CLOVER — With the 2013 high school football season less than a month away, first-year Clover High School head Chad Smith is serious about shoring up the Blue Eagles’ defense.
Many successful football coaches on the high school and college level maintain that defense wins championships. When Clover won its first state football title, former Blue Eagles head coach Jet Turner said the Clover defense set the tone for the team’s record-breaking season.
The focus on defense became evident when Smith hired five new coaches on the defensive side of the ball – four with defensive coordinator backgrounds and a head coach among them.
The coaches are:
• Chris Bunting, who was head football coach at St. Stephens High School in Hickory, N.C. He will serve as defensive coordinator in Blue Eagles Country.
• Keyma Clark, a defensive coordinator at Durham, N.C.’s Hillside High School, who will coach the defensive backs for the Blue Eagles.
• Wilbur Pender, defensive coordinator at Northern Vance in Henderson, N.C., last season, who will coach the inside linebackers for Clover.
• Julian Todd, a defensive coordinator for Enka High School in Asheville, N.C., last year, who will coach the outside linebackers for the Blue Eagles.
• Jimmy Sutton, who came with Smith from Easley High School, where he coached outside linebackers. A previous defensive coordinator, Sutton will coach tight ends and wings for the Blue Eagles.
“I wanted to revamp the defense,” Smith said Monday afternoon. “We have offensive coaches in place.”
Smith said his coaching philosophy is to build a team around defense, special teams and a power running game. He said he has been pleased with offseason preparations.
“We had a great two weeks at football camp,” he said. “The first week of camp was spent at Presbyterian College and the second week at home.”
In South Carolina, high school football programs get 10 competition days to use in the summer, days they can scrimmage other teams. Smith aggressively scheduled over the summer to try to help the Blue Eagles bounce back from a winless 2012 campaign.
All but the heaviest Blue Eagles have racked up activity bus miles this summer, taking in 7-on-7 camps and tournaments at Smith’s alma mater and at Concord University (W.Va.), Presbyterian College, Lenoir-Rhyne University, Duke, Wake Forest, Shelby High School and Chester.
While Smith is making efforts to upgrade the performance on the defensive side, another priority has been to restore the ninth-grade program. With 63 freshmen signed up, he feels good about the numbers.
“I know we won’t have that many when the season begins,” Smith said. “If we can keep 35 or more to build the ninth-grade program, that would be good.”
While Smith is an advocate of the double-wing, in-your-face offense, he said he wants the Blue Eagles to play under control. “I learned my lesson about teams playing with too much emotion,” he said. “I want the team to operate like a machine.”
Smith has embraced the Blue Eagles program and has been welcomed to Blue Eagle Country with open arms.
Next week is a dead period for high school sports in South Carolina, as mandated by the South Carolina high School League, with preparations limited to weight lifting and conditioning.
The Blue Eagles will open the preseason with a bang, bringing back “Midnight Madness,” a popular event during the Turner regime.
“We scheduled Midnight Madness my three years at Easley,” Smith said.
The Blue Eagles will ring in the preseason Aug. 2 at 12:01 a.m., completing the initial practice at 1:30 a.m. A practice also will be held later in the day 6:30-8 p.m.
The first scrimmage will be 9 a.m. Aug. 8 against Chapman.
A new era in Blue Eagles football will begin Aug. 23 when South Florence visits Memorial Stadium for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
Forestview will make the short trek across the border to Memorial Stadium on Aug. 30 for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
The Blue Eagles will travel to Columbia to battle Spring Valley in a Sept. 6 road game slated for 7:30 p.m.
After hosting Boiling Springs on Sept. 13, the CHS football team opens Region 3-AAAA play against Rock Hill in Bearcat Country.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Rock Hill’s District Three Stadium.