Under new coach Quintarus McCray, there is a new sense of optimism for the Greenville High School football team. At practice, the passes are crisp, the cuts are sharp, the drills are exact, and the enthusiasm is palpable for the Hornets who begin their season August 24 at Gentry.
But, perhaps, there is no greater exuberance than on the Greenville offensive line.
To a man, linemen Johnny Jenkins, Antoine Mitchell, Jaylin Jenkins, Donovan Shead and Tylan Sherdon believe that this is the year the Hornets quiet all the doubters and lay the foundation of a winning football program for years to come.
These linemen say coach McCray has demanded a toughness from them that they have not felt since they joined the team. While last year’s Hornets team (which won just one game) relied heavily on a wide-open, air-attack offense, this year’s offense will first and foremost look to establish a powerful rushing attack.
“I expect them to get us a 1,000 yard rusher this year,” Coach McCray said. “For us to be successful, it all starts in the trenches, and it all starts with them.”
Words like this are music to the ears of the offensive linemen.
“All summer we have been working hard, and we know for a fact that we are going to be physical upfront,” Shead said. “Our goal is to get four district wins and to make the playoffs.”
Said Johnny Jenkins, “There is a chemistry about this offensive line that is strong. We all believe in each other, and we all believe we can win.”
The main rusher these linemen will be blocking for this season is Aaron Coats who says he is definitely up to the challenge of running through the holes created by these linemen.
Coats, a senior, has been playing running back ever since he was in the fourth grade. He said he expects to have his best season yet. “Being a running back means that I have to be hard-nosed,” Coats said. “All my life, everything I have had to do has been hard.”
Last season, Coats rushed for just 283 yards as the Greenville Hornets’ top rusher; however, this number is deceiving since last year’s team relied mostly on a high-octane passing attack. Coats, in fact, averaged a eye-popping 7.6 yards per carry last season, revealing that when he gets an opportunity, he tends to make the most of it.
While the linemen say they are first looking to establish a strong running game, they also want to be pass rushing blockers as well. With quarterback Ty’Mitchell McCollough and wide receivers Rufino Griffin, Errick Simmons and Ervin Simmons, the Hornets look to be loaded at the skill position.
“We definitely want to be a complete team,” Shead said. “We want to be able to run it and throw it.”