Barnwell wasted little time getting back to work for the 2019 season. The Warhorses made an appearance in the Class AA state championship, but the season ended with a 48-14 loss at the hands of Abbeville in that game.

With a number of key players returning for 2019, the Warhorses got right back to work shortly after winter break last year to prepare for what they hope will be a return trip to the title game.

"A little bitter taste in our mouth from the state championship game, naturally," head coach Dwayne Garrick said. "Our guys really worked hard. Our goal is to get back to that position again."

The formula for this season will include a lot of familiar names on both sides of the ball.

The offense has several things going good for it heading into the 2019 season. The two biggest are experience and a multitude of options.

Craig Pender is back to lead the team at quarterback. He passed for 2,361 yards and 35 touchdowns. He'll have plenty of help.

"I have the best offensive line in the state, I can say that right here right now," Pender said. "The playmakers around me just make my job so much easier. If I put it anywhere near them, they're going to make a play for me."

One of those playmakers is senior Dallyon Creech, who figures to again be one of the more productive members of the offense. He's coming off a season in which he hauled in 34 passes for 701 yards and 10 touchdowns and ran for 680 yards and another 15 touchdowns out of the backfield.

Creech, TJ Miller and Jamari Chisolm will all line up in the backfield for the Warhoses when running the wishbone offense. Creech and Miller will also be two of the top targets at receiver when the team spreads it out. 

Barnwell's production out of the wishbone has been reliable for several seasons now, but one of the key focuses this season will be to also get some more production when lining up in a single back set. That will start up front with the offensive line which features three returning starters led by Wofford commit Briggs Kearse.

"We're going to run the football. That's our thing. We're getting back to that a little bit more this year and definitely putting a little more dominance in it," Kearse said. "You know we can throw it, so now we we want to be able to average 150-200 yards rushing a game as well as passing. I look forward to it. It  gets everybody excited."

Barnwell's defense was equally successful last season. The unit only allowed an average of 13.7 points per game.

The group of linebackers will be again led by Deshawn Watson, who finished the season with 97 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 15 sacks. 

"He's a big time player for us," Garrick said. "He's put on some weight and he'll have another year of experience coming off of last year. He'll be hard to handle." 

Creech, Miller and Chisolm will also pitch in on the defensive side of the ball, providing some help in the secondary.

Barnwell opens the season against county rival Williston-Elko. The schedule features a few big matchups, including a Sept. 13 trip to Charleston to play Burke at Johnson Hagood Stadium — home of The Citadel football team.

"We're going to play some really quality opponents. That can only help you in the long run," Garrick said. "With Bamberg, Woodland, Allendale and Whale Branch in our region it'll be a dog fight every time we tee it up region-play-wise."

Garrick believes the tough competition is just one of the factors which could help the Warhorses toward their goal of getting back to the title game.

"We know now what it takes to get there," he said. "We just got to find a way to get ourselves back there again and hope for a different outcome."

​Eric Russell is the multimedia editor at the Aiken Standard. Contact him at 803-644-2396.