Asked for a realistic expectation for Aynor this season, Kamron Johnson offered his educated guess.
“We’ve got the talent,” said Johnson, a senior running back. “We’ve got the potential to win eight or nine this year.”
No, he wasn’t exactly pulling a Joe Namath. But not all that long ago, area football fans would have laughed at the thought of the Blue Jackets predicting themselves to win eight games in a single season. History backed up that theory.
In the last 25 years, Aynor has piled up 11 eight-loss seasons, compared to just three years of at least eight victories.
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But right around the time the South Carolina High School League changed the format of Class AA football, the Blue Jackets started to rise. A team that was once an afterthought of area football has won 15 games in the last two years combined and has won a playoff game for three consecutive seasons.
There’s a different feeling during practices, coach Jody Jenerette said, and the program is consistently putting a quality product on the field. It’s left Jenerette wanting more.
“We know we left two games on the table last year,” he said, referring to losses against Mullins and Latta. “We feel both of those games could have gone our way and should have gone our way.”
The Blue Jackets will certainly have some significant tools in place to top their seven-win campaign in 2013. It starts on offense with Johnson and fellow running back Daquan Smith.
The duo combined to run for 1,707 yards and 13 touchdowns as juniors.
Those two and a pair of new fullbacks – Aaron Cowing and Jalen Dixon – will be asked to replace much of the production lost via the graduations of Adam Doyle (814 yards, nine touchdowns) and Louis Taylor (635 yards, 13 touchdowns).
Smith and Johnson, though, will get plenty of breathers out of necessity. Jenerette said Smith, who played every snap on offense and defense last year, can’t be expected to do so again.
“Our goal is to get as many kids we can touching the football,” Jenerette said. “We won’t have to kill Daquan or Kamron. If we go into the season thinking we’re going to run only Daquan or Kamron and one of them gets hurt, we’re right back where we were.”
There will be plenty of carries to go around in the Blue Jackets’ run-oriented scheme.
Last fall, Aynor rushed for 3,669 yards at an average of 6.3 yards per carry. Controlling the clock helped limit opposing teams to a respectable 22 points per game.
This time around, though, the defense will be charged with ball hawking more than it ever has. Forcing turnovers and getting critical stops could inspire the next leap in Aynor football.
“I think we can cover people,” Jenerette said. “The biggest thing with us is getting off the field. If we can do that, we can be real good in a hurry.”