Prep football: South Charleston looks good in trip to Columbus
Coming off a successful weekend trip to Ohio with his team, South Charleston football Coach Donnie Mays said the Black Eagles have grown significantly during the three-week out-of-season coaching period.
"Our kids looked very good. We had no idea we'd perform as well as we did," Mays said after SC went 6-1 at the Under Armour Ohio 7-on-7 tournament at Dublin Coffman High School in suburban Columbus on Saturday.
"Ohio's got a great reputation for high school football. We wanted to go out there, get our kids some exposure and see how we'd do," Mays said.
SC reached the semifinals of the tournament before poor weather kept it from completing its game against Kenton High. The winner would have moved on to the finals to face Zanesville.
"It was a great day for our kids," Mays said.
The success has been fairly common for SC during the three-week period. Much of that optimism emanating from the program can be attributed to rising sophomore quarterback Kentre Grier (6-foot-2, 185 pounds), who Mays said has grown another inch and put on 10-15 pounds of muscle since the end of the Black Eagles' 2012 season.
The team ended 2012 with a 6-4 record but out of the Class AAA playoff field.
"A lot of his improvement has been in the mental part of the game," Mays said. "Being able to compete in all the 7-on-7s we've gone to, he's gotten a lot of different looks at defenses and has learned a lot."
Grier completed 82-of-122 passes for 1,549 yards, 17 touchdowns and one interception in five starts last year. He entered the lineup in relief of starter Jon Alexander to start the second half of SC's 20-17, come-from-behind win against Capital in Week 5.
Grier never left the lineup and Alexander left SC to enroll at Hargrave Military Academy. Alexander has served as the quarterback at George Washington during the three-week period.
Mays estimated that Grier has thrown close to 700 passes in the first two weeks of the out-of-season period. SC wraps up its 7-on-7 tour Tuesday at Morgantown High School.
SC's top receivers - rising seniors Kevin Forrest (6-1, 180) and Marquel Hampton (5-10, 170) - also return from 2012. Forrest was a Class AAA All-State selection and caught 43 passes for 1,054 yards and 10 TDs as a junior. Hampton had 40 receptions for 602 yards and eight TDs.
Rising sophomore Fred Crozier (5-9, 160) has also emerged as a potential threat. Mays said Crozier has actually led SC in receiving during summer competitions.
Still, the experience supplied by Forrest and Hampton has proven critical to Grier's growth, the first-year coach said.
"When you have experienced receivers, they can meet with their quarterback on the sideline and discuss routes with better effect," Mays said. "Having two seniors there, they understand how to beat a particular defender."
South Charleston has not appeared in the playoffs since its eventually forfeited win against Brooke in the 2010 semifinals. The last time SC missed the playoffs in consecutive years was 2003-04, the final seasons of a 10-year playoff drought experienced by the program in seasons coached by Todd Chevalier (who went 14-36 in five seasons from 1996-2000) and Vernon Redman (15-37 from 2001-05).
Chevalier sought a return to his former post after Messinger's retirement, but SC Principal Mike Arbogast gave the Eagles' highly successful offensive coordinator the nod most expected he was due.
That belief stemmed not only from Messinger's tendency to highlight the work of his assistants to all who would listen but also from the fact that it was Mays' version of the zone-read option offense that helped paved the way for the Black Eagles' to win state championship seasons in 2008 and '09.
Chevalier's son, Tyler, was a junior offensive lineman at South Charleston in 2012. He now attends George Washington.
The departure of the rising senior underscores what already looked to be Mays' biggest chore in 2013: building a formidable offensive line to front SC's shotgun formation.
"We have eight or nine offensive linemen that we think can start and play," Mays said. "Biggest thing is we want to know who can be a center.
"Every kid takes snaps on a daily basis whether they're a tackle or a guard. That's where you have to build out from, is the center."
Mays, who served as SC's offensive line coach in 2006 and 2007 before assuming offensive coordinator duties late in the '07 season, said rising sophomore Andrew Bishop (6-2, 285) and senior Khance Johnson (6-1, 230) are two who have excelled during the offseason, at guard and tackle, respectively.
"We have some big kids who can move," Mays said. "I don't think we're as short-handed as we look."
South Charleston opens the regular season at George Washington on Thursday, Aug. 29.
Contact Preps Editor Derek Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5170. Follow him on Twitter @ItsreallyDT