Jackets open up first day of practice
Friday marked the first day of practice for all of the area football teams, and North Augusta High School was up and at it early in the morning.
The Jackets started work at 8 a.m.
“That first day is always fun, the kids are real excited and the coaches are more excited,” said Dan Pippin, North Augusta’s head football coach. “It’s a lot of anticipation for today and a lot of working going on to get up here and get going. We’re just ready to go until December.”
Part of that anticipation will be the Jackets’ new video board, which is on track to be a part of the season opener on Aug. 23 against T.L. Hanna. After using a loan from the Aiken County School District to help purchase it, the cost of the scoreboard will be paid for 100 percent through advertiser money.
“It’s a huge thing that the community is undertaking, and the sponsors have done a great thing by stepping up,” Pippin said. “It’s one of those things that is going to help us generate a lot of money. We’re going to pay that loan back to the school district real quick and after that, it’s going to generate a significant amount of money. That’s not just for football – but more so, it’s for the athletic department, which as the athletic director, I appreciate.”
Trib Reece, who split a lot of time in the early going last year with Cody Turner, will return as the team’s unquestioned starter at quarterback.
“I just need to go out there and be a leader,” Reece said. “I have to make sure to show all of the younger kids how to be a leader and what is expected at North Augusta.”
Reece noted that having a number of returning lineman and receivers has made the offseason “really easy” in terms of chemistry. The team participated in a number of 7-on-7 workouts, including one they won in Irmo. Reece said he had received letters from Tennessee, Louisville, Auburn, Georgia and a handful of others, but they haven’t made any offers at this time.
One void that will need to be filled for the Jackets is at running back. Last year. DeVonte Pressley nearly hit 2,000 yards, though if there is one thing the Jackets are known for, it’s plugging in a new back and seeing that player thrive. Rather than leaning on a single workhorse, at least in the onset, the backfield duties will likely be handled by whoever has the hot hand.
“We’ve got Willie McCloud, Dashawn Barnes, Rashad Byrd and Ronald Williams,” Pippin said. “So we’re probably going to go more by committee than we have in the past. We’re going to ask those guys to do more than just play running back. I think they’re all kids who can come in and fit the bill. A lot of it depends on the offensive line and the schemes we’ve got going. I think our running game sets up our pass game, and our pass game sets up our run game. If you do something to take one away, hopefully we’re good enough as coaches to do something and take advantage of what the defense gives us.”
It’s not all about offense for the Jackets, either. Even with the holes left by Pressley, big offensive lineman Parker Collins and others, arguably the most significant loss will be Trey Morgan, who did a bit of everything for the team last year. His biggest impact, though, was in the secondary as a free safety.
“Everybody that you lose, and it could be a guy who isn’t getting a college scholarship, that you have to fill in for,” Pippin said. “Our motto here has always been, ‘Next Man Up,’ and we’ve got to have that kid step up. A couple of years ago, we lost Matt Hazel and people didn’t know who we’d have. Then we lost Lorenzo Hammonds and people didn’t know who we’d have. Then Tyrell (Hillary) and Montez (McGuire) came in. We lose DeMarcus Rouse and Vinny (Miller) came in. We lose Vinny and DeVonte (Pressley) came in. I think it’s something our kids appreciate, because they know as they get older their role in the program will be more significant.”
Scott Rodgers is the news editor at the North Augusta Star and has been with the paper since January 2013 after previously working at the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Alvernia University and currently attends Drexel University.