Stags look to take next step in spring practice

  • Friday, May 9, 2014

Dan Brown/Independent The Berkeley Stags tout a sizable offensive line in 2014.

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As the Berkeley baseball team continue their march to a possible state championship less than 100 feet away, the Stags’ football team assembled for the first time on the practice field to wipe off the dust and clear the rust of a long off season.

This year, in 2014, the Stags have something to prove.

“These guys have been under me their entire careers and they have grown up and matured on the field,” Head Coach Jeff Cruce said. “We’re looking to improve on last year and take that next step in the devleopment of our football program.”

Senior quarterback Joseph Dress returns as the starter to lead the Berkeley offense. Dress said his team looked good in its first days of practice.

“We are opening up our routes faster,” he said, “which makes our offense run faster. We’re hitting our routes.”

It has been a long offseason since a 35-0 loss to Myrtle Beach in the 2013 playoffs that capped a 5-6 overall record, including a 3-2 third place mark in Region 8AAA. Still, Cruce remains optimistic about his players returning in the fall.

“We’ve been working hard in the weightroom since December,” he said. “We’ve been in the classroom getting our plays down. Spring practice is a chance to evaluate what we’ve done over the last six months.”

The Stags have some names that are starting to garner attention around the state.

“We have a force on the offensive line in Alex Taylor,” Cruce said. “South Carolina came in and offered him a scholarship just based on his size. He has outstanding potential and has tremendously improved over the last two seasons.”

Standing head and shoulders above the rest of his teammates, Taylor has benefitted from time in the weightroom and playing three sports: football, basketball and track.

“He’s 6’9” and wears a size eighteen shoe,” Cruce said. “And he’s still growing.”

Taylor will help open running lanes for Dress and a backfield led by senior Jamal Bowman.

“We’re excited,” Cruce said. “We’ve been working hard. We’ve got size on our o-line.

We have a veteran presence in the backfield and wide receiver corps in Dionte Simmons, Jordan Brown, Keron Reed, D.J. Witherspoon and Deion Williams.”

Chris Mathis has been moved from the offensive line to the the defensive line. A new Stag, Trey Covin, transferred in from Georgia and Cruce sees big potential in the lineman.

“He’s got definite size and he likes to mix it up inside.”

The opening kickoff is still more than two months away but the Stags are already getting ready for Stratford.

“Spring is the time to find out where you are and to make the adjustments. Then we spend the summer building on what we’ve accomplished in the spring.”

The annual Blue and Gold game is Friday, May 23. The time of kickoff has yet to be announced.

“We’d like to do it during the school day so the kids can come out and watch the game, but that hasn’t been decided yet,” Cruce said.

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