Carvers Bay coach Nate Thompson is the perpetual optimist, capable of finding the positives in almost any situation.
With his players in tears all around him, even Thompson managed to flash a smile during postgame interviews following last year's loss in the Class A, Division I state championship.
But even Thompson admits now that the events that transpired in Orangeburg that day and in the months after have been tough on his program. The Bears lost nearly the entire offense and most of the defense to graduation, and then both coordinators resigned, leaving the program in a state of flux.
``We are truly rebuilding this year,'' Thompson said. ``We've got a lot of young kids. It's going to be hard for these kids early. We just hope they catch on as we go. It's going to be hit and miss as we go.''
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The Bears hired former Wade Hampton coach Binky Rankin, the son of former Marion coach Bob Rankin, as offensive coordinator. Quinton McCollum, who coached at Marlboro County, takes the reins of the defense from Tyronne Davis.
Despite the changes, the Bears will do what they have always done _ run the football down their opponent's throat and play an aggressive brand of defense out of a five-man front. But the personnel isn't the same as it was the last two seasons.
Still, Thompson's optimism _ or maybe the expectation of winning _ is rubbing off on his confident players.
``We are young, but we still have some firepower,'' said senior tackle Kwame Geathers. ``We've got some talent in reserve. We've got some guys that were on the bench last year that can come in and help us.''
Tailback Johnathan Holmes (2,129 yards and 31 touchdowns) is gone, leaving the bulk of the carries to athletic junior Clayton Geathers. He and quarterback Arlington Scott will have to produce behind an offensive line without any returning starters _ Geathers didn't start on offense last year but is expected to this season.
``We've just got to get back to where we were at last year,'' Scott said. ``We've got more than enough [talent].''