When Ross Smith became the head coach at Wagener-Salley, he wanted to employ a wide-open offense similar to the one used while he was an assistant at Calhoun County.
But after only a year on the job, he has decided to take a more conservative approach.
"Me being the only one with that system and looking at personnel at both the middle school (A.L. Corbett) and youth football, we're going with more of a ball-control offense,'' Smith said. "I knew we had a couple of running backs coming up and I knew we didn't have the receivers coming up. We want to try to control the ball a little more and take a little time off the clock.''
The War Eagles, who finished 2-8 last season, open the season Friday night at home against Gilbert.
Switching from the spread offense to the Wing-T is one of several changes instituted by Smith this season.
The War Eagles will feature a new defensive scheme, going to a split 4 from a 5-3.
Wagener-Salley will also have a new quarterback. Freshman Moses Williams replaces sophomore Dontrel Salley, who has been moved to running back.
"Moses seems to have a little better composure than Dontrel did at this point last season,'' Smith said. "He actually makes decisions, which is hard to do and something you can't teach.''
A major factor in moving Salley to running back was the loss of Brandon Isaac, who is academically ineligible. Isaac also played linebacker on defense.
"Dontrel catches the ball so well. Had we had Brandon back, Salley probably would have been at quarterback,'' Smith said. "We rely on (Salley) catching the ball and running the ball in the open field. He catches the ball so well.''
Joining Salley in the backfield is freshman Zach Morris.
Of the 27 players on the roster, 21 are either freshmen or sophomores.
The only senior is receiver/defensive lineman Douglas Furtick.
David Dixon, who would have been a senior, transferred to North Augusta.
Dixon, who played wide receiver and cornerback, and Isaac "easily made up 90 percent of out offense (last year),'' Smith said.
In addition to Salley, other returning starters on offense are sophomore linemen Garrett Wood and junior linemen Cody Rish and Sha'Quille Landy.
"Our offensive line is young, but we have three back,'' Smith said. "Mid to late year, I see them coming together and I think they'll be a strength for us.''
Rish, Landy, Salley and lineman Artis Seawright return on defense.
"It's hard to build when you're having to play ninth and 10th graders every year. I think this is another building year,'' Smith said. "If we keep the kids we have now, in a few years, I think we can be dangerous.''
Reach Larry Taylor at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Head coach: Ross Smith (second year, 2-8)
Classification: South Carolina High School League Region 4-A
2006 record: 2-8
Four-year record: 15-30
Last playoff appearance: 2005
Last region title: 1994
Last state title: None
Returning starters: 4 offense, 4 defense
Key players: Freshman QB/DB Moses Williams, sophomore RB/DB Dontrel Salley, freshman RB/DB Zach Morris, junior OL/LB Cody Rish, junior OL/LB Sha'Quille Landy, sophomore OL/DL Garrett Wood, junior DL Artis Seawright
Offensive attack: Wing-T Defensive attack: Split 4
Thin at: Depth, particularly defensive line
Big game: Season opener Friday against Gilbert, according to Smith. "One way or another, I think the first game is the most important,'' he said.
Different this year: The War Eagles have switched to the Wing-T from the spread offense and the split 4 from the 5-3 on defense. Smith must also find replacements for WR/DB David Dixon, who transferred to North Augusta, and RB/LB Brandon Isaac, who is academically ineligible.
Could go bad if: Suffer key injuries. There are only 27 players on the roster. "With so many players going both ways, you don't lose just one player, you lose two,'' Smith said.
Great year if: With 21 players on the roster either freshmen or sophomores, Smith said the season would be a success if "we stay healthy and get better every game.''