Monday, June 2, 2014
The countdown to the 2014 football season has officially begun.
Berkeley vs. Stratford is on the clock and for the next three months the Stags will work hard in preparation for the Aug. 29 tilt with the 2013 Lower State Champs.
In 2013 Jacob Park threw for three touchdown passes, but was picked five times in the Knights’ 29-10 win over Berkeley. Both Park and longtime SHS coach Ray Stackley are gone, Park to play for the University of Georgia this fall and Stackley retiring at the conclusion of the 2013-2014 school year.
As the countdown begins unti the season opener with the Knights, the Stags’ coaching staff got its first look at the 2014 edition of Berkeley football in the annual spring game on Thursday, May 22.
Spring games are, for better or worse, the first chance a coaching staff gets to evaluate talent for the coming season.
They are a first look under actual game circumstances, and, like an early rehearsal for a play or musical concert, they are full of mistakes.
Coach Jeff Cruce said while his expectations were realistic, he was pleased with what he saw on the field.
“I thought it was a typical spring game and I thought the effort was good,” Cruce said. “This was the first time the kids have done it without the coaches on the field.
“There were lots of mistakes, but that’s expected this early in the game.”
Rising senior quarterback Joseph Dress directed the Stags offense, sharing snaps with rising sophomore Darius Douglas.
“I thought Joseph did a great job of running the offense,” Cruce said. “As did our JV quarterback Darius Douglas. With Joseph being a running quarterback, he will take his share of hits so we need someone in the backup position ready to come off the bench at any time.
“Darius is capable of handling these duties as a sophomore. He’s our future under center.”
Lining up behind Dress will be returning tailback Jamal Bowman, who made the switch from number 11 to number 3, a number that carries a great tradition and heritage over the last 20 years for the Stags.
“Jamal chose number 3 and undestands the legacy associated with this number,” Cruce said. “I admire Jamal’s drive and desire to associate himself with some of Berkeley’s great running backs.
“He has the talent to fill that jersey.”
Other running backs that will get their hands on the ball in addition to Bowman are Miles Austin, Keron Reed, Jordan Brown and Dionte Simmons.
“We have four good running backs in these guys,” Cruce said. “We know we have some playmakers and we just have to be smart in how we use them.”
Offensive lineman Alex Taylor has generated a tremendous amount of attention over the offseason. Taylor, who played in just four games as a junior continues to be a work in progress but has exhibited a tremendous amount of growth and potential, as seen by his performance during basketball season over the winter and this spring in track.
“By the end of the basketball season, Alex was one of our leading scorers, leading rebounders and leaders in blocked shots,” Cruce said. “His quickness and agility is still improving and he’s not finished growing yet.”
Taylor has caught the eye of South Carolina recruiters who are prepared to offer the 6’9” lineman a scholarship based solely on his size and potential.
“They were ready to offer him based entirely on what they saw him do in the weight room,” Cruce said.
Another key component in the trenches is Georgia transfer Trey Covin. “Trey will play on both sides of the ball. He’s going to be very good.”
Cruce said because of roster size a few of his players could be seeing action on both sides of the ball this fall.
“We have a lot of potential out there,” Cruce said. “And while I don’t like to do this, three or four of our kids will probably play both ways. We have to get in shape in the weight room to be able to handle the strain of being on the field for the majority of the game.”
With seven players missing out on spring practice due to an assortment of reasons, several younger players were able to see a significant amount of action on the field.
“Our roster may not be great in number but the players we have will be in shape and prepared to work hard,” Cruce said.