AIKEN — Football at Aiken High School has long held a tradition of success. But the worst losing stretch since the 1970s has haunted the program long enough that the current generation of Hornets has yet to experience that winning tradition.
“Ever since I’ve been in high school we haven’t had a winning record here,” senior lineman Robert Davis said. “We’re going to change that this year.”
Last year’s 4-7 record marked the Hornets’ third consecutive losing season – Aiken’s longest such streak since 1973-75.
Head coach Carey Johnson, in his 18th season, said he’s not worried about his players losing that winning edge.
“Kids can’t see past yesterday. They’re just out here with a new year and a great attitude and working hard,” he said. “That’s all we can ask. … We’re pleased with the young men we have out. They’ve worked hard and have given a good effort.”
A new cycle of region realignment didn’t change much for the Hornets, who will again play in Region 5-AAAA with Aiken County rivals North Augusta and South Aiken. Johnson rattled off six backs who could contribute to the Aiken offense this season with a new quarterback, junior William Heggs, still learning the Wing-T offense.
The defensive side of the ball could be a strength for Aiken with a mixture of new talent and a few returning starters. Johnson said some early success in preseason scrimmages has shown him that this year’s squad has the necessary leaders.
“I know we’ve got some guys who will compete, and that’s one of the things we want to see – to go out and compete,” he said. “That’s the one thing we talk about daily. Go out and compete. Once you compete, everything else will take care of itself.”
The Hornets will open the season tonight at Silver Bluff in a rivalry game that saw Aiken lose by a point a year ago. Of the team’s seven losses, four came by no more than a touchdown.
Davis said last year’s experience will help fuel this year’s seniors when the score is close in the fourth quarter again.
“We’re definitely experienced. We’ve just got to get that mental toughness,” he said. “I know for a fact that we’re going to be good, we’re going to stick with it and we’re going to be consistent.”
Aiken will play at home just once in its first four games but will wrap up the season with five home games over the final seven regular season contests.