Rarely is the loss of a coach the biggest weakness on a team's scouting report.
But at Barnwell High School that is the case following the loss of longtime War Horse coach Mac Weir, who retired following the 1998 season.
Weir's retirement came after 20 years and Class AA state titles in 1988 and 1989. Weir consistently kept Barnwell at the top of Region 6-AA and made his team a threat each year in the state playoffs.
Dwayne Garrick, Weir's defensive coordinator for the past two seasons, takes over at a school where winning is not just expected, it's demanded.
"I've paid my dues," Garrick said. "I've been coaching for 13 years and I really learned a lot from coach Weir about work ethic and winning. It's definitely pressure, but no more than I put on myself. I want to be successful and I look forward to the challenge."
The War Horses had a typical Barnwell season in 1998, finishing 13-1, claiming the Region 6-AA title and climbing to the Class AA state semifinals before losing to Batesburg-Leesville.
Barnwell's on-the-field losses were felt just as severely. The War Horses return only three starters from last season's region championship team.
Quarterback Marcus Robinson and running back Andre Smith were lost to graduation. Robinson, now at Newberry College, threw for 1,133 yards and 13 touchdowns. Smith, who went to Benedict College, pounded his way for 1,131 rushing yards and 19 TDs in becoming a North-South All-Star selection.
Three big bodies up front also are gone in Tony Scearce, Kevin Rouse and Auesta Conner. Junior Daniel Creech, who started at free safety last season, will take over the quarterback duties and will have only wide receiver Ronnie Davis back as a returning starter on offense.
"We lost a ton," Garrick said. "Daniel Creech is a good one, and he'll have to bear a lot of the weight on his shoulder. We've got some pretty good kids but they've got a lot of pressure on them, too. Tradition plays a big part with us, and we definitely want to compete for a region championship again."