No matter where Conway players went this summer, it seems they were confronted with the same question.
“What’s going on with (longtime Conway football coach Chuck) Jordan?”
And each time they were asked, the group would sing a similar song.
“I don’t have anything to say about that,” said senior offensive lineman Raiqwon O’Neal. “I don’t have any of the facts or details. … All I know is we are going to continue lifting and getting prepared for the season.”
Following an on-campus incident between him and a 17-year-old Conway student on May 26, Jordan was charged with third-degree assault and battery. He also was placed on administrative leave with pay by Horry County Schools.
One of those matters was settled recently, charges levied against the longtime coach being dropped by a Conway municipal attorney. However, it remains a question whether he will be cleared by the school district in time for the Tigers’ season opener Aug. 18 at Georgetown.
Until then, Carlton Terry — a more than 20-year assistant under Jordan — will serve as interim coach.
Sure, there remains a litany of questions awaiting reply from Jordan, Terry as well as members of the Conway football team. At least a large share of those now will center around what transpires on the gridiron.
The Tigers prepare for the 2017 football campaign with high hopes after they won eight games last season and advanced to the Lower State 5A semifinal round.
After four years under center, record-setting quarterback Peyton Derrick has moved on, now preparing for his freshman season at Appalachian State. Though breaking in a new starter in senior Darren Grainger, many experienced pieces return for one final run at “The Backyard.”
The guys have worked hard all summer. They’ve been showing up to workouts, to summer passing leagues, and they have competed. Barring injury, I’d say expectations are pretty high for us this year.
Conway interim football coach Carlton Terry
East Carolina commit Juwan Moody is a dynamic target out of the slot, with Willie “Pooh” Brantley flanked out wide. Moody had 31 catches a season ago for 623 yards and nine touchdowns, while Brantley caught 32 balls for 483 yards and three trips to pay dirt.
Senior wideout Rakim Bellamy’s role in the offense should also expand.
After spending the 2016 season on defense, Antonio Long is expected to receive the bulk of carries for Conway. Despite being a novice to his new role, the toughest challenge for him this fall may be deciding which hole to run through.
Offensive line is unquestionably the team’s deepest unit, blessed with a trio of players receiving attention from college scouts.
O’Neal may get the large share of attention, the recipient of more than 30 offers. But Western Kentucky commit Gunner Britton and Lucas Partin are no slouches themselves, playing a key role in Conway averaging 33 points per game and racking up 4,673 yards of total offense.
The unit lining up across from the Conway offensive line daily in practice is pretty good as well.
According to Terry, O’Neal could also see time on the Tigers’ defensive line, joining one of the team’s breakout stars from summer workouts in sophomore Tonka Hemingway. His work impressed those at Clemson, South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and Georgia State so much they offered him.
“The games is played and determined by how well you fare up front,” Terry said. “We expect a lot of our guys (on the offensive and defensive line). The best part is, despite the offers they have earned, they work and practice like they’ve earned nothing.”
Timmy Shelton is also projected to contribute this season for the Tigers along the defensive line. “He’s been a pleasant surprise for us, going from spring ball into summer workouts,” Terry said.
Conway is set at the linebacker position as well, possessing a pair of players with size and range in Jaylen Moody and Noah Freshley.
A season ago, Moody had a total of 87 tackles, 11 of which came for a loss. He also had four sacks and two interceptions. As for Freshley, he had 50 total tackles last year, a sack and two fumble recoveries also to his credit.
A veteran in the secondary, safety Keith Autry Benton is back for his senior season with the Tigers. He’ll be joined back there by Long and Bellamy — both expected to play double duty — as well as Tysheem Best.
Interim coach: Carlton Terry
2016 record: 8-5, 4-1 in Region VI-5A play (lost to Fort Dorchester in Lower State 5A semifinal round)
Key players: Gunner Britton (Sr., OL), Raiqwon O'Neal (Sr., OL), Jaylen Moody (Sr., LB), Antonio Long (Sr., ATH), Juwan Moody (Sr., WR), Darren Grainger (Sr., QB)
The word: On the field, the Tigers begin a brave new world in 2017, completing the transition from veteran quarterback Peyton Derrick to athletic senior Darren Grainger. While certainly a tough pill to swallow, Conway's overall cupboard remains full, blessing the program with its most talent since the early 2000s. Protecting Grainger will be a pair of the state's top offensive linemen in Gunner Britton and Raiqwon O' Neal, allowing him time to find dynamic skill players the like of Juwan Moody and Pooh Brantley. Veteran leadership on the defensive side of the ball will also make the Tigers tough to beat in 2017. Off the gridiron, questions continue to swirl about their coach's future. Despite third-degree assault and battery charges levied against him being dismissed, longtime football coach Chuck Jordan remains on administrative leave with pay stemming from an on-campus altercation with a 17-year-old Conway student.