Jody Jenerette dreamed of turning Aynor into the type of football program it was in the late 1980s and early 1990s while he was donning pads for the Blue Jackets.
After 13 years of pushing the Blue Jackets back toward respectability as their head football coach, his role in that is over.
Jenerette informed the Aynor assistant coaches and players of his resignation Monday. He has not formally accepted another position yet, but said he expects to be on a sideline, likely as an assistant, somewhere this fall.
His departure from Aynor will end his status as the longest-tenured varsity football coach in Horry County.
“I think we’re definitely leaving it a better place than we found it. As a head coach, that’s what you want to do,” Jenerette said. “I’ve kind of had this feeling for a while. It’s time to roll on and see what’s next.”
Under his leadership, the program never quite reached the heights it did during his playing days. Aynor was 56-83 during his 13 seasons. That may not sound like much; however, the Blue Jackets had just three winning seasons between 1992-2004, the year prior to his arrival.
During his stint, Aynor reached the playoffs six times and won a game in the postseason three times.
Off the field, Jenerette’s self-deprecating wit and presentation worked well for the school and among his peers in the area. He frequently turned the annual CNB Kickoff luncheon into a roast of sorts.
As a coach, his offensive schemes were also highly respected and copied by others during coaching clinics - one as recently as last month.
After returning to Aynor, he realized he would likely always struggle with numbers and size. In lieu of that, he implemented what became known as the “Hammer” offense, a run-heavy, between-the-tackles style that created misdirection for opposing defenses. In turn, it limited possessions and gave the Blue Jackets a better chance at success.
“The first couple years, we were getting beat so bad,” he said. “I was like ‘What am I doing? Is this really what I wanted to do?’ Then we installed the single wing, double wing. People could enjoy watching the games. That was a proud moment for me. It saved our football program.”
The winning ways peaked in 2012 and 2013, when Aynor won a combined 15 games and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs both seasons. Prior to his arrival, the team had not won in the playoffs since 1991.
Aynor is expected to finalize the steps toward finding Jenerette’s replacement in the coming weeks. As of Monday morning, the job had not been posted with Horry County Schools. If and when it is, what Principal Michael McCracken and Athletics Director Doug Hinson will be charged with is finding someone who can take over for “one of the most respected coaches in the state,” as Hinson put it.
“That’s all they’ve got to go on. You take Joe Fan, he doesn’t know. All he knows is wins and losses,” Hinson said, referencing Jenerette’s record. “We play in one of the toughest regions in 3A football. All these fans, they can’t see that. They don’t see behind the scenes. They don’t see the character of the man. They don’t see the team-building. They don’t see the fundraising. That’s gonna hurt Aynor.
“I know what Aynor used to be. I don’t believe there’s any other coach who would have done with the program what Jody’s done with it.”
Jenerette said he would fulfill his current contract as a physical education teacher through the end of the school year, adding that he hopes he will have his next job lined up well in advance of that.
Eventually, he wants to be a head coach again; at this time, though, he said stepping back and seeking a job as an assistant is a better course for him. Jenerette had multiple interviews for the recent Conway opening that eventually went to Carlton Terry; he previously interviewed for Socastee’s opening in 2013 before withdrawing for family considerations, specifically the opportunity to coach his nephews, Zack and Caleb.
Those two were certainly part of a program overhaul that changed the face of Aynor football. The overall growth, though, goes much further.
Instead of mass player departures that had become somewhat common, the Blue Jackets found a niche that worked and promoted a long-term base. There are upwards of 175 current players in the recreational program - all learning the “Hammer” scheme - and the sub-varsity levels have had unprecedented success in recent years.
“We can at least line up with people now,” Jenerette said. “People are kind of scared of us. I don’t think anybody said ‘We can’t wait to go play Aynor.’”