Max Ford was preparing for a little competition.
The heat kept the Whale Branch Early College High School football team inside much of the afternoon, but when the number dropped low enough, the Warriors were heading out. And the senior offensive lineman was scheduled to battle the best on the opposite side, sophomore Nyles Pinckney.
"He's a really tough opponent," said Ford, the Warriors' best offensive lineman and the defending Class 1-A heavyweight state wrestling champion. "Even last year, I had trouble with him. It was never the seniority thing, going to beat up on him. The kid has a lot of talent."
On this Whale Branch team, the younger crowd can't afford to pay their dues. There is no time.
After a 7-4 season, including the program's first playoff victory, many of the Warriors' leaders moved on. The underclassmen will be expected to contribute now, meaning guys with only a season on varsity -- like Pinckney -- will serve as mentors to some.
Pinckney's project is freshman lineman Caleb Hill, who is bigger and heavier than Pinckney but unpolished.
"If we can get Caleb right, I think the defensive line could be unstoppable," said Pinckney, who has offers from Clemson and North Carolina and interest from South Carolina, Georgia, Florida State and Southern California.
Ford, the Warriors' center, faces a similar challenge on the offensive line, with Hill and sophomore Elijah Green to his left. Ford coaches them on their footwork, knowing the correct count and ensuring no one gets behind them.
The process has been aided by Whale Branch coach Jerry Hatcher simplifying plays and blocking schemes.
He expects the basic playbook to also aid the transition of the Warriors' first-year starter at quarterback.
Junior Devonta Glover, nicknamed Rookie by his teammates, will start his first full season after backing up Brandon Morton as a sophomore. Hatcher installed some run plays for his more mobile passer and was impressed by news from South Carolina State's camp, where Glover was named top quarterback.
"We'll find out," Hatcher said.
The Warriors will look to replace a dynamic playmaker in departed senior Dee Delaney, now at The Citadel.
Hatcher does have a newcomer to be excited about, though not a guy in Delaney's mold.
Virginia native Ben Wallace moved the to the area before the season. His dad, a retired Marine Corps officer, is working with the school's JROTC program. And in the afternoons, he has served as Wallace's coach.
Wallace said he had not played football before this season, only soccer. But in practice, he has made kicks from 45 yards. He gives the Warriors something they haven't had much of during their short history -- a consistent leg for point-after attempts.
Whale Branch should work under the same looks it did Hatcher's first season. Pinckney said Hatcher has toyed with various defensive fronts during the preseason, but that the Warriors probably would stick with their base 4-4.
After a breakout freshman season, Pinckney said he has learned to use his hands better and to stay low. The sophomore is passing along that knowledge to his fellow linemen now.
"I have to make sure everybody has the right mindset of what we're trying to do here," he said.
Stadium: Warriors Field
Region: Region 5-A
Coach (years at school): Jerry Hatcher (second year, 7-4)
2012 results: 7-4, 3-2 Region 5-A, lost to Estill in second round of Class 1-A playoffs
Key losses: WR Dee Delaney, LB Trey Nelson, LB Tyrik Spicer, QB Brandon Morton
Top returning starters: DL Nyles Pinckney, RB Michael Dantzler, OL Max Ford
Key newcomers: DL Caleb Hill, K Ben Wallace
Date Opponent W/L Score
Aug. 17 at Bluffton L 50-0
Aug. 24 at Hilton Head High W 29-28
Aug. 31 BATTERY CREEK W 13-6
Sept. 14 at Denmark-Olar 27-6
Sept. 21 at Estill W 32-20
Oct. 5 at Bethune-Bowman W 53-6
Oct. 12 BRANCHVILLE W 50-0
Oct. 19 ST. JOHN'S W 36-12
Oct. 26 ALLENDALE-FAIRFAX L 14-7
Nov. 2 at Allendale-Fairfax W 32-22
Nov. 9 at Estill L 20-14
HOME GAMES in CAPS; *Playoff game
Note: All games at 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 23 BLUFFTON
Aug. 30 HILTON HEAD HIGH
Sept. 6 at Battery Creek
Sept. 13 at Wade Hampton
Sept. 20 DENMARK-OLAR*
Sept. 27 at Estill*
Oct. 11 BETHUNE-BOWMAN*
Oct. 18 at Branchville*
Oct. 25 at St. John's
Nov. 1 at Allendale-Fairfax*
HOME GAME in CAPS; *Region opponent
Players to watch
Devonta Glover, QB
Glover's first start, for injured senior Brandon Morton during the 2012 opener at Bluffton High School, the Bobcats offered a rude welcome. Light on his feet and with a strong arm, Glover enters his first full season as starter determined to show more poise. He just needs to identify his weapons.
Nyles Pinckney, DL
Hard to believe that in only his second year of varsity football, Pinckney is serving as a mentor. But he has picked up freshman lineman Caleb Hill -- bigger and heavier than Pinckney -- and tried to show him the ropes. Pinckney already has offers from Clemson and North Carolina and interest from many others. Fans will see him overpower smaller offensive linemen from his spot at tackle.
Three keys to the season
2013 roster (in numerical order)
No. Name Position Height Weight Class
1 Devonta Glover QB 6-2 195 Jr.
2 Nyles Pinckney DE/TE 6-2 275 Soph.
4 Chavone Simmons WR/DB 6-0 155 Sr.
5 Javon Gardner RB/DB 5-10 145 Sr.
9 Jamar Scott WR/DB 5-9 155 Soph.
10 Michael Dantzler RB/LB 5-10 170 Sr.
11 Amagee Stephens QB/LB 5-11 205 Soph.
14 Mark Hatcher QB/TE 6-1 190 Jr.
18 Ezekiel Carter >B/RB 5-9 175 Jr.
20 Jordan Wright WR/DB 5-7 135 Soph.
22 Keani Porter LB/RB 5-10 165 Soph.
24 Braxton Bowers RB/DB 5-8 145 Jr.
35 Ben Wallace K 5-11 165 Jr.
40 Stephon Eugene RB/LB 5-9 175 Soph.
42 Malik Brown RB 5-10 175 Soph.
45 Sonja Jones LB/RB 5-11 185 Fr.
50 Elijah Green LB/OL 6-0 195 Soph.
55 Sam Green OL/DL 5-9 245 Soph.
51 J'son Campbell OL/DL 5-9 240 Sr.
54 Eric Saunders OL/DL 5-8 170 Fr.
56 Nathan Guernsey OL/DL 5-11 180 Jr.
57 Shakor Hill OL/DL 5-11 200 Jr.
58 Alec Corn OL/DL 5-10 180 Jr.
60 David White OL/DL 5-10 185 Jr.
68 Maleek Bowers OL/DL 5-9 180 Soph.
71 Casser Middleton OL/DL 5-10 230 Sr.
73 Max Ford OL/DL 6-1 270 Sr.
76 Justin Pope OL/DL 6-1 220 Jr.
78 Caleb Hill OL/DL 6-3 290 Fr.
81 Treyvon Bryan OL/DL 6-2 235 Jr.
83 Braylon Harrison WR 6-0 160 Soph.
84 Marcus Bell TE/DE 6-1 195 Sr.
85 Camrin Miller WR/DB 6-2 170 Fr.