After a dead week last week for finals and graduation, local high school football teams returned for summer workouts for the first time since spring workouts this week.
Here’s how the local schools spent the first week back in the weight room and on the practice field.
Fairmont lost two of its top offensive producers last season in Derrick and Malik Arnette, but head coach Kevin Inman doesn’t want that to be an excuse for the Golden Tornadoes in the fall.
“Great teams don’t have to rebuild. They reload,” Inman said. “That’s the mindset that we’re getting in to. Our sophomores and rising juniors are now going to step up into a leadership role.”
Duke commit Jordan Waters has been the center of attention for the team in recent months, and Inman wants the Tornadoes to use that spotlight as motivation to improve over the summer.
Younger receivers have an opportunity to increase their output while defenses focus on locking down Waters and rising senior Jayvon Morris.
“(Waters) has to understand that everyone’s going to be looking at him, so everyone’s going to move with him,” Inman said. “He’s a great kid and he works hard and we’re going to use him on defense as well, and he’s prepared himself for that. That’s the big thing for us this year, our skill guys playing with someone who’s more disciplined.”
The Pirates did not work out at the high school this week with several athletes going to camps at UNC and Duke, while a large contingent of the team went to camp at Clemson.
Purnell Swett will have a new-look offense when the Rams take the field in the fall, and head coach Jon Sherman expects that his players will use summer workouts as a chance to prove that they can be a part of it.
“We have lost a little bit on offense, about 14 starters,” Sherman said. “We’re going to need some guys to step up and make plays. On defense we lost about six, but other than that we have a good leader group. It’s about them continuing to do what we’ve been doing the past four years.”
That group of seniors includes Chandler Brayboy, who was the team’s leading receiver last season with 1,147 yards on 90 receptions and 11 touchdowns.
“Chandler’s a good senior leader, Paul Oxendine’s a good senior leader, Dylan Lowry’s a good senior leader,” Sherman said. “We’ve got a bunch of good kids coming back.”
The Rams will also have a void to fill at quarterback. Luke Oxendine graduated after tallying 2,207 yards and 20 touchdowns through the air last season.
The biggest impression that the Red Devils left with their second-year coach Lawrence Ches after the first week of summer workouts was the overall team strength that had improved in the offseason.
Leading that charge is the Red Springs strength coach Kevin Kaga.
“It has been business as usual for us with a lot of guys returning,” Ches said. “There hasn’t been a lot of reteaching, and that has allowed us to hit the ground running.
“I don’t see where we have changed much.”
Of the ones that have shown the most growth and improvements this offseason, Ches notes the offensive line and the team’s leading rusher Lee McLean.
“Lee McLean has turned into a man,” Ches said.
With a long summer ahead, the Mustangs have been holding lifting sessions in the weight room, with limited field work, in the first week of the summer.
Coach Clay Jernigan knows that workouts being forced to take place after teacher workday hours puts a constraint on his team.
“I hadn’t really stressed much this week because when you just got out of school, I know didn’t want to come back the next week. I will start stressing some two weeks from now,” Jernigan said. “The young ones are coming in hard and some of the older ones most of them know what is expected of them.”
Even though the team won’t get into the full swing of workouts for a few weeks, Jernigan has instilled in his players how their work in the voluntary sessions could pay off come fall.
“It’s their team and we can be as good as they want to be, or we could be as bad as they want to be,” he said. “It’s what you put in, there ain’t no short story about it. That’s one thing about this sport, what you put in is what you get out of it.”
The weight room will be the most important resource in St. Pauls’ quest to improve this summer, according to head coach Ernest King.
“We’re working on muscle memory and getting stronger,” King said. “I think that was the biggest problem with us a whole lot last year. The teams that beat us were a whole lot stronger and senior-heavy. Our biggest thing is we don’t want to get blown off the ball. We were a young team last year and you can see the difference.”
The summer workouts will also give rising sophomore Hunter Bryant a chance to sharpen his skills before he takes the field with the varsity squad for the first time as starting quarterback the fall. He replaces St. Pauls’ leading offensive producer in Noah Wheeler, who graduated after logging 1,079 yards through the air and 995 rushing yards as a senior.
“He threw the ball well and executed the offense (as a jayvee),” King said. “He’s a really good kid and he’s only going to be a sophomore, so his future is bright.”