Practices for high school football teams in South Carolina opened Friday, and games are just three weeks away.
That means every school is looking for its go-to players, guys who can present matchup issues for opponents, and, if necessary, take over a play, series or even game.
Some area coaches already have a good idea of who those players will be. Here are 10 local standouts every area fan should know. Regardless of college potential, they could ultimately be the most influential players on the Grand Strand in 2014.
• Drayton Arnold, QB, Jr., Myrtle Beach | A year ago, no one thought a young Myrtle Beach team was even going to sniff a significant playoff run. As Arnold developed, though, it became clear the Seahawks were going to have a chance. Now, Arnold has a state title ring after throwing 30 touchdown passes, including three against Daniel in the championship.• Michael Billings, RB, Sr., Georgetown | A high-ankle sprain stopped Billings in his tracks during his junior year after just four games at full strength. But he’s healthy again and ready to improve upon his 540-yard, seven-touchdown season. If the Bulldogs return to the playoffs, it could be because of Billings’ running ability.
• Will Brunson, QB, Sr., Carolina Forest | Brunson has twice set the school record for touchdowns and passing yards, and after his 2,967-yard, 28-touchdown season in 2013, he is the centerpiece of a Panthers team trying to turn things around under first-year coach Marc Morris. Brunson’s chances at big numbers are actually going to increase, as Carolina Forest is going to a quick-snap offense.
• Alan Crum, RB, Sr., St. James | The Sharks are going to stick with some of the same offensive schemes implemented under former coach Mark Fischer. However, with so many other pieces having moved on, Crum’s role as the starting tailback is going to be that much more vital. He showed flashes of breakout performances last year, and he could develop into consistent presence in the stat leaders in 2014.
• Bryan Edwards, WR, Jr., Conway | Edwards burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2012 and continued to pick up steam last year. As a sophomore, he piled up 66 receptions for 680 yards and eight touchdowns. Recently announced as a four-star prospect by Rivals, Edwards already has a handful of scholarship offers from top schools in the Southeast. Even with all that attention, he shows no signs of slowing down.
• Colby Gore, DB, Sr., North Myrtle Beach | The lock-down cornerback led the Grand Strand with eight interceptions a year ago while also putting up 44 tackles and seven pass deflections. The East Carolina commitment also returned punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns and added 300 yards receiving.
• Kelton Greene, WR/DB, Sr., Myrtle Beach | Greene will likely see some of his offensive numbers dip with receiver Kyle Belack now wearing a Seahawks jersey. However, it’s tough to argue with Greene’s play-making ability. He had 931 yards and nine touchdowns on offense last year to go along with six interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) on defense. He also returns kicks and punts.
• Levi Moody, RB/DT, Sr., Loris | Moody isn’t going to be raising the recruiting bar, if for no other reason than his height. But he is undoubtedly one of the most influential players on the Grand Strand. The two-way player has shown an ability to steamroll opponents from the offensive backfield while becoming a primary cog in the Lions’ typically stout defense.
• Keyshawn Moore, LB, Sr., North Myrtle Beach | Moore and former teammate Laquinn Bellamy formed one of the best linebacker tandems in the area last year. Now, with Bellamy in college, Moore will be asked to do even more. As a junior, he racked up 149 tackles, 23 for loss, and eight sacks. This year, he’ll also be playing some running back.
• Brandon Sinclair, RB, Jr., Myrtle Beach | The defending Region VII-AAA offensive player of the year was the Seahawks’ rock as the rest of the team adjusted to new positions. He tallied 1,919 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing and topped the 2,000-yard mark in total offense. If Myrtle Beach goes back to the pass-happy offense it usually tries to be under coach Mickey Wilson, Sinclair’s carries may drop only to see his efficiency increase.