YORK — Having been involved in offseason and preseason preparations aplenty, the York Comprehensive High School football team kicks off the 2013 season at home Friday against longtime rival Chester.
A large crowd is expected for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff at the 6,500-seat YCHS stadium.
The Cougars enter the game with momentum after Friday’s 36-27 conquest of highly-regarded Union County in the annual Bank of York Kickoff Scrimmage. Friday’s clash will be the second consecutive title-contending team the Cougars will have faced.
Union advanced to the state championship game last year, while the Cyclones of Chester made it to the third round of the playoffs after capturing the Region 4-AAA title.
YCHS head football coach Bobby Carroll has said that the Cougars will have to reach a state of Friday night readiness every week — starting with the rejuvenated Cyclones.
“We know Chester is a good football team,” Carroll said of Friday’s early-season showdown in the Cougar Den. “Our kids will be ready to go.”
The Cyclones, coached by Anthony Sterling, raised eyebrows across the state last season, going from worst to first in the region before making a strong run in the class AAA state playoffs.
With six starters returning on both sides of the ball, Chester is considered a bona fide state championship contender in the 3A ranks. Mindful of the Cyclones’ lofty expectations, Sterling prefers to focus on the game fundamentals, limiting mistakes and striving for steady improvement.
Chester, 8-5 last season, is led by Division 1 prospects, including linebacker Daryl Foster, a 6-1, 225-pounder.
DeKeavis Wilmore, who is 6-foot-4 and tips the scales at 350 pounds, anchors the offensive line.
Running back Lorenzo White, who had 1,085 rushing yards last season, will be counted on to shore up the ground game, while backup quarterback Quan Caldwell is the team’s leading receiver.
Fleet-footed quarterback Tommie Sanders, a two-year starter, makes the offense go.
Defensively, the Cyclones return four starters on the interior line, with two new linebackers to be counted on heavily.
The Cougars aren’t without weapons on both sides of the ball, including senior Shuler Littleton, a mainstay along the offensive front.
Littleton, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound lineman, shared his thoughts about the Cougars’ performance against Union, and the keys to success Friday against Chester.
“We had the good and the bad against Union,” he said. “We got the win and understand what we need to work on. It was a good challenge for us. Union is a good team.”
Littleton believes the Cougars’ offensive front has the size and experience to make a difference this season. “I think our offensive line can lead the way,” he said.
Littleton labels the Cyclones a strong team to open the season. “The key for us is to correct what went wrong against Union and to be ready to play against Chester Friday night,” he said. “Our offense will come around.”
Carroll said the Cougars will have some major mistakes to correct when the Cyclones enter Cougar Country Friday night. “Both teams were sloppy in the Bank of York Scrimmage,” he said. “There were four turnovers in the first half.”
Though disappointed in the turnovers, Carroll said there was no lack of effort and looks for the Cougars to benefit from the game experience. Carroll said the coaches are still evaluating personnel, including quarterbacks DeShaw Andrews and Jerome Pettiway.
Senior running back Ryan Moore, a 1,000-plus yard rusher the last two seasons, was held out of the Union scrimmage to protect a knee injury that is not considered to be serious.
“Ryan’s OK,” commented Carroll. “He’ll be ready to go this week.”
The Cougars opened the season last year at Chester, surviving a 14-6 defensive battle in Cyclone Country.
The visiting Cougars converted two first-quarter fumbles into touchdowns and held on down the stretch for the win.
After Friday’s clash with a Chester team seeking revenge from last year’s narrow loss to the YCHS team, the Cougars will have a rare open date the following week.
The next action for the Cougars will be Sept. 6 at Boiling Springs before returning home Sept. 13 to battle tradition-rich Gaffney in a marquee game that could fill the YCHS stadium to capacity.
The Gaffney clash will be the first of four consecutive home games, with Kennan, Rock Hill and Fort Mill to follow. Rock Hill and Fort Mill are region games. The Cougars close out Region 3-AAAA play and the regular season Nov. 8 against the Blue Eagles at Clover’s Memorial Stadium.