After the chaos that consumed the 2007 season, Aynor coach Jody Jenerette wants to direct the spotlight back onto the field this fall.
The Blue Jackets suffered through a 2-8 campaign that was overshadowed by off-the-field incidents: Six players were suspended for hazing and player Zeke Legette died in a car accident.
Despite the loss of several notable seniors _ including William Chandler (Coastal Carolina) and T.J. Johnson (South Carolina) _ the program is ready to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
``This is probably the toughest team we have had,'' said Jenerette, whose team lost four games on the last play in 2007. ``With the loss of Zeke and a lot of tough losses, I think this is a team ready to take the next step.''
This year's seniors were freshmen when Jenerette took over at Aynor, and he was forced to play many of them early in their careers, perhaps before many of them were ready for Friday nights. The coach and his pupils have grown together and that experience may pay off as they enter their fourth seasons.
``[Last year] was pretty tough, but we want to put it behind us and try to win some games,'' senior lineman Nick Lilly said. ``We've been in close games before, so now when we get in those situations, we'll know how to handle them.''
The loss of Chandler, a standout quarterback, and Johnson, a dominant lineman and the school's first Shrine Bowler, loom large on offense, where a total of six starters graduated. But expectations are high for a defense that returns eight starters and kept the Blue Jackets in most of their games.
``Our defense should be OK,'' Jenerette said. ``We've done good enough the last two years on defense to win games, but we've just had an inability to run the ball when it mattered, when we needed to run out the clock.''
The single wing became Aynor's offense of choice the last few seasons, but the Blue Jackets installed a triple-option scheme in the spring that the staff believes better fits its personnel.