“If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
Frank Sinatra had “New York, New York” on his mind when he began performing the now iconic song nearly 40 years ago. When the phrase is uttered by Jody Jenerette, however, the inspiration comes from a far different place.
“Here in Aynor, really if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere,” he said. “It’s true, you can do it if you’re from Myrtle Beach or Conway. But if you’re from Aynor … no chance.
“In Aynor, many of the kids grow up on the farm, given a good example of an honest day’s work by their parents. Things aren’t easy in this town, it requires many of us to work on a tobacco or peanut farm at a certain point in our lives. But all those things build character.”
Jenerette and his Aynor football team adopt a similar philosophy on the gridiron, their ground-and-pound approach on offense paying homage to the town’s blue-collar mentality, dubbed “The Hammer.” As the Blue Jackets prepare for a new season, there is a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the program — in large part because of the work put in by players over the past several months.
A little thing called experience has a little to do with things as well.
“Last season, we were very inexperienced. We played with a bunch of puppies,” Jenerette said. “Those puppies have grown a bunch this offseason.”
A season ago, Aynor went 5-5 with a team largely featuring players receiving their first taste of action at the varsity level. Sixteen starters return from that squad, looking to do their part to lead the Blue Jackets back to the postseason.
“These kids bust their butts with no push back,” the Aynor football coach said. “This team has potential. Hopefully all their hard work will pay dividends with a good year.”
Prior to last season, the biggest question for the Blue Jackets was whether they would have enough production outside of standout Caleb Jenerette. Obviously, the answer to that question was a resounding “yes.”
We will be more spread than we have in the past. But we are still gonna use our ‘RPO’ — run power often.
Aynor football coach Jody Jenerette
When the younger Jenerette went down with injury, Spencer Sarvis took over under center for the Blue Jackets. In his first year there, the quarterback performed admirably, throwing for 306 yards and six touchdowns.
Showing complete trust in his young signal caller, the longtime Aynor football coach plans to give Sarvis an expanded role on offense this season.
“We will be more spread than we have in the past,” Jenerette said. “But we are still gonna use our ‘RPO’ — run power often.”
After rushing for nearly 600 yards last season, Noah Seaver returns to take a lead role in the Aynor ground attack. Ethan Martin and Brayden Nobles, each of whom offered solid contributions a year ago, also are back.
Defensively, many of the Blue Jackets’ top tacklers are back for another round.
With close to 50 tackles a year ago, Martin helped Aynor take a chunk out of the 24 points per game it surrendered to opponents. His versatility has several Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams as well as those at the Division II level giving the senior standout their share of long looks.
The return of seniors Andrew Roberts and Nobles, along with juniors Blade Rabon and Drake Carroll further bolsters the unit.
Promise is one thing … results are another. A member of the always-tough Region 6-3A, Jenerette understands earning the latter of those will continue to be an uphill climb.
“(Region 6-3A) is unreal,” he said. “But the thing is, you never really know. I really believe we can be really good … hopefully we can surprise some people.”
Aynor Blue Jackets
Coach: Jody Jenerette (50-78 in 12 years)
2016 record: 5-5, 1-4 Region VI-3A
Key players: Seth Sarvis (Jr., QB), Noah Seaver (Jr., RB/LB), Brayden Nobles (Sr., RB/DB), Ethan Martin (Sr., RB/DL), Andrew Roberts (Jr., WR/LB)
The word: If nothing else, playing in Region 6-3A allows your team to take on some of the best the classification has to offer. For Aynor last season, it somewhat proved to be the undoing of a young football team as it lost four of five games in the league. The Blue Jackets return of a number of young contributors from last year’s squad, giving those in the small Horry County community optimism this is the year they return to the playoffs.