A few months after he became the head coach at Loris, Jimmy Longerbeam said the only thing the program was missing was stability and structure.
One year later, he certainly has given the Lions a hefty dose of both. Longerbeam is the first coach to return for a second season at Loris since 2004, and the program is reaping the rewards of his work.
``We are really working hard to build this thing from the bottom up at the little league programs and the middle school,'' Longerbeam said. ``That's where it all starts in a community like this.''
The interest in the program, which hasn't won a playoff game since 2001, is as high as it has been in years. More than 50 players could suit up for Loris on Friday nights, giving the program the rare chance of having nobody starting on both sides of the ball.
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And the players aren't slouches either. Longerbeam says only one senior from 2007 _ current Clemson linebacker Jonathan Willard _ would have started on this season's team.
``I think everybody has been working harder,'' tailback Titus Leaks said. ``It's time to get [this program] back up. We learned how to compete, but now we're starting to learn how to win.''
The combination of Leaks and fellow tailback Darius Graham should go a long way toward deciding this team's fate. The duo combined for nearly 1,000 yards last season and will serve as the catalysts of a ground-based offense once again.
After seeing numbers dwindle in years past _ there were only seven seniors in 2007 _ the program will have 20 seniors this fall. Still, only six or seven are likely to start.
``We are probably a year away,'' Longerbeam said. ``We'll be young at some spots.
``When you haven't had a lot of success, you're just trying to get over that hump where you feel like you have a chance to win.''