CLOVER — The foundation was laid last year for a resurgence of the Clover High School football program.
In his first year as head coach of the Blue Eagles, Chad Smith pumped new life into the football program with a get-it-done approach. This year, Smith is equipped with the bricks and mortar to rebuild the program piece by piece.
Smith spoke after Friday’s intra-squad scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. The second-year Clover High coach praised the Blue Eagles for their commitment during the offseason.
“We’ve had a fantastic spring, free of injuries,” said Smith, who took over a program that had been a punching bag before his arrival and built it into a force in the Upstate gridiron scene.
Smith said participation in the program is up, with as many as 130 varsity and junior-varstiy participants in the offseason.
“Our kids have been in the weight room for a year and a half,” Smith said. “That wasn’t the case this time last year.”
Last year, “We had numbers, but weren’t physically ready,” he said. “Our assistant coaches weren’t in place a year ago.
“Everything’s different now.”
Fans attending Friday’s spring game responded to the players’ big-play potential on both sides of the ball, and the players were enthusiastic and supportive along the sidelines.
With the departure of Scott Jackson, a three-year starter at quarterback, junior Noah Lindsay is ready to guide the Blue Eagles’ wing-T attack this season.
“I learned a lot from Scott as the backup quarterback last season,” said Lindsay, in his third year in the football program.
Lindsay said he is keenly aware of the quarterback’s responsibilities in the double-wing alignment. “I have to read the linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties,” he said. “It’s part of being the quarterback in this offense, and you have to learn to do it.”
The new varsity signal-caller said he feels good about the 2014 season. “We’re way ahead of where we were this time last year,” said Lindsay. “The transition has been smooth.”
If Smith is determined to instill a physical a mindset into the Blue Eagles, he needs look no further than the quarterback: Asked what he thought would be the key to success this season, Lindsay said, “We need to go out and bust people in the mouth; that should do it.”
Senior Barrett Courtwright is among four offensive-line starters returning for the Blue Eagles. Barrett, with Harrison Gibson, Charles McClure and Jacob Church, is expected to be a force up front.
“We know that the success of the double-wing starts up front,” said Courtwright, a 6-foot, 235-pounder. “We accept that responsibility.”
Courtwright said the offseason preparations, including spring workouts, have been more intense than past years. “Coach is pushing the tempo,” he said. “Everything’s building for Westside.”
The Blue Eagles begin the season Aug. 22 at Westside and stay on the road Aug. 29 across the border at Forestview before back-to-back home games with Westwood on Sept. 5 and White Knoll on Sept. 12.
The Clover football team hits the road Sept. 19 at Blythewood, followed by an open date Sept. 26.
Next will be a home game against Fort Mill on Oct. 3, followed by road games at Rock Hill on Oct. 10 and Northwestern on Oct. 17.
Home games will be held Oct. 24 against Gaffney and Oct. 31 against Nation Ford, followed by the regular-season finale Nov. 7 at York.
All varsity Blue Eagles games begin at 7:30 p.m.