Ryan G., Boo and Chops may not be the most intimidating collection of nicknames for high school players. Some of them don’t even make any sense.
But you better believe guys like Ryan Bellamy, Charoldric Williams, Malik Vereen and the rest of the Loris defense is about as scary as it gets. The Lions, with 11 returning starters and another 10 or so coming back with valuable back-up experience, were one of the most productive units in the state last year, allowing just 9.9 points per game. They piled up four shutouts and were within one victory of a trip to the Class AA, Division I Lower State finals.
The entire team is feeding off the energy of that production as it enters an expectation-laden 2013.
“This is the best unit we’ve played with yet,” Bellamy, a senior, said. “Every single day during the summer, we had the whole team there. Guys weren’t missing days. Guys wanted to come and work hard.”
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Jamie Snider knew well before his third campaign as coach was about to start that this year could turn into something special. And yes, that defense has quite a bit to do with it.
Bellamy, a safety, had 84 tackles and eight pass break-ups. Vereen tacked on 98 tackles, including 26 for loss, and 9.5 sacks. His linebacking mate, Quavon Bellamy, led the Lions with 121 tackles and also forced three fumbles.
Junior Levi Moody started at nose guard, a rare combination considering he led the offense with 1,221 yards rushing and 16 scores.
“I can promise you this – it’s hard to be good if you’re not good on defense,” Snider said. “There’s no secret to that. If you’re good on defense, it makes people try to do different things. That’s what you want to do. If a defense can dictate what an offense tries to do, that’s a big thing.”
More often than not, Loris’ defense was shutting down opponents, an effort that led to forcing those offenses into uncomfortable situations. The team was accomplishing that even better during region play. The team’s only loss there came to Dillon in Week 9.
The Tigers, the Class AA, Division I state champions last season, are expected to be loaded again. But it was clear the gap between the two schools wasn’t that large. Loris lost the first game 21-14 before again falling 21-7 to the Tigers in the third round of the playoffs.
“I think we gained some respect last year,” Snider said. “Ultimately, the difference in both Dillon games, Dillon found ways to make more plays in the second half. Our big thing this year is consistency. You can’t foretell the future or injuries, but it’s about being consistent. And not just when you play Dillon – you can’t just beat Dillon and think you’re going to have a big season.”
Snider, who has won just shy of three-quarters of his games in his first two seasons at Loris, should be able to continue that trend. He set up preseason scrimmages against Carolina Forest and Socastee before the Lions face off against Myrtle Beach in the CNB Kickoff Classic on Friday.
And even though those games against high-powered offenses from bigger classifications could be considered a good measuring stick for how much better this defense can be, Snider doesn’t want anyone getting ahead of themselves. As much as he understands expectations associated with his sheer number of returning players, he maintains he’s taking the same approach as he did 12 months ago.
“What, was I not trying to win as a head coach or our assistants not coaching as hard the last couple years?” he said. “We’re trying to be successful and put our kids in the best situation to win.”