CLOVER — With the 2013 high school football season less than a month away, first-year Clover High School head football Chad Smith is serious about shoring up the Blue Eagle defense.
Many successful football coaches on the high school and college level maintain that defense wins championships. When Clover won its first state championship in football, former Blue Eagle head coach Jet Turner said the Clover defense set the tone for the team’s record-breaking season.
The focus on defense became evident when Smith hired five new coaches on the defensive side of the ball — four with defensive coordinator backgrounds and a head coach among them.
• Chris Bunting, who was head football coach at St. Stephens High School in Hickory, N. C., will serve as defensive coordinator in Blue Eagle Country.
• Keyma Clark, a defensive coordinator at Durham, N. C.’s Hillside High School, will coach the defensive backs for the Blue Eagles.
• Wilbur Pender, defensive coordinator at Northern Vance in Henderson, N. C. last season, will coach the inside linebackers for Clover.
• Julian Todd, a defensive coordinator for Enka High School in Asheville, N. C. last year, will coach the outside linebackers for the Blue Eagles.
• Jimmy Sutton came with Smith from Easley High School, where he coached outside linebackers. A previous defensive coordinator, Sutton will coach tight ends and wings for the Blue Eagles.
“I wanted to revamp the defense,” Smith said Monday afternoon. “We have offensive coaches in place.”
Smith said coaching philosophy is to build a team around defense, special teams and a power running game. The CHS coach has been pleased with offseason preparations.
“We had a great two weeks at football camp,” he said. “The first week of camp was spent at Presbyterian College and the second week at home.”
In South Carolina, high school football programs get 10 competition days to use in the summer, days that they can scrimmage other teams. Smith aggressively scheduled over the summer to try and help the Blue Eagles bounce back from a winless 2012 campaign.
All but the heaviest Blue Eagles have racked up activity bus miles this summer, taking in 7-on-7 camps and tournaments at Smith’s alma mater and at Concord University (W. Va.), Presbyterian College, Lenoir-Rhyne College, Duke, Wake Forest, Shelby High School and Chester.
While Smith is making efforts to upgrade the performance on the defensive side, another priority has been to restore the ninth-grade program. With 63 freshmen signed up, he feels good about the numbers.
“I know we won’t have that many when the season begins,” Smith said. “If we can keep 35 or more to build the ninth-grade program, that would be good.”
While Smith is an advocate of the double wing, in-your-face offense, he wants the Blue Eagles to play under control.
“I learned my lesson about teams playing with too much emotion,” he said. “I want the team to operate like a machine.”
With preseason practice rapidly approaching, Smith has been pleased with the Blue Eagles’ work ethic and commitment.
He has embraced the Blue Eagle program and has been welcomed to Blue Eagle Country with open arms.
Next week is a dead period for high school sports in South Carolina as mandated by the South Carolina high School League, with preparations limited to weight lifting and conditioning.
The Blue Eagles will open the preseason with a bang, bringing back “Midnight Madness,” a popular event during the Turner regime.
“We scheduled Midnight Madness my three years at Easley,” Smith said.
The Blue Eagle team will ring in the preseason Friday, Aug. 2 at 12:01 a.m., completing the initial practice at 1:30 a.m. A practice will be held later in the day from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
The first scrimmage will be 9 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 8 against Chapman.
A new era in Blue Eagle football will begin Aug. 23 when South Florence visits Memorial Stadium for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Forestview will make the short trek across the border to Memorial Stadium Aug. 30 for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Blue Eagles will travel to Columbia to battle Spring Valley in a Sept. 6 road game slated for a 7:30 p.m. start.
After hosting Boiling Springs Sept. 13, the CHS football team opens Region 3-AAAA play against Rock Hill in Bearcat Country. Kickoff time is set for 7:30 p.m. at Rock Hill’s District Three Stadium.