Chargers aiming for a return to glory
The Northwood Academy Chargers have been on a decline since last playing for a SCISA championship in 2009. However, second-year coach Phillip Keefe can see things turning around, beginning this fall. The Chargers, with 29 players, have one of the larger rosters in SCISA Class AA and bring back some proven offensive commodities.
“We do return a good crop of skill kids,” Keefe said.
Included in that group is three-year starter Will Lloyd at quarterback. Lloyd, a junior, threw for over 1,800 yards last fall and ran for over 400 more. In all, he accounted for 23 touchdowns.
He will have a pair of seniors behind him in Darrett Drayton and Chris Williams. Drayton hit the 700-yard mark in 2012 and Williams was just below that. Both have bulked up since.
“They had a great offseason as far as summer work,” Keefe said. “They’ve put on 10 to 15 pounds of muscle. They will be the workhorses. Darrett is the bigger of the two but they’ve both got some shiftiness about them.”
Junior Trey Stuckey and sophomore Trevor McNeil are also candidates for playing time at running back.
Northwood graduated its top receiver but bring back seniors Noah Hammond and Andrew Singer along with junior Douglas Dwight. Senior Micah Loudin is back out for football after a few years away and is the fastest player on the team, Keefe said.
“He’s a 4.6 guy and that’s pretty fast for SCISA,” Keefe said. “He reminds us of (former Northwood RB Uriah Singleton) when he gets the ball. He’s not far from Uriah gear.”
Dwight, Singer and Hammond all had over 20 receptions last year. Dwight had 521 yards receiving and seven touchdowns, while Singer had 418 yards and five scores.
Up front, junior guards Jonah King and Trennon Richardson are returning starters. Three other juniors are in the mix too with tackle Micah Deveaux, guard Hunter McLeod and center Dalton Kolodjiez. Sophomore Zack Ellison and freshman Christian Papa will also get time on the line.
The name of the game will be ironman football for most of Northwood’s offensive starters, and many will have hybrid roles when they turn around and play on defense.
The top tackler returning is linebacker Darrett Drayton. He made 55 stops in 2012.
Keefe said Richardson, King, Williams, Kolodziej and Deveaux are shaping up to be the inside techniques on the front. Kolodziej had 31 total tackles last season.
Sophomores Brandon Sessions and Bernard Brown are mentioned as contributors at defensive end, along with Deveaux and Williams.
Joining Drayton on the second level are McNeil, junior Josh Heffner and junior Jai McKinney.
In the secondary, Keefe said Dwight, Singer, Hammond, Stuckey, Heffner, Loudon and Lloyd are options. Hammond had 30 stops in 2012.
On special teams, Singer will handle kicking duties. Tyler Harrison and Lloyd are also specialists. Singer was 28 of 33 on extra points and tacked on three field goals, with a long of 32 yards.
Northwood opens the season at home against Pinewood Prep on Aug. 30 and will host Colleton Prep on Sept. 6. The Chargers play their home games at Gahagan Sports Complex in Summerville but are hoping to get into their new facility near Carnes Crossroads later in the season.
“Our football program started in 2004 and has never played an actual home game,” Keefe said. “I don’t think I could even put it into words what it would mean for us to get up there and play (by the end of the season). There is still a lot that has to happen for that to happen for us.”
While they were only 2-8 in the regular season in 2012, the Chargers nearly pulled out a playoff victory in the opening round against Thomas Sumter. A missed 26-yard field goal with under a minute left sealed Northwood’s fate.
But it also inspired the Chargers heading into the offseason, where they made steady progress. The Chargers got in a full spring practice and then were full speed ahead in the summer with 7 on 7 games and also put in time in the weight room.
“The kids have worked extremely hard,” Keefe said. “Getting back to those winning ways is something we’ve been talking about and the kids have made a pretty good effort… We’re leaps and bounds ahead of where we were.”