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SC offense off to solid start

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At least offensively, South Charleston looked pretty decent in Monday's opening scrimmage against Woodrow Wilson.

However, first-year coach Donnie Mays isn't going to jump to any conclusions - or illusions - just yet.

"Offense is about rhythm,'' Mays said, "and we did a nice job keeping up our pace and keeping up our tempo and staying in that rhythm. The kids understand the pattern, and that's a credit to our assistant coaches.''

Kentre Grier, the Black Eagles' sophomore quarterback, was especially sharp, hitting 12 of 15 throws for 228 yards and three touchdowns without being intercepted.

"I think what's helping us offensively,'' Mays said, "is that when we're going down and distance, defensively we're getting three and outs. There were two consecutive drives when we got our offense right back on the field. During the 2008 [state championship] season, that was something we really talked about - making sure we get the ball back.

"But with respect to that, our offense was not acting like it was clicking on all cylinders. It's too early to say anything like that. We got a rhythm going last night.''

Most observers agree that SC should hit the ground running this season, at least when it has possession.

Besides Grier (who threw for 1,549 yards and 17 TDs while playing only about 51/2 games), the Black Eagles return their top running back (A.D. Cunningham, who missed 51/2 games with a shoulder injury), a second-team all-state receiver (Kevin Forrest, 43 catches, 1,054 yards, 10 TDs) and a pretty good No. 2 wideout (Marquel Hampton, 40 catches, 602 yards, eight TDs).

"I think we'll be OK offensively,'' Mays said. "I told our kids I was really proud of the effort they put out. We want to grade film and make sure that their effort matched the assignments. After grading film, there were a few breakdowns, but they're all correctable issues we can fix.

"I thought our receivers and our quarterback did a real nice job being on the same page with routes and checks in the passing game. And I thought - for the most part - our pass protection was decent, but we can get a lot better in that area. That's something to focus on for this week.

"As far as the running game goes, we didn't really run the ball a lot. We wanted to work on the passing game as much as we could. The times we did run the ball, we averaged around 6 yards a carry, which is not bad.''

Even with the success his team had the first time out in a controlled situation, Mays wants to make sure his players don't forget "the little things'' that can make a big difference.

"There's knowing your assignments,'' he said, "and the little things like running your feet on a block, blocking to the echo of the whistle, getting lower than the man across from you when you're blocking him, looking the ball into your hands - little technical things that are the major focus this week. We've hit a lot of those areas.''

SC's second and final preseason scrimmage comes Saturday during the Mountain State Athletic Conference Grid-o-rama at Laidley Field. The Black Eagles are set to square off with Cabell Midland at approximately 6:50 p.m. (see schedule, Page 2B).

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.


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