Berkeley Stags football coach Jeff Cruce can’t wait for the 2014 football season to start.
Three weeks from Friday, the Stags open the 2014 season against Class AA opponent Johnsonville at home, on Friday, Aug. 22.
Cruce doesn’t expect his team’s schedule to be a cakewalk. In fact, he expects a battle, especially in Region 8AAA, and he can’t wait.
“We’re looking forward to mixing it up with teams this year,” he said. “We expect to be very competitive this fall.”
The Stags’ spring and summer had been very productive, according to Cruce, with his team advancing to the championship games in the passing league camps at both Fort Dorchester and Irmo.
“Berkeley has never advanced to a passing league championship game before so we’re excited about being able to do that,” Cruce said. “We know the success of a season isn’t determined by how well you do in passing leagues, but we take it for what it is, a very positive sign.”
The Region 8AAA crown is up for the taking and Cruce said his team has to be ready for a dogfight: “Hanahan is said to be down a little bit this year, but they are always tough and should never be counted out. They will be in the thick of the region race again this year.”
Cruce said there is no team in the region that can match Orangeburg-Wilkinson’s athleticism. “They have some of the best athletes I’ve ever seen and step for step I don’t think anybody can run with them,” he said. “But they’re a little reckless and they are beatable. They will be tough, though.”
Beaufort is new to Region 8AAA, dropping from Class AAAA in 2014.
“Berkeley has always seemed to have a tough time whenever playing Beaufort,” Cruce said. “They’re tough and are looking forward to playing in the region this year.”
The Eagles finished the 2013 season with a 9-4 record, losing to North Augusta in the playoffs.
Hilton Head and Stall round out the Region 8AAA schedule and should be competitive but Cruce sees the region race to be a four-team dogfight between the Stags, Orangeburg-Wilkinson, Beaufort and Hanahan.
“I don’t think anybody runs away with the region this year,” Cruce said, “And we expect to be in the thick of it come November.”
The remainder of Berkeley’s pre-region schedule after Johnsonville includes Stratford, Summerville, Cane Bay and Timberland.
“We’ve got a tough schedule top to bottom and we’ll have to be ready and prepared,” Cruce said.