Fans may say Conway’s appearance in the CNB Kickoff Classic last week was only a scrimmage.
It was 20 minutes of throw-away football that won’t count for anything tangible. They may even point out that, technically, the Tigers lost 7-0 to North Myrtle Beach.
What those same fans may not have noticed was how the team responded to a couple of big plays during the exhibition and what it could mean to turning around the second-worst season in the last three decades.
Ju’wan Jones forcing a fumble off a would-be wide-open touchdown, Issac McCloud forcing a big-time sack and sophomore quarterback Peyton Derrick connecting on a long pass to Bryan Edwards matter.
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“Those are things,” coach Chuck Jordan said, “that say they’re beginning to get it.”
As minuscule as any of those may seem, the Tigers are in search of the big play. Not only does it show that Conway’s got some talent, but it also serves as a display of something positive after last season’s 2-9 record.
On top of that, Conway has had back-to-back losing seasons just twice in school history. But both of those two have happened in the last five years – occurrences that sandwiched an eight-win 2011.
That span also includes the longest amount of time the Tigers have gone without a region title since Jordan was hired in 1983.
There will still be plenty of mistakes along the way. But?
“We draw a lot of inspiration off those big plays,” said Edwards, the team’s top-flight junior receiver. “There were times where we came out flat and were hanging our heads. We just weren’t focused.”
The Tigers, though, do have some important pieces back. And it’s not just Edwards.
Three big offensive linemen – Landon Jones, Jabriel Pugh and Jay Causey – will be back up front after starting last year. They’ll be responsible for helping sophomore quarterback Peyton Derrick continue his progression.
After taking over the starting role late in the year, Derrick threw for more than 300 yards and five touchdowns.
“My philosophy is to try not to put more on him than he’s ready to take on,” Jordan said. “What’s going to happen with Peyton is the more and more he develops, he’ll be able to make more decisions at the line, changing things. I want him to relax and play. When you’re doing too much thinking, it’s going to slow you down.”
A quintet of running backs, including likely starter Caleb Watts, will give the Tigers plenty of options in the backfield.
And on defense, guys like Jones, McCloud, Jah’Maine Martin and Jeron Bellmany will be part of a crew that has six returning starters and plenty of ability.
If it all comes together, those big plays could develop into big wins.
“You always expect the best,” Jordan said. “When you see positives, it feeds that. I see some bright moments.”