An ubertalented contingent of senior football players powered Berkeley High School back to prominence in their time there.
They won 32 games and three region crowns the last three years, and 13 players in that group have plans to play college football.
Now, the question becomes can the Stags stay relevant now that they’re gone.
Word on the street is they are more mortal than they’ve been in a while, something Stags coach Randy Robinson is not letting the 2019 version of BHS Football forget.
“I don’t know if they’re hearing that or not but I’m telling them that every day,” Robinson said. “Everybody is after us now. They hear it from me constantly. It’s like I told our JV kids: Two years in a row they dominated. Now they’ve got to prove it on Friday nights. There is plenty of motivation.”
The JV team lost just once in 2018 and 2017.
The Stags used spring practice in May to begin setting the foundation for the fall. The defensive unit stood out to Robinson, not difficult to comprehend considering the amount of skill that is walking out the door.
“I’ve got to admit we had a great spring defensively,” Robinson said. “The guys off JV that had to step in not only stepped in they looked great doing it. There are some spots we’re not missing a beat.”
It probably made a huge difference the defense wasn’t having to corral receivers DJ Chisolm and Dervon Pesnell, running back Keshawn Wicks and quarterback Eric Tuttle.
That skill group had a hand in 139 career touchdowns. Tuttle threw for over 4,800 yards and 51 scores. Chisolm caught 146 passes for almost 2,300 yards and 31 touchdowns. Pesnell grabbed 91 receptions for nearly 1,400 yards and 20 scores. Wicks finished 89 yards short of 4,000 career rushing yards and scored 37 touchdowns.
“When we went 1’s on 1’s and good versus good, our defense was really good,” Robinson said. “I think some of our guys on offense realized we’ve got a lot of work to do. We get can there obviously but we’ve got to work harder. We’ve got to have more urgency.”
The quarterback race is a three-man competition. It seems to be Willie Chisolm’s job to lose.
“If Chisolm settles down a little bit, he’s got all the tools to do it,” Robinson said. “He’s missing some throws right now. He just doesn’t have that confidence on the deep ball.”
Chisolm has similar mobility to former Stags quarterback Darius Douglas, who passed for 2,118 yards and 28 touchdowns while rushing for 760 yards and 13 scores as a senior in 2016.
Trey Minor and Keyaun Johnson are in the running at quarterback too. If they don’t win the quarterback job, they figure to land at receiver.
“We’ll wait and see which one pulls away from the pack this summer,” Robinson said.
June 7 on 7’s could help determine the winner at quarterback. The Stags will play in three at Cane Bay, one at University of Carolina and two at Coastal Carolina.
At running back, Wicks’ backup Kortez Heyward returns and would start if the Stags played tomorrow. But competition for the spot is heated.
“Everybody’s after his job,” Robinson said. “I’ve got about five guys trying to be the running back. He’s got some guys pushing him.”
Solomon Butler and Hakeem Meggett are next up at receiver.
“They’re guys now,” Robinson said. “They would have been our starters last year if we didn’t have the two we had.”
Eric Green, the centerfielder on the baseball team, is out and also has some wheels.
“He’s not DJ but he’s really fast,” Robinson said. “He gives us a getaway guy.”
Offensive linemen Hunter Powers, a three-year starter at center, and guard Deandre Ferguson are returners.
“The guys around have been hit or miss,” Robinson said. “There are times I look out there and say we’re figuring this out. Then there are those moments I’m glad we’ve got all summer to figure it out.”
On defense, three-year starter Jake Dunn is back at inside linebacker. He’s the cornerstone in the middle of the defense.
“He’s the glue,” Robinson said. “He’s smart. He knows what everybody is doing and gets everybody in the right place. He’s priceless.”
Outside linebacker Jaylen Ravenell was tough to run at in the spring and is another solid man on the second level.
Up front, Jaquez Cancer is a starter back at noseguard. He’s the big man on the line.
“We’ve had a couple of young guys around him step up and surprise us,” Robinson said.
In the secondary, Myles Walker is up from JV and has won a corner spot while Whalik Boyd is a corner with experience. Boyd missed a portion of last season with a leg injury.
Marcel Jackson is likely to land at safety but is a possibility at outside linebacker too. Chisolm could move into the safety spot if Minor or Johnson end up at quarterback.
“We’re faster this year than we were last year,” Robinson said. “Some of those guys who are returning starters brought those young guys along.”
Roy Brown is leading the pack for kicking and punting duties coming out of spring practice but a soccer player or two could factor into the special teams jobs.