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.