DILLON, S.C. — At times on Thursday, it seemed like there wasn’t much that would be able to stop the Fairmont football team.
That is until a thunderstorm rolled over Dillon High School just after 7 p.m., forcing the 7-on-7 scrimmage to be halted prematurely.
For coach Randy Ragland, the hour he was able to watch his team play was enough to see its improvement through the early part of the summer.
“I like the way we’re competing,” he said. “We’re going to be a young football team this year and that’s what I’m looking to see from these young guys. That they’ll get out there and compete against some of these older teams that we’re playing, so it’s exciting to see that.”
Fairmont took to the field against Latta, Manning and Darlington high schools, and other than a slow start against Manning, the team was able to score at will on offense, and the defense held most of their opponents offenses to minimal success.
“Our main goal is just to go against good competition,” Ragland said “That’s what we get out here for, is to see these good teams that we’re going against. Coming down here to Dillon it helps us tremendously to see better competition.”
The Golden Tornadoes’ revamped offense was led by its receivers as senior wide receiver Shyheim Hines and Shykeim Lambert caught several deep touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Julius Caulder, who fills the shoes of graduated county Heisman winner Jarrod Neal.
“We got better from the first one to this one,” Hines said. “We did a lot better.”
The sentiment was shared by his coach.
“Every time I like to see us improve,” Ragland said. “And I think we’ve done that since the first one. The first one we went to, we really weren’t that ready for. We weren’t expecting to go to it.”
Since then, the team has had two more chances in 7-on-7s, including Thursday afternoon’s competitions, as well as their team workouts to show the coaching staff its improvement.
“I like the fact that they’re showing up and they’re being committed this summer,” Ragland said. “They’re showing some accountability by doing that.”
That will prove to be important in the big picture. The team began implementing a new offensive system last season, and that paired with a young team means there is still plenty of work left.
“You know, we may cut back on some things we do,” Ragland said. “We may be better at things that we didn’t do last year and that’s what we’re trying to find out right now, what we’re going to be good at.
“We’re obviously ahead of the game because these guys have been in it for a year now.”
While the general view of the team is youth, there will be a veteran presence on the field for the Golden Tornadoes.
“Shyhein Hines, he’s going to be our guy this year on offense,” Ragland said. “And he’s got to step up and play some defense for us too. I’m expecting big things out of him.”
Ragland’s biggest expectations are coming from a group of guys who weren’t involved in Thursday night’s drills.
“The thing that’s probably going to separate us and make us a better football team is our offensive line,” he said. “We have three starters coming back on the offensive line.”