It was thought that Jody Jenerette’s absence would leave a glaring void at the annual Conway National Bank Kickoff Classic luncheon Wednesday afternoon.
Jenerette, who left his head coaching job at Aynor after 13 years in March and is now leading the West Florence football program, annually led the jocular tenor of the press conference that precedes the jamboree featuring the football teams from Horry County’s nine schools and Waccamaw High.
But his spirit lived on at the press conference, as his longtime assistant and new Aynor head coach Jason Allen carried on his tradition of ribbing his own team with a few jabs thrown the way of Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson.
Allen recalled telling his younger players what it will be like to play in the Kickoff Classic that begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
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“The best way I can describe it is kind of like the rednecks moving into a nice neighborhood for a night,” Allen joked. “They’ve got that turf, they’ve got those stands twice as big as ours, the lights are twice as big. They’ve got that jumbotron. Our goal is not to break anything, all right, because we can’t pay for nothin’.
“The closest thing we have to a jumbotron is a touchscreen at Subway.”
With the luncheon performance accomplished, Allen will now try to replicate the relative success Jenerette managed on the field at Aynor. The Blue Jackets finished last season with a 6-5 record and Class 3A playoff berth out of a tough region.
He and the other coaches in attendance shed light on a few of their team’s details as they prepare for Friday’s scrimmages – which have been pushed back 30 minutes due to heat concerns – and the upcoming season, which begins as early as next Thursday for some teams.
<bullet> Aynor: Allen said he has been calling plays for the past eight seasons so there should be offensive continuity this year, and he’ll have experienced senior running back Noah Seaver to rely on.
“They’ve bought into what we’re trying to teach, a mindset, a belief of dreaming big,” Allen said. “That’s what we teach every day. Having attention to detail, that’s something that’s very difficult for these kids that want to have instant gratification. They’re learning to be the master of the ordinary.”
<bullet> Carolina Forest: The Class 5A Panthers had a strong turnout of 151 players from grades 9-12 try out for the varsity and junior varsity teams this summer, and still have 126 players, with only a few missing a day of practice. “That doesn’t mean they’re very good, that just means we have a whole <FZ,1,0,20>bunch of them out there running around wanting to be a part of it,” coach Marc Morris said.
The team has a good amount of varsity experience returning and adds talented junior quarterback Mason Garcia from a junior varsity program that has lost just two games in the past three years – both to Sumter. “Hopefully we’ll start reaping the benefits of that at the varsity level,” Morris said.
<bullet> Conway: The Class 5A Tigers return just two starters on offense off a team that went 10-2 last season and reached the second round of the playoffs, and five on a defense that should be the strength of the team.
Coach Carlton Terry, who is entering his second season and first without an “interim” tag, said the team still hasn’t settled on a starting quarterback and is still unsettled some offensive line positions.
<bullet> Green Sea Floyds: The Class 1A Trojans went 6-6 and reached the second round of the playoffs last season. Coach Donnie Kiefer believes he returns a good and athletic nucleus that will be competitive if the Trojans can avoid injuries to key positions.
<bullet> Loris: The Class 3A Lions are looking to earn a playoff berth for the ninth consecutive year and return five starters each on offense and defense. Junior Cage Conner is expected to be the starting quarterback. “We’re excited about the development he’s made from last year as a special teams player, and still has a long way to go,” Loris coach Jamie Snider said.
Loris will feature wife receiver Jahrique Isaiah on offense and 6-2, 300-pound defensive tackle Javonte Turrentine on defense and will be talented but young. Snider expects to play some freshmen this season.
<bullet> Myrtle Beach: The Class 4A Seahawks return nine starters on defense and eight on offense, including junior quarterback Luke Doty, who recently committed to South Carolina. “That’s probably the most guys we’ve had returning, which doesn’t mean a whole lot. You still have to play the games,” coach Mickey Wilson said.
Doty will have experienced and talented senior wide receivers Da’Ron Finkley, Marcus Grissett and Wyatt Roache to propel the offense.
<bullet> North Myrtle Beach: The Chiefs are coming off an undefeated regular season and berth in the third round of the Class 4A playoffs. “We have a lot of expectations we haven’t had at our school in a long time and we’re trying to follow up on that,” coach Matt Reel said.
The Chiefs have to replace all of their linebackers and two cornerbacks and are young on the defensive line, but they have offensive weapons in experienced senior quarterback Cason McClendon, experienced wide receivers, a talented group of running backs and sophomore kicker Zane Smith, who Reel said is the No. 1 punter in the country in his sophomore class.
<bullet> Socastee: The Class 5A Braves lost 13 of just 27 players that comprised the 2017 team, though there are 40 players on this season’s roster including just three sophomores. “You try to hold your standards high and have your kids rise to those standards,” coach Doug Illing said. “Our numbers are up so it’s getting better.”
Socastee returns three starters on offense and five on defense, including three-year starting lineman C.J. Armstrong (5-11, 275). Senior Seth McKinney takes over the starting quarterback job and has talented sophomore receiver and defensive back J.J. Jones to assist.
<bullet> St. James: Tommy Norwood takes over the 5A Sharks after serving as Joey Price’s defensive coordinator last year. He has more than 30 years of head coaching experience in North Carolina and plans to make some changes to the offense and defense.
“We have to have a little respect for our football program,” Norwood said. “. . . Some of our opponents have probably already put a circle over our name with a W. My goal is to build a program we can be proud of. Our community wants to win.”
<bullet> Waccamaw: The 3A Warriors are enjoying a surge in interest in the program under second-year coach Shane Fidler, who said there were 110 players trying out for varsity and JV spots in the spring, and most of those have been retained for the season. “We have as many players as we’ve had,” Fidler said. “That’s a great sign and it means we have kids who are interested in football in Pawleys Island.”
Senior quarterback Brandon Stecz will have a group of talented receivers, though Fidler wants to consistently run the ball. Waccamaw’s new region features teams to the south and all 10 of its opponents this season made the 2017 playoffs.
CNB Kickoff Classic
Time: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Place: Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium
Matchups: Green Sea Floyds vs. Socastee, Loris vs. Conway, Aynor vs. Carolina Forest, Waccamaw vs. North Myrtle Beach, Myrtle Beach vs. St. James