Originally created 08/25/06

Pippin begins rebuilding at North Augusta



NORTH AUGUSTA - A change of scenery has not diminished Dan Pippin's intensity level.

Pippin, who took over at North Augusta High in the off-season after a successful stint at South Aiken, demonstrated that during a preseason practice drill.

The coach chewed out a Yellow Jackets lineman who was beaten on a play, his voice carrying all over the practice field adjacent to North Augusta's stadium.

A few plays later, with the lesson learned, Pippin praised his player.

"How about that?" Pippin bellowed. "We do what we're supposed to do and we gain yards."

Pippin took over for Joe Long, who resigned after nine seasons with the Yellow Jackets but stayed on as the school's athletic director. The current coach is quick to downplay the contrast between his style and that of the more laid-back Long.

"I don't know about that. I just know they're working hard and doing a good job,'' Pippin said. "The guys I brought in are a good mix of coaches, and the kids are really doing a good job.''

The Yellow Jackets have struggled in recent years - their last playoff appearance was in 2003 - and Long announced his retirement at the beginning of the 2005 season.

Enter Pippin, who took a South Aiken team that had one of the longest losing streaks in the state to back-to-back playoff appearances. North Augusta is long on football tradition, so turning the Yellow Jackets into championship contenders should be easy, right?

"I've heard the South Aiken comparison a lot, and you should be able to do this and win state championships,'' Pippin said. "I think that puts too much pressure on the kids. I think eventually I want to get back to where you have to play at North Augusta High School if you want to play for a state championship. It'll happen someday."

Pippin inherits a solid group of returning players, but most of the attention will be on who will take snaps from center. Returning starter Will Churm, a senior, is battling for the quarterback job with sophomore Kwame Cunningham.

"They both do good things," Pippin said. "I would think in a game you would see both of them."

One of the key hires for Pippin was Steve Hibbetts as offensive coordinator. The former Westside-Anderson coach was known for his passing attack, something Pippin experienced firsthand in South Aiken's 28-20 loss last season.

"That's why I brought him in. I liked what he did," Pippin said. "I think the kids see we can get the ball to a lot of different people."

Manny Riedel, an all-region performer last year, returns at running back. He gained more than 1,000 yards and scored eight touchdowns in 2005.

Jeremy West, one of Pippin's assistants at South Aiken, will be the defensive coordinator. He'll take over a unit that is anchored by defensive linemen D.J. Anderson and Jonathan Hamrick.

Pippin said he thinks North Augusta can fight for third place in the region behind front-runners Aiken and Irmo. Ultimately, though, he wants to restore North Augusta's powerful tradition.

"It's amazing the people who have played here, and the coaches who have been here," he said. "It's kind of a humbling thing. But we're going to try and improve on what they were doing and try to be as successful as we can."

Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or john.boyette@augustachronicle.com.