A year older, Carolina Forest football team seeks turnaround

For The Sun NewsAugust 16, 2013 

  • The scoop

    Coach | Drew Hummel (29-47 in seven seasons at Carolina Forest and overall)

    Last year | 3-8, 1-3 Region VI-AAAA, fifth place; missed Class AAAA playoffs)

    Returning starters | 8 offense/5 defense

    Strengths | Anyone who analyzes Carolina Forest’s offense sees there is some serious potential there. Last season, with many of them starting for the first time, the players put up solid numbers against a top-tier schedule. Instead of folding, most got better as the season went along.

    Weaknesses | By the time region play started a year ago, the Panthers’ defense was overworked and then pieced together after multiple players went down with injuries. Hummel has a plan in place to try to prevent that from happening again, but until Carolina Forest shows otherwise, this could be another struggle.

    Three players to watch

    Will Brunson, Jr., QB | Brunson completed 58 percent of his pass attempts in his first year as a starter, wrapping up the season with 2,321 yards and 18 touchdowns. Needless to say, it started to attract some attention.

    Ryan Yurachek, Sr., TE/DE | In addition to his duties on offense as the team’s most reliable receiver, the Marshall commit will also be one of the team’s starting defensive ends this season.

    JT Hucks, Jr., LB | The team’s new starting middle linebacker has the size and skill set to help shore up the middle of the Panthers’ defense.

  • 2013 schedule

    Date Opponent Time ’12 result
    Aug. 23at Socastee7:30 p.m.L, 49-40
    Aug. 30at Fort Dorchester7:30 p.m.L, 41-21
    Sept. 6vs. St. James7:30 p.m.W, 29-15
    Sept. 13vs. White Knoll7:30 p.m.L, 46-19
    Sept. 20at Myrtle Beach7:30 p.m.L, 33-10
    Sept. 27vs. Beaufort7:30 p.m.L, 42-28
    Oct. 11vs. Goose Creek7:30 p.m.L, 56-6
    Oct. 18at South Florence7:30 p.m.L, 32-13
    Oct. 25at Sumter7:30 p.m.L, 37-15
    Nov. 1vs. West Florence7:30 p.m.L, 44-0
    Nov. 8at Conway7:30 p.m.W, 27-24

  • More information

    2013 roster

    No. Name Pos. Height Weight Grade
    1Hakeem GrateTE/DE6-417510
    2Khalil BrantleyWR/DB6-217010
    3Tyriq HerriottWR/DB6-117512
    4Bryce GarrellQB/DB5-1017510
    5Zavier JonesWR/DB6-016511
    6TJ SimmonsDB5-1017011
    7Williams BrunsonQB6-418511
    8Zaki HarrisDL6-019011
    9Michael CulbreathLB6-120011
    10Ryan YurachekTE/DL6-323012
    11Charles QuillenTE/DL6-220012
    12Shaquille WhiteWR/DB6-117012
    13Zavier LynchWR/DB6-119010
    14Kendrick WrightRB/DB5-101659
    20Terik GravesWR/DB6-117010
    21Kyle Belack WR/DB6-018011
    22Markell LangleyRB/LB5-111709
    23Victory WoodsWR/DB6-117010
    24Jaree KingWR/DB5-1017512
    25Napier ArmstrongRB/LB5-1118011
    26Jharian DavisRB/DB5-916012
    27Michael WynneWR/DB6-017512
    30Marcelo DaSilvaK6-018011
    31Markeez LangleyWR/DB6-017010
    32JT HucksRB/LB5-1019011
    33Anthony McAfeeWR/DB5-91609
    34Gage WatkinsRB6-020011
    40Linc CookDL6-017010
    41Justin LaneLB6-017012
    44Colie RogersLB5-1017510
    45Tristin HillTE6-118510
    46Sam SpagnolaLB5-918012
    50Trey JohnsonOL6-123012
    51Trenton GuthrieLB6-01759
    54Steven AkelOL/DL6-11909
    55Bo Harper-SpainOL/DL6-024512
    56Malik CulbreathOL/DL6-22409
    58Sampson TorresDL6-02459
    62Dean WooleyOL6-124010
    64Landon HysnerOL6-326511
    65Lloyd PatelleDL6-123510
    67Ishmail HerriottDL6-130011
    68David StarrOL/DL6-025011
    72Tyler TaftOL/DL6-327511
    74Josh CarranzaOL6-429012
    76Hunter SandersOL6-22659
    78Matt Micallef OL/DL6-232011

When Carolina Forest’s season cranks up next week, it will begin with an abnormal amount of anticipation for a team that finished the prior year with such a loss-dominated record.

The Panthers were beat up, especially late in games, by a schedule few teams in the state could boast. Seven opponents, including five from the state’s largest class, went on to play postseason football.

Still, as the 2013 season gets ready to start, coach Drew Hummel’s team has the players and the experience to better navigate the 11-game slate.

“This group ranks right up there offensively with as good as we’ve had,” Hummel said. “Most of them had to go up against that gauntlet of a schedule as sophomores, having to step up and perform against guys two years older than they are. This is a very talented group.”

Quarterback Will Brunson is receiving plenty of interest from major football programs after passing for 2,321 yards and 18 touchdowns. Tight end Ryan Yurachek has already verbally committed to continue playing at Marshall. Tailback Napier Armstrong steps into the starting role after rushing for 582 yards last season. Top receivers Kyle Belack and Zavier Jones are also another year older, and the Panthers return three of its offensive linemen, including two-year starting center Trey Johnson.

What that group will have to do, however, is prove it can play when it matters most.

While several of those blowout losses from last year looked awfully ugly on paper, some only ended up so lopsided because of second-half deficiencies. Throughout the course of the season, the Panthers were outscored by 122 points after halftime.

It led to some hard feelings from players along the way. But it also taught a young group how to mentally prepare when things are going badly.

After all, that same beast of a schedule awaits Carolina Forest this season.

“Even with the schedule, we can’t let that be an excuse for losses or struggling,” Brunson said. “We just have to pad up and go and accept it. At the beginning, it was overwhelming. We were thrown into the fire. The best way I’ve heard it is it’s the same thing with South Carolina and Clemson. South Carolina fans can’t say ‘Oh, we play in the SEC. That’s why we don’t have as many wins.’ We just have to go out and play ball.”

Brunson and his teammates will open Friday at future region opponent Socastee, a team coming off an undefeated regular season and a trip to the third round of the Class AAA playoffs.

Then it’s on to Fort Dorchester before playing a stretch of four home games in five weeks. That span includes games against St. James, White Knoll, Myrtle Beach, Beaufort and Class AAAA powerhouse Goose Creek.

The schedule is loaded with teams that can put up points in a hurry. And while Hummel insists he doesn’t want to simply get into shootouts with those teams, the offense he’ll be putting on the field should be able to cut down on last season’s eight losses that came via double-digit point margins.

“When you look back at things and as we reviewed film, we’re right there through halftimes of games and going into the third and fourth quarter. There were very few that had been decided by that point,” he said. “With another year of experience, we’ll know how to play through a little bit of adversity.”

Contact IAN GUERIN at ian@ianguerin.com.

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