Originally created 08/24/02

Combs back into thick of it



MCCORMICK, S.C. - Charlie Combs left Williston-Elko after the 2000 season, and that was supposed to be it. Combs was supposed to be done with head coaching.

He had just married his wife, Jenna, and moved to Greenwood, S.C. He got the defensive coordinator job at McCormick - a 30-minute commute - and that was good enough for Combs.

He didn't need the pressure. He didn't need the power either.

But former Chiefs coach Michael Allen left for Gilbert after last season, and Combs - who had been a head coach for 26 years at four schools - was offered his job.

For Combs, the decision was easier than he expected. He didn't need head coaching, but there was little question the Chiefs needed him.

"I thought I was through with head coaching," said Combs, whose squad plays host to Buford at 6 tonight in both teams' season opener. "It was time consuming, and it was time to get into something else. But we didn't have a coach, and I like the kids here. I decided I wanted to be a head coach again."

In doing so, he's gained the confidence of the Chiefs, who are coming off a 5-6 record and a first-round playoff exit.

"He doesn't want anything but your best," senior fullback Jonta Sibert said. "But he believes in you. He believes everybody out here can be something special."

Apparently, he also believes in changing the offensive scheme.

Last year, the Chiefs ran the Wing-T, which gave Sibert - who gained more than 1,250 yards - an average of 20.5 carries per game.

This season, though, McCormick will run its offense out of the I-formation. That will balance the carries between Sibert and senior tailback Colby Johnson, and will give the duo more energy for defense.

"I think that move will work out real well," Sibert said. "I'll be the thunder, and he'll be the lightning."

To quarterback Jarvis Adams, the switch makes the Chiefs better. Less complication, Adams said, equals more points on the board.

"It's a very good thing," Adams said. "Last year, we used a wingback. That didn't work for us. We were like a college team. We just need to run the ball up the middle and run sweeps."

Making life easier for his players is Combs, who knows a joke here or a gesture there makes football fun for the Chiefs.

"When he cracks a joke, people smile and laugh," Adams said. "That really touches a player. He really wants to help us - and it's more than just on the football field."

"I think that move will work out real well. I'll be the thunder, and he'll be the lightning." - Fullback Jonta Sibert, on running the I-formation and splitting carries with tailback Colby Johnson

Buford (0-0) at McCormick (0-0) 6 p.m.

KEY PLAYERS: Buford-TB/FS Alvin Stewart (Sr., 5-9, 165); FB/LB Jared Steele (Sr., 5-6, 175); OT/DE Adam Plyler (Jr., 6-6, 220). McCormick-FB/LB Jonta Sibert (Sr., 5-11, 230); TB/LB Colby Johnson (Sr., 5-10, 150); QB Jarvis Adams (Jr., 5-10, 165).

KEY MATCHUP: McCormick's defensive line vs. Buford's offensive line. For Buford to have a chance of winning, it will have to slow down McCormick's defensive linemen. To further complicate matters for the Yellow Jackets, they lost their starting quarterback to an ankle sprain in a jamboree last week.

OUTLOOK: Sibert ran all over Buford last year, and he'll be the main player to stop. Buford is young - the team lost 20 of 22 starters from last season's squad - and it will have a tough time matching up with McCormick's strength and speed.

Prediction: McCormick 31, Buford 17

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