HAGERSTOWN—The South Hagerstown football team played the 2010 season in a tough neighborhood.
The Rebels resided behind the 8-ball and between a rock and a hard place to finish 4-6 in Toby Peer’s maiden voyage at South.
This year is much different, and yet the same in some ways, at South. The Rebels plan on moving on up while finally getting a piece of the pie.
“Last year, we didn’t get started until late. That put us behind the 8-ball,” Peer said. “But we had a great offseason and the kids worked really hard in the summer. This year, the kids know what to expect and they understand what we want to do on offense, defense and special teams.”
Since Peer wasn’t hired until spring of 2010, the Rebels didn’t have a conventional offseason before last year’s schedule. This year, South got into a routine, but now is starting over in a sense, because most of the Rebels’ skilled people have graduated.
“We are excited about the players we have, but they are going to have to work,” Peer said. “We are missing people, but I’m proud of the way the kids have worked to improve. Experience is great but I’d rather have players who can go out there and make good plays.”
Gone are quarterback Hunter Phillips, running back Nick Stubbs and receivers Jordan Nicewarner and Desmond Mead among others who helped South transform into a spread-offense team. New names will be dotting the starting lineup with the urgency of picking up where last year’s Rebels left off.
“Last year, we felt like we hit the ground running,” Peer said. “But we had a great summer. The kids are getting tired of practicing against each other and are ready to play someone.”
The success of South’s spread offense starts with the quarterback. Senior Brandon Hess moves behind center while Michael Hill and Ahmere Ware could also see time.
“Brandon has worked hard and he is big, has a strong arm and he runs well,” Peer said. “He has to replace (Phillips) but he has to do it in his own way. He isn’t the type of runner that Hunter was, but he will be a threat.”
Ware, sophomore Isiaha Smith and Andrew Wells will lead South’s large cast of running backs.
“We are excited about our running backs,” Peer said. “We are going to try rotate them to keep them fresh and wear the other teams down. Ware is a finesse back while Wells has Jerome Bettis’ style. Smith is a combination of both, but they can all get it done.”
South has a huge group of tight ends and receivers to present targets for Hess. Demetrious Edwards, Nick Griffin, Devon Redman and Keith Johnson will all work off the end of the line. C.J. Davis returns at receiver along with a rotation of Michael Hill, Teon Maeser, Willie Rivas, Jakerian Jones and Charles Herring.
Guards Aaron Rowland and Malik Barnwell and tackle Ben Phillips return on the offensive line, while Trevor Vincent and Daniel Stokes vie for the other tackle spot. Jordan Bucher and Marquil Holt are battling for the start at center or tackle.
“We have three returning starters on the line,” Peer said. “Anytime you have three or more returning, you got to like that. On the line, it’s kind of scary to try and find two new starters and have them move in.”
The defensive line will be anchored by tackles John Kitchen and Bucher, who didn’t miss a day in the weight room in the offseason. Holt will get a shot at nose guard while Rowland, Ricardo Deleon, Jordan Harmon and Andrew Wells will also get work on the line.
The linebacking corps will get a lot of work in South’s eight-man front defense. The inside group is led by Sarosh Bukhari and returnee Chris Collins, while Griffin, Andrew Vols, Zeke Johnson and Denzel Helms will get time.
On the outside, it will be Herring, Revis, Reggie Anderson, Edwards and Smith working to keep containment.
Davis is the most experienced cornerback in the secondary that includes Maeser, Ware, Jones and Hill.
“They all understand the system now,” Peer said. “We are stronger and more athletic and we have enough people to rotate in and stay fresh.”
Hess will take on the punting duties and could do some of the kicking chores, along with Jordan Dickens, who comes over from South’s soccer team.
A year of familiarity can become the U-Haul South needs to take the football program into a higher rent district.
“The bottom line is we have to focus to raise our football IQ to do what it takes to become bigger, faster and stronger,” Peer said. “We like the kids we have. They have worked hard to reach all our expectations, but they have some big holes to fill.”