big backs Chad Gilchrist and Deion Chinn – he’ll be expected to execute the passing game.
It’s a major challenge, one that could be more daunting considering the illustrious careers of Yeldell and Hammond. But Stidem isn’t wary of the task, he’s looking forward to it as an opportunity.
“I want to do anything to help this team win. … It’s the next man up,” Stidem said of following Yeldell and Hammond. “I’ve got big shoes to fill, but I can fit in that shoe.”
Hillary agrees, saying, “I don’t expect a drop-off. He’s got to step up and keep the tradition going. I think he’s going to rise to the challenge.”
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 15 years after graduating from Syracuse University.
This story is the third part in a series highlighting The Standard 10, the top 10 Players to Watch in the Aiken area for the rapidly approaching high school football season.
• July 21 — No. 10 DeAngilo Drayton, SB
• July 22 — No. 9 Dalton Swires, FC
• Today — No. 8 Tyree Stidem, ST
• Thursday — No. 7
• Friday — No. 6
• Saturday — No. 5
• Sunday — No. 4
• Monday — No. 3
• Tuesday — No. 2
• July 30 — 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 and staff writer T.J. Lundeen, as well as ASTV broadcasters Ed Girardeau and Ken Brace.
Staff file photo by Mike Adams Staff photo by Noah Feit Tyree Stidem, seen handling the ball after a reception, will take over at quarterback for Strom Thurmond this season, a prestigious position that earned him a spot on the Standard 10, among the top players to watch for the upcoming high school football season.×