Doug Illing admits he had never heard of the CNB Kickoff Classic before moving to the area.
It’s about to serve as his introduction to Grand Strand football.
The first-year Socastee coach will be participating in his first CNB on Friday when his Braves play Aynor in the opener of the 10-team event. And while he said he kept his 15 years worth of Davie County, N.C. teams out of major jamborees like this one, he’s planning on taking advantage of the annual litmus test that falls one week before the start of the regular season.
“You’ve got to get everyone get on the film,” Illing said. “You’ve got to let them all compete – the bad ones and the good ones – so they know why they need to be starters and why they don’t need to be starters. For me, I need to find out our strengths and weaknesses. I need to find out what we’ve got and what we don’t. We’ve got to strap it up and find out where we’re at.”
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Socastee, along with the other eight Horry County teams and Waccamaw, will have an opportunity to do that on Friday. The 24th CNB Kickoff will start at 6 p.m. at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium with Socastee vs. Aynor. Four mini-scrimmages will follow, with host school Myrtle Beach taking on Loris to cap off the evening.
Illing said he and many of his North Carolina counterparts typically stayed away from these larger jamborees because of a lack of on-field time. Few, if any coaches involved in the CNB will practice that morning, and even though a team may be on the field for only 20 to 30 minutes, it counts as a day of practice.
That said, re-creating a fan-filled atmosphere without more than a handful of teams is next to impossible. And the rotation between Doug Shaw and Conway High School allows teams to play in the two biggest stadiums in Horry County.
“It sounds like it’s pumped up really big,” Illing said. “It’s a big kickoff to the season, like they do on ESPN. So it builds your kids’ enthusiasm. Regardless of who plays, it’s a big deal. … The fact we get to dress up in uniform and play in front of a crowd, I think that will be a good experience.”
As with any scrimmage, though, the primary concern remains: Injury in a game that doesn’t matter in the standings.
Aynor’s Jody Jenerette is the most recent coach to have a significant loss at a key position during the preseason. He announced during Tuesday’s CNB Kickoff luncheon that senior Nathan Peeples is out for the season after suffering a dislocated left wrist during a scrimmage last Friday.
“You’re scared to death [about injuries],” Jenerette said. “It’s petrifying. In that scrimmage, we probably played less with our starters than before our scrimmage. It was just a freak thing. We were on a little drive scenario; he fell out of bounds on it wrong.”
Peeples was making a move from quarterback to running back/receiver in order to allow him more room in the open field and take advantage of his speed. Last season, he contributed 13 total touchdowns passing and running. He was the top returning offensive player after the Blue Jackets graduated their top three running backs.
Two years ago, Jenerette took on an approach to limit contact during practices. He said hitting has been reduced, but that he might have to take it a step further.
“We’re double wing, and we’re physical,” he said. “We’ve got to tone it down somehow.”
The loss of Peeples now means Jenerette’s top returning player in terms of rushing yardage is Daquan Smith, a lightly used senior who ran for 83 yards and a touchdown last season.