There are pinches of the Palmetto and Peach states in South Aiken's offense this year. Dashes of college football styles have spiced up a team filled with team-first kids now willing to do whatever it takes to win.
That's part of the recipe for success so far. South Aiken (4-0) is a win away from matching the 2002 team for its best start in history. This start ties the 1983 team for the second-best in school history.
Preparation has been the key.
Coach Dan Pippin sought plenty of advice. There's dabs of old North Carolina State, South Carolina State, Vanderbilt and Wofford plays from the college level. Some concepts have followed the work of prep programs like Silver Bluff and Valdosta High.
"I picked a lot of brains, went to clinics and soaked up a lot," Pippin said. "I tried to talk to everybody I could to see how they did things in the run game and the way they would run the option."
Sophomore quarterback Calvin Fuller has been dynamic in the run game replacing Bobby Smith, who's lost for the season due to torn knee ligaments. All-Area Defenders Dekoda Watson and Ben Anderson have five and thee sacks, respectively.
"Then there's Rod West," Pippin said. "He's probably our team MVP at this point with Dekoda. He's helped in so many ways. He made one of the greatest interceptions I've seen early against Strom Thurmond."
Wade Arnold has been a different sort of factor this year. The senior, an All-Area and All-Region runner in years past, has accepted a new role after leading the team with 955 yards last year.
Arnold, still talented and durable, could still gobble up 100-yard nights. Yet he's the third-leading runner this year.
"I love watching film and seeing the defenses flock to Wade like ants at a picnic," Pippin said.
Arnold talked about his new role with Pippin this week.
"Wade said he'd rather win than get 200 yards," Pippin said. "Putting personal goals aside like that says a lot about his makeup. And a lot of our guys are like that. It's been pretty neat."
South Aiken travels to face defending Big 16 state champion Rock Hill on Friday. Rock Hill lost 17-13 to West Florence earlier this year. That's who South Aiken beat in the season opener this year.
MORE PERFECTION: Jefferson County coach J.B. Arnold is as shocked as anyone about his team's record 5-0 start.
"If you'd have told me we would have started 5-0 I would've said that's as crazy as two left shoes," Arnold said.
He said last year was the year he thought of a great start.
"We had more talent last year," Arnold said. "We've just got a gritty team that works hard, plays hard and perseveres a lot."
Arnold cites the impact of two new hires, Kyle Adkins and Corey Evans, on his staff this year. He also praises second-year defensive coordinator David Land.
"David Land is the best hire I've ever made," Arnold said. "He's made a difference. When he came around, things started turning around for this program."
Arnold is right about that perseverance part. The Warriors are still unbeaten despite 61 penalties through five games.
BOTTLED UP: Georgia commitment Ronnie Tyler hasn't had the ideal start. Most of it has to do with factors the future Bulldog wide receiver cannot control.
Wagener-Salley's standout ran for 1,103 yards on 103 carries (10.7 average) and 17 scores last year. But the blocking of an offense with nine new starters in the preseason ended his running days.
"We're real young up front and Ronnie was getting good yards but he was having to make one or two people miss to just get to the line," coach Steve DeRiggs said. "So we moved him to receiver."
Tyler has 12 catches for 238 yards and two scores. He still has 28 carries for 197 yards and even threw a 23-yard touchdown pass.
"He's been a great receiver," DeRiggs said. "The one team that didn't triple-team him, he had seven catches in the first half."
Teams have pooched kickoffs and punted out of bounds to stymie his returns. Those limits and just three returning defensive starters have led to an 0-4 start.
Tyler, who has three interceptions on defense, will be moved again where he can make more of an impact. DeRiggs will try him out as an option quarterback over the next few weeks. Tyler broke a 61-yard run when he lined up briefly at that position last week.
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.
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