Brad Meccariello crept slowly toward his gear, the normally quick-footed quarterback instead taking his time as he recovered from his latest football practice.
The Hilton Head Christian Academy senior, one of the more athletic Eagles athletes over the last several years, concluded his latest two-a-day with a grueling 100-yard dash. He managed to win the race -- barely -- but the opponent wasn't one you would normally expect.
"He can still move," Meccariello said in-between breaths.
Ryan Mitch didn't appear to have the same problem regaining his composure. The first-year head coach was more worried as to why he failed to beat his starting signal-caller, vowing to get the better of Meccariello the next time the two lined up.
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"What I try and tell them is that it is high school football, and it's supposed to be fun," Mitch said. "I want them to have fun no matter what."
It can often be difficult for a program such as Hilton Head Christian to keep playing for fun. The Eagles have mighty expectations to live up to, as they have captured four of the last seven SCISAA state championships, and figure to continue their workmanlike approach to a third consecutive ring in 2013.
"The goal is a state championship," Meccariello said. "But each season is a new season. You've got to put everything you had with past experiences, success and failures, behind you."
Meccariello will be charged with guiding the Eagles to Columbia this season, as he takes over the full-time duties at quarterback following the departure of two-year starter Caleb Lewis. Meccariello thrived in a slasher role for Hilton Head Christian last season, a year in which he compiled 987 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns at multiple positions, but will stay under center during his senior year.
He must fill the void left by Lewis, who threw for more than 3,500 yards and 48 scores over the last two seasons.
"I was in that leadership role last year just being someone who got the ball a lot," Meccariello said. "But it's fun taking control of things more as a quarterback rather than a receiver. You can't take control as much at a skill position as a quarterback. I look forward to that each day."
He won't go about replacing Lewis' numbers alone, though. Meccariello will be joined in the backfield by Ridgeland-Hardeeville transfer Deo'Vonte Doe, who rushed for 1,248 yards and 13 scores for the Jaguars in 2012. DeAngelo Clark, who served as the backup tailback to Tyler Chisholm last year, will move to the slasher role that Meccariello excelled in under former coach Tommy Lewis.
'It helps having kids like (Doe)," Mitch said. "But then you have DeAngelo, who got reps at running back last year and he's stepped up. I think he's as good, if not better, than anyone."
Mitch likes the way his offense has quickly picked up on the often complicated verbiage that comes with a new system. That's allowed the Eagles to focus ample time on the defense, where Meccariello will anchor the club from his safety spot.
The pieces are in place for another state title run. Now it's about making it happen in Mitch's first year as a head coach, a task he embraces with open arms.
"It's a program (where) there's expectations that come with it," Mitch said. "I told them on the first day, I don't want to be the coach to let it slide and they don't need to be the senior class that lets it slide.
"It's a pressure on them, it's a pressure on me. But it's a good kind of pressure."
Stadium: Eagles Field
Region: SCISAA Region 2-AA
Coach (years at school): Ryan Mitch (first year)
2012 results: 12-1, beat Thomas Heyward 29-22 in the Class 2-A state championship game
Key losses: LB/OL Clay Oliver, RB/DB Jamario Williams, QB Caleb Lewis, WR/DB J.D. Reichel, RB/DB Tyler Chisholm
Top returning starters: QB/DB Brad Meccariello, WR/DB DeAngelo Clark, DB/RB Nick Pirozzi, DB/WR Ryan Barrett, LB/OL Reese Dolyniuk
Key newcomers: RB Deo'Vonte Doe
Date Opponent W/L Score
Aug. 17 HAMMOND L 37-0
Aug. 30 BIBLE BAPTIST W 36-22
Sept. 7 at Dorchester Academy W 45-6
Sept. 14 at Northwood Academy W 53-37
Sept. 21 BETHESDA DAY SCHOOL W 45-24
Sept. 28 at Thomas Sumter W 31-14
Oct. 6 at Colleton Prep Academy W 20-6
Oct. 12 THOMAS HEYWARD W 20-13
Oct. 19 PALMETTO CHRISTIAN ACADEMY W 41-18
Oct. 26 at HILTON HEAD PREP W 38-7
Nov. 2 CALHOUN ACADEMY* W 42-13
Nov. 9 FLORENCE CHRISTIAN W 42-26
Nov. 17 THOMAS HEYWARD* W 29-22
HOME GAME in CAPS *Playoff game
Aug. 23 at Hammond School 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 6 at Bible Baptist 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 13 DORCHESTER 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 NORTHWOOD* 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 THOMAS SUMTER 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 COLLETON PREP 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Thomas Heyward* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Palmetto Christian* 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 31 HILTON HEAD PREP* 7 p.m.
HOME GAME in CAPS *Region opponent
Players to watch
Deo'Vonte Doe, RB
Doe rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 13 scores as a member of the Ridgeland-Hardeeville football team last season. Now in his senior year, he steps into a tailback position for Hilton Head Christian looking to replace Tyler Chisholm, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in 2012 despite missing valuable time toward the end of the year.
Brad Meccariello, DB
Meccariello registered 94 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble for a safety for the Eagles during last season's state championship run. He'll be asked to replicate those numbers this year as he anchors a defense that lost veterans such as linebacker Clay Oliver and defensive back J.D. Reichel.
Three keys to the season
2013 roster (in numerical order)
No. Name Height Weight Class
3 Chris Edwards 5-10 160 Jr.
4 Deo'Vonte Doe 5-7 185 Sr.
7 Nick Pirozzi 5-9 160 Sr.
11 C.T. Davis 6-1 162 Sr.
15 Brad Meccariello 5-11 195 Sr.
18 Alex Cooler 5-10 155 Sr.
19 Ryan Barrett 5-9 155 Jr.
22 DeAngelo Clark 5-11 170 Jr.
24 Rasheed Davis 5-11 135 Sr.
25 Sam Trimble 6-1 180 Sr.
52 Thomas Gloven 6-0 220 Sr.
55 Logan Toomer 5-11 170 Fr.
56 Craig Oliver 6-0 170 Fr.
57 Xavier Anderson 5-10 200 Jr.
59 Mike Dillon 6-4 220 Jr.
63 Holden Whitt 5-9 200 Fr.
64 Ben Warner 6-0 220 Jr.
66 Ty Robinson 5-10 200 Fr.
72 Mac Viljac 5-7 160 Soph.
79 Reese Dolyniuk 6-0 220 Sr.
87 Zach Whitton 5-8 135 Fr.
94 Jefferson Dail 5-10 206 Fr.
-- Cameron Wilder 6-0 210 Sr.