CLOVER — Chad Smith has been upbeat about the state of the Clover High School football program since his arrival to Blue Eagle Country. And the spring scrimmage at storied Memorial Stadium was more of the same.
Enthusiastic Clover football followers occupying home side seats at the stadium. Running backs taking it to the house with crowd-pleasing overtones. A crackling defensive take-down drawing a roar from the crowd.
And yes, pass completions to sure-handed receivers amid a wing-T-friendly crowd.
A disciple of the Wing-T offense, Smith talked about how the ground-oriented, in-your-face scheme is perceived, depending on where the game is played.
“There are communities that do not accept the wing-T, even if the team is winning games,” he said after the May 21 scrimmage. “Clover fans like the wing-T.”
Smith, an energetic coach with a folksy demeanor remained upbeat after trolling the Memorial Stadium turf sidelines for the first time last week.
“The community, players and coaches are excited about Clover football,” said Smith. “We’re better than I thought we’d be at this stage, but not where we want to be as a program.”
The body language of the Blue Eagle players during the scrimmage was evidence of a team excited about what has taken place in a short period of time. And the sideline camaraderie was more intense and unified than the last two years.
Among the eager-beavers in the group was fourth-year varsity participant Scot Jackson, who is no stranger to Blue Eagle football. Jackson, a rising senior, is part of the excitement generated for the coming season.
“There’s so much excitement in the air it gives me the jitters,” Jackson said.
He said Blue Eagle fans can expect a different brand offensively this season.
“We will play smash-mouth football,” Jackson said. “We’re having fun and accomplishing a lot. The key to success in the coming season is to prepare and do what we’ve got to do.”
Two other rising Clover seniors, Ryan Fredell and Chase Galant, are equally excited.
“We have more players out this year,” said Fredell, a defensive lineman. “The defense is 10 times better this year.”
Galant, a wingback on offense and safety on the defensive side of the ball, feels good about Blue Eagle football. “The team is looking good,” he said.
Meanwhile, there’s no rest for the weary as offseason preparations continue.
With the number of incoming freshmen skyrocketing to 63, participation is on the rise. “We have almost as many freshmen as sophomores and juniors combined,” said Smith.
CHS football begins a new era when the Blue Eagles open the 2013 season at home Aug. 23 against South Florence. Next will be a home game against Forestview from yon side of the state line, followed by the first road game Sept. 6 at Spring Valley in Columbia.
All games in the coming season have 7:30 p.m. starting times.