CLOVER — With preseason practice in full swing, Clover High football players are ready to compete against someone other than themselves.
The Blue Eagles will host the Chapman Panthers during a Thursday scrimmage at 9 a.m. on the practice field at CHS.
Blue Eagles head coach Chad Smith said he has been pleased with the response to preseason practices leading up to this week’s scrimmage.
“We’ve had a good turnout for preseason preparations,” Smith said of the early workouts. “Our varsity-JV numbers combined would be in the 65 to 70 range.”
Smith and the rest of the coaches will welcome a large number of freshmen to the program this fall. Smith said he believes the players reporting to practice this season represent a good mix.
“We have players coming back who competed in previous seasons,” he said. “We also have kids who have never played football.”
Smith said he has been impressed by the widespread community support of Blue Eagles football since he stepped on the Clover campus.
“The fan support in Clover is fantastic,” Smith said in response to the well-attended Midnight Madness extravaganza that started the preseason. “It was a successful kickoff to the practice season and the kids got to play in front of a crowd.”
With the Aug. 23 season opener in Memorial Stadium drawing near, the Blue Eagles aren’t without bulk at the point of attack. Keith Stefurak is a 6-4, 315-pound offensive lineman who can play guard or tackle.
The senior is positive when discussing Blue Eagles football. “I feel good about this year’s team and the future of the football program at CHS,” he said.
Stefurak said he will have none of this wait-till-next-year stuff: “We’re ready to play Blue Eagle football this season,” he said.
Stefurak said the players are excited about the presence of a new coach and a new mindset. “We’re working hard and having fun doing it,” he said. “We’re ready for anything.”
Roger Meek, a junior nose guard on the defensive unit, stands 6-foot-1 and tips the scales at 280 pounds and shares Stefurak’s sentiments on the re-emergence of Blue Eagles football.
“We have a new coach,” said Meek. “There’s more energy and enthusiasm than last year. I am loving it.”
“The players and coaches are working hard. We want to make a difference this year,” he said.
Though Smith said he is pleased with the team’s work ethic and commitment, he said he knows the Blue Eagles’ return to title-contender status won’t happen overnight.
“We still have a long way to go,” he said. “We’ll continue to work hard and get after it and let the chips fall. We want to put a quality team on the field.”
South Florence will provide the opposition in the Aug. 23 season-opener. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.