FAIRFIELD COUNTY — Last year, Fairfield Central High School steamrolled the competition in all but the Griffins’ first and last games of the season.
A nail-biting, double-overtime loss to Brookland-Cayce High School and a crushing 16-3 loss to Newberry High School in the state semifinals bookended Fairfield Central’s season, but in between, the Griffins were dominate and more of the same seems to be in order for this season.
“Every season expectations are high,” said Demetrius Davis, head football coach for Fairfield Central. “We try to be excited.”
However, Davis tempered the optimism.
“We’ve got a lot, a lot of work to do,” Davis said.
Fairfield Central’s football coach said much work has also already been done, and for the most part, players have worked hard in the off season.
“All in all, the guys we can really depend on were there and working,” Davis said.
This season, junior Stanley McManus resumes quarterbacking duties for the Griffins. Davis said McManus, as well as Antonio Jackson, have had solid summers.
“Actually both of them have had a great off season,” Davis said. “Antonio Jackson has really developed into someone who can push McManus.”
Davis said Jackson will instead be seeing action at corner back, instead of quarterback.
The Griffins coach said the offensive line, which will be anchored by senior center Demetrius Yarborough, figures to be a strength. Davis said junior Travius Williams should do an admirable job clearing running lanes and pancaking the opposition.
“We’re really, really excited about him,” Davis said.
A skilled offensive line bodes well for a stable of talented skill position players, which includes senior Josh Bell, junior Chad Sampson, junior Jerrell Suber-O’Neal and sophomore Tony Ruff, who Davis noted as a pleasant surprise.
“We’re expecting big years from Bell, Sampson and Suber-O’Neal,” Davis said.
Davis said the Griffins expect production from the team’s wide receivers.
“We have a group of receivers that had a good summer we think we can depend on,” Davis said. “We’re expecting them to really help us out.”
Davis is optimistic but concerned about the Griffins defensive identity.
“I’m a little worried for the defensive side,” Davis said.
He pointed out the defensive line will consist primarily of players who saw junior varsity action last season.
“We’re starting guys on the D-line who were J.V. last year,” Davis said.
However, Davis said he is a firm believer in Fairfield Central’s coaching staff and believes players, such as senior Cameron Roseberry, who Davis characterized as a high-energy player, and junior Darius Feaster will rise to the occasion.
“Our defensive staff — I’d put them up against an other defensive staff in the state,” Davis said. “It’s all about can we get them to the point where they’re ready.”
Davis said returning starting linebacker and senior Maurice Pauling should be a dependable stopper for the defense.
Junior Jeff Russell and Daryl Camack instill confidence as well.
“Both of our Spurs are returning safeties,” Davis said.
Fairfield Central’s coach said the secondary should be a strong point with standouts Sampson, Jackson, Bell, junior Rodrick Woodard and junior Kimoni Harris forming a talented defensive backfield.
Davis said this season’s regional match ups figure to be interesting with a glut of coaching changes, including new head coaches at Eau Claire High School, Columbia High School, Pelion High School and W.J. Keenan High School.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what those guys bring to the region,” Davis said.
Despite an abundance of turnover elsewhere, the Griffins mission remains the same.
“It’s just state champions,” Davis said. “That’s kind of the motto every year. That’s the one game a year we play for.”
The Griffins begin their season Aug. 21 at home against Brookland-Cayce High School at 7:30 p.m., and Davis said his team would like to reverse the outcome of its lone regular season loss from last season.
“We’re excited,” Davis said. “We don’t really like to give a whole lot of teams an opportunity to say they beat us, but they can say it.”