While it doesn’t replace the thrill of Friday nights in the fall, spring practice is set to begin for area football teams this week. With drills set to commence, there are a litany of questions waiting to be answered.
Here are a five of the biggest ones heading into high school football spring practice on the Grand Strand:
1. What will we see from new coaches?
There is new leadership at the helm of a third of the area’s football programs. While a pair of them went with longtime coaches who have proven their worth in the Tar Heel State, two others are taking lead roles for the first time.
In February, St. James tabbed former Wallace Rose-Hill (N.C.) football coach Joey Price as its new head man. A proven winner, his teams have coupled a record of 238-42 — a winning percentage of 86 percent.
Following one of its most successful seasons in school history, Green Sea Floyds also went across the border to find its new football coach.
Donnie Kiefer was named the Trojans’ new head man in late March.
For Kiefer, this is his 10th stop as a head football coach, each of the previous ones coming in North Carolina. Among active coaches in the state, he was ranked 10th with 224 wins.
After the departure of Blair Hardin for greener pastures at River Bluff High in Lexington, North Myrtle Beach handed the reins over to former assistant Matt Reel.
Fresh off his honeymoon in Europe, new Waccamaw coach Shane Fidler will take to the gridiron with his new team. Over the course of the past several seasons, he served as Colleton County’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
2. What does life after Peyton Derrick hold for Conway?
A four-year starter at Conway, quarterback Peyton Derrick rewrote the history books at the school.
Now at Appalachian State as an early enrollee, he departed as the record holder in four categories — passing yards, completions, touchdown passes and all-purpose yards.
But as is the case in life, all good things come to an end. The Tigers officially begin the post-Peyton Derrick era with the start of spring ball.
His replacement — likely Darren Grainger — will be blessed with a veteran offensive line and an assortment of weapons at skill positions.
3. Who will fill Myrtle Beach’s need at linebacker?
By and large, the 2016 season was one to remember for the Myrtle Beach football team.
But it will most be remembered for the final two games. A loss to Marlboro County ended the Seahawks’ pursuit of a perfect season, followed by an early playoff exit at the hand of A.C. Flora.
Another talented Myrtle Beach group begins spring ball on Monday, seeking to finish the business it started a season ago. Few teams locally are as blessed with the skill players it does, returning the entire starting backfield and one of last season’s top receivers.
There are questions on the defensive side, however, particularly at the linebacker spot where the Seahawks must find replacements for Keyonte Sessions, Chase Brill and Dlanor Tilton.
4. What new names will step up to fill voids at Carolina Forest?
Blessed with 18 seniors, last season started with high expectations for Carolina Forest.
A litany of injuries and bad luck put the Panthers on the road in the first round of the playoffs, resulting in a 45-35 loss.
If there is one thing for sure about Carolina Forest football coach Marc Morris, he stays true to a game plan based on power running and defense that limits big plays.
He’ll be doing it with younger pieces this year, however, a large share of which will be competing side-by-side for starting spots.
5. Who’s next to receive a college offer?
Lately, things have heated up on the recruiting front, with area players seeing their stock rise in the eyes of college scouts.
Conway is leading the way in that category, with linemen Raiqwon O’Neal and Gunner Britton getting the large share of looks. Freshman Tonka Hemingway also received his first offer.
North Myrtle Beach all-purpose man Tyler Gore also has received his share of attention, already with an offer from Georgia State in the bag and a host of college visits.
Expect for more to be in contact over the next few weeks and months.