Originally created 08/07/02

Optimism abounds on the first day



The offense was sluggish, the quarterbacks were throwing interceptions by the dozen and the running backs couldn't hold onto the football.

Despite the players' rustiness, North Augusta coach Joe Long was optimistic. Assistant coach Drew Hummel even skippedin exultation when the defense made a play against the offense.

The offense didn't look strong, but Tuesday - the first day South Carolina teams could practice in pads - it was impossible for the Yellow Jackets not to be elated.

"You work out with weights all summer, you do all your agility drills and you can't coach until Aug. 2," Long said after Tuesday's five-hour practice was complete. "But now, it's football time. This is the first day everybody had to look forward to. I've been real pleased."

That includes the offense, which will miss running back Reggie Merriweather's 2,476 yards, and 30 touchdowns last season, but has the potential to be a solid unit.

Frayne Abernathy returns as the Yellow Jacket quarterback, offensive tackle Bryant Pontoon is one of the top offensive lineman in the area, Andre Young will be the team's top receiver and Martise Quiller will attempt to replace Merriweather who graduated and is at Clemson.

"The offense this year will come around," said Young, who also might see time under center. "Martise is a good running back, and he should step up to where Reggie was. Plus, we'll have excellent (offensive line) blocking."

North Augusta also will have the benefit of playing two quality transfer students.

David Sanborne and Walter Utley, stars at Aquinas last season, took their first hits as Yellow Jackets on Tuesday. It was exactly what Long needed to see.

"They've looked real good in summer workouts," Long said. "But I wanted to see if they could take some contact. Both of them answered some questions today."

Even with strong showings from Utley - who rushed for 1,492 yards at Aquinas last season - and Sanborne, a tight end/linebacker, the duo aren't quite through learning about the differences between a Class A private school and a Class AAAA powerhouse.

"It's a lot more competition up here," Sanborne said. "They have a lot more guys that can hit a lot harder. They have guys up here who can hit as hard as me."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com



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