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Strom Thurmond running back Charquez Booker is back after a breakout freshman season.

Strom Thurmond's football team has been here before.  

It heads into the season with a talented veteran returning at quarterback, a ton of speedy skill players on offense and a stout defense also full of returning talent.

There are the sky-high expectations that come along with it, too

"The biggest thing is that one thing we pride ourselves on is high expectations. That's something that we embrace. We don't run from it," head coach Antwaun Hillary said. "All offseason that's what we've talked a good bit about. We expect to have a good year."

The Rebels and their fans have plenty of reasons to feel that way. The main one would be senior quarterback Jequan Harris. Harris is back for his third year as a starter and is expected to perform as many in his situation have in the past at Strom Thurmond.

"He's in total command of the offense, and more than anything, I want him to be the leader of our entire football team. There won't be anything he hasn't seen," Hillary said. "Every three-year starter I've coached at quarterback has gone on to have a successful senior season."

Outside of his passing duties, Harris will serve as another rushing option as part of the three-headed monster the Rebels have in the backfield. Harris has the ability to break a big run at any moment. Stanley Hill returns after a season with more than 1,000 yards, and Charquez Booker looks to build on a solid freshman season in which he rushed for 528 yards and nine touchdowns.

The plethora of talent exists on the other side of the ball as well, with a strong group of linebackers Quez Holmes, Devron Williams and Justin Williams.

"At linebacker we're probably the most athletic we've been in a while," Hillary said.

Up front, the Rebels have become accustomed to having a dominating defensive end in recent years. This season, it's junior BJ Williams' turn to fill that role. Williams saw some action as a sophomore, but will be relied on heavily to help Strom Thurmond's defensive line.

"We return a lot on defense and that's where you win ball games, especially against good teams. To beat good teams you've got to be good on defense, and I think we're headed in that direction," Hillary said.

Strom Thurmond's non-region schedule features rival Saluda as the opener, followed by four Class AAAA opponents in the next five games. Hillary said these games will help the somewhat inexperienced offensive and defensive lines gain some momentum for region play, which starts Oct. 4 against Edisto.

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