Make fun of Aynor’s offense all you want.
Say it’s a gimmick. Say it puts too much physical wear on those lucky enough to be the centerpieces. And feel free to add it will never take the Blue Jackets to the top of Class AA football.
That’s exactly what Jody Jenerette wants you to think. Not too long ago, you probably weren’t thinking about Aynor football at all. Just a few years removed from football obscurity, the Blue Jackets are putting together a solid season behind their run-happy attack.
“I don’t think any kid in Horry County or South Carolina would have any problem carrying the ball 42 times in a game,” the 10-year Aynor coach said. “Real athletic kids didn’t want to play in this offense because we weren’t throwing the ball enough. But if I’m a high school running back, I’m going to love it.
“I think it’s attractive. As far as getting labeled and all that stuff, they understand what we are.”
The Blue Jackets (4-3 overall, 1-1 Region VIII-AA) will have one of their biggest games of the regular season on Friday when they head to Waccamaw, a team with the same record in and out of region. The winner moves one step closer to a playoff berth, and at Aynor, that’s saying something.
In 19 years of Class AA football between 1992-2010 (all teams in the division made the playoffs from 2011-2013), Aynor qualified for the postseason just six times.
Jenerette believes his current system will take it back.
The between-the-tackles, guard-pulling, wildcat-running, shotgun-operated scheme is a mixed bag of confusion. At the same time, it’s exactly what it looks like: power football.
“That’s what’s Aynor’s done, run the ball up the middle,” said senior Kamron Johnson, one of the team’s two workhorses. “He puts whoever can get a few yards for him back there. Our guards pull through the whole time. You just kind of follow the guards and our fullback. Wherever they take their guy that’s where I go.”
It’s not so much a cloud of dust as it is a rugby scrum.
Aynor’s offensive line goes at least seven-wide every snap, and it utilizes an eight-man formation about 80 percent of the time. That now includes center Andrew Lovell, guards Dalton Hubbard and Josh Hodge, tackles T.J. Fox and Wyatt Culler and three tight ends – Austin Windham, Aaron Cowing and Zach Jenerette.
None of them individually would be described as monstrous. Together, they form a 1,732-pound moving wall.
“Our fans, they tell coach to throw the ball,” running back Daquan Smith said. “We don’t need to throw the ball because we’ve got good men up front we trust and believe in.”
The line has pushed Smith and Johnson up the area’s rushing charts. Johnson, who led the Grand Strand for most of the first half of the year, has 721 yards. Smith, currently seventh locally, sits at 669 yards.
That’s with each of them missing two games, Johnson after coming down with mono and Smith with a shoulder injury he sustained in the second week of the year. When they’re in uniform, though, it stands to reason they’re going to get their chances.
In 2013, the most carries any area running back had in one game was 41, put up by Myrtle Beach’s Brandon Sinclair in a region game against Wilson. Smith reached that figure last week while rushing for 237 yards in a win over Marion.
Back in a Week 3 victory over Latta, Johnson blew past it, rushing 52 times for 235 yards.
Those two have carried the load, so to speak, although there are still more touches to go around. Jalin Dixon had 115 yards against Dillon two weeks ago and is a yard shy of 400 on the season. Zach Todd has rushed for 155. Eight others have at least one carry.
That’s possible because of the 66 or so plays Aynor executes each week, 62 are runs.
Jenerette contends some of the blocking schemes and calls are similar to the one he employed when he was an offensive line coach at Conway. He also drew on time spent with current Marion coach Leonard Johnson.
It came together to craft an offense that has the Blue Jackets - once afterthoughts even in their own region - believing they could earn regular spots in the postseason.
“I think you get tired of getting beat,” Jenerette said. “You’ve got to give your kids a chance. When we started running power, our kids ran with it.”