Practice ... let’s talk about it.
In a few weeks, it will be something rarely talked about. On Friday, however, practice is everything.
Either under the stadium lights or at the crack of dawn, the 2017 football season begins in earnest on Friday with the first days of practice.
Much like their peers in other parts of South Carolina, Grand Strand area teams have plans of being in Columbia playing for a state title this December. With the arrival of football practice, here is a breakdown from A to Z of the upcoming gridiron campaign.
A, Deakidd Anderson: One of the best names for an athlete on the Grand Strand, Deakidd Anderson will serve as a key cog in the Georgetown aerial attack.
B, Gunner Britton: Conway offensive lineman Gunner Britton — a two-time Toast of the Coast recipient — recently committed Western Kentucky.
C, CNB Kickoff Classic: The 28th edition of the CNB Kickoff Classic, will be held Aug. 11 at Conway High’s Craig E. Wall Stadium. The event will feature games between Loris and Socastee, Carolina Forest taking on Waccamaw, Green Sea Floyds going against St. James, Myrtle Beach and Aynor, as well as North Myrtle Beach taking on host Conway.
D, Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium: Football fans will get their first look at a renovated Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium this fall, part of a $5.4 million project funded by the City of Myrtle Beach. Upgrades include a new press box, locker rooms, restrooms and grand stand seating, along with a new FieldTurf playing surface and an all-weather rubberized track.
E, Edward Tucker: Socastee running back and defensive back Edward Tucker looks to have a bigger role on both sides of the football. Last season, he had 650 yards and six touchdowns on the ground, while also intercepting three passes and recovering a fumble.
F, Four: Yes, a team still gets four downs to move the chains. But this has more to do with the four new coaches hired during the offseason: Shane Fidler (Waccamaw), Donnie Kiefer (Green Sea Floyds), Joey Price (St. James) and Matt Reel (North Myrtle Beach).
G, Darren Grainger: Replacing a legend in Peyton Derrick, new Conway starting quarterback Darren Grainger hopes to keep a potent Tiger attack running at optimum level.
H, Hunter Illing: Socastee’s all-time leader in passing yards returns for a final season under center, quarterback Hunter Illing hopes to lead the Braves back to the postseason.
I, Interception: Though the area’s top two defensive backs in terms of interceptions are gone, there are several left locally that can cause problems for opposing quarterbacks. Among them are Carvers Bay’s John Frasier, along with Socastee’s Kenny Solomon and Eddie Tucker — each of which had three interceptions a season ago.
J, Chuck Jordan: Due to legal issues, Conway will take the field without longtime coach Chuck Jordan for an unknown amount of time. Head of the Tiger football program since 1983, his 275 wins rank eighth all-time among high school coaches in South Carolina. Jordan’s assistant of more than 20 years, Carlton Terry, is serving as interim coach in his stead.
K, Kwame Livingston: An All-Region 7-4A performer a season ago, Kwame Livingston had 80 tackles — 12 of which came for a loss. He also had nine sacks and a fumble recovery.
L, Lawson Cribb: Myrtle Beach senior quarterback Lawson Cribb was the area’s top passer a season ago, completing better than 62 percent of his passes for 2,717 yards and 22 touchdowns.
M, Mother Nature: Each of the past two seasons, Mother Nature has done her part to alter the football schedule. The real question is, what does she have in mind this year?
N, Nate Thompson: Longtime Carvers Bay head man Nate Thompson — a two-time state champion with the Bears and a coach in this year’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South Bowl — indicated this year could be his last year on the sideline.
O, Opportunity: For several area teams, the 2017 season offers them an opportunity to prove last season’s success was not a fluke. North Myrtle Beach and Conway seek to show last year’s breakthrough seasons were not mere happenstance, while Carvers Bay aims to prove it wasn’t simply punching above its weight class. Also, Green Sea Floyds looks for its second straight season with a playoff win.
P, D’Quarius Pressley: His contribution may not be the first you think of, but Carvers Bay defensive standout D’Quarius Pressley is the Bears’ top returning tackler. Last season, he had 64 total tackles and three sacks.
Q, Quinn Backus: The former Coastal Carolina football standout is a rookie again, Backus hanging up his helmet and cleats for a coach’s whistle. This season, the Greenwood native will serve as defensive backs coach for Mickey Wilson and the Myrtle Beach Seahawks.
R, Raiqwon O’Neal: A prospect who blossomed during the offseason, the Conway offensive lineman has more than 30 offers to his credit. O’Neal is expected to announce his college intentions on Aug. 16.
S, Semifinals: Three area teams advanced to the Lower State semifinal round a season ago — Conway doing so in Class 5A, North Myrtle Beach in Class 4A and Carvers Bay making a deep run in Class 2A.
T, Tyler Gore: As much a threat in the pass game as he is in shutting it down, the North Myrtle Beach wide receiver and defensive back recently committed to Georgia State to play football.
U, Unknown: The first year of the S.C. High School League’s five-classification system was met with rave reviews. However, with a new round on the horizon, many of the area’s teams wonder where they’ll be seated next week when the latest 135-ADM (annual daily membership) is released.
V, Kylis Vereen: On a defense that is replacing a number of its pieces, the loss of one of its top defensive backs in Kylis Vereen could prove to be most costly. Last season he had 40 total tackles and an interception.
W, Willie Brantley: His first name may be Willie on the Conway roster, but to everyone else the Tigers’ wide receiver is known as ‘Pooh.’ Brantley’s one-handed touchdown catch to propel his team to a playoff win last fall became a viral sensation.
X: The ‘X’ receiver in the Myrtle Beach High passing game is of particular importance. Blessed with another talented pair in Daron Finkley and Chunk Grissett that will share the role, it’s again wise to expect some fireworks from the Seahawks offense.
Y, Youth: Several area teams will enter the season with an abundance of youth, particularly Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach and Georgetown.
Z, Zach Jordan: Loris senior linebacker and defensive back Zach Jordan was among the Grand Strand’s top tacklers a season ago, taking down a total of 98 opposing ball carriers — 65 of which came on a solo basis. He also had three sacks and an interception.