Countdown to kickoff underway as practice begins

  • Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Coach Jeff Cruce watches quarterback Joseph Dress execute running drills.

Photos

The nine-month wait is finally over.

The start of the Berkeley Stags 2014 football season is just two weeks away.

Practice began for all varsity sports on Friday, Aug. 1, and from the football team to the band, the Stags didn’t waste any time before hitting the practice field bright and early.

For the Stags football team, the 2014 edition is the team Coach Jeff Cruce has always wanted.

“This is my team, my coaches,” he said. “There are no more leftovers from the previous coach. These are players that started their high school careers under our offense and what we want to do here.”

With 25 seniors on the 45-man roster, Cruce believes this is his best team yet.

“I know I’ve said this before, but I’m excited about what we can do here.”

Stags football fans are hungry for a return to football glory.

The Stags begin year five since their last trip to Columbia in 2009 under former coach Jerry Brown. Prior to Berkeley’s 2009 state title, Brown endured a 13-year drought since the Stags last state championship in 1996, which included playoff losses in the first and second rounds. Brown’s Stags struggled during the late 90s and in 2004 finished at .500 with a 6-6 mark.

The Stags won a pair of region championships during this 13-span between state titles, the first led by Uncle Rusty Williams and the second led by his nephew Bruce Ellington.

Since leaving Berkeley after the 2010 season, Brown went on to win the 2013 Class AA state championship at Batesburge-Leesville, and then resigning to take the head coaching job at Spring Valley.

For Cruce, the fall offers a chance for his program to take a big step forward. With a sub-.500 14-20 record over his first three years and not advancing beyond the second round in the playoffs, a good season would go a long way in pacifiying his critics.

Success appears ripe for the picking with the Region 8AAA title an open battle between the Stags, new region foe Beaufort, Orangeburg Wilkinson and Hanahan.

“It’ll be a battle between four teams as to who finishes where in the region,” Cruce said. “We want a home game in the playoffs.”

Berkeley kicks off its 2014 season on Aug. 22 against Johnsonvile, followed by Stratford, Summerville, Cane Bay and Timberland before the region schedule gets underway in October.

Like the day before baseball’s Opening Day, everybody’s record is 0-0, and everybody is also tied for first.

But then football pundits are quick to point out, no championship was ever won in August.

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