There are those inevitable days when Rodney Summers asks himself why he agreed to take on the job of building another football program from scratch.
He was just reaping the fruits of establishing Westwood, winning 20 games over the past two seasons and establishing title-contending status in the reconfigured Class 4A. Now he’s trying to repeat – or even improve – the process at newly minted May River.
“Some days you do think, ‘Why did I do this?’” Summers said. “Things were comfortable. But I think it’s OK to step out of that comfort box once in a while.
“This is something we wanted to do as a family, move down to the Lowcountry. So yeah, it’s a challenge. I welcome the challenge.”
Certainly Summers has a good idea what to expect. Westwood went 1-9 during its first season, losing its first eight as the Redhawks were held under double digits in five of those contests.
“I take my hat off to those kids at Westwood,” Summers said. “It was tough. It was tough on us coaches, too. It was a very humbling experience, and sometimes we need those things to bring us down to earth and make us realize that we can overcome those things.”
Two other barometers might be worth mentioning. Bluffton High went winless in its first season after its division with Hilton Head. On the other hand, Whale Branch went 5-6 with a playoff appearance during its inaugural season of 2010. However, that came at the Class 1A level.
The Sharks were thrown straight into Class 3A, with Bluffton, Battery Creek and Ridgeland-Hardeeville as region rivals.
“We’re going out there and we’re going to compete every Friday,” Summers said. “We may not win every game, but we’re going to win little battles here and there, which is going to help us grow as a team and as a program.”
Numbers aren’t a concern for Summers, who welcomed 68 players to the first day of fall camp. But only a handful are upperclassmen, as those stayed behind at Bluffton to finish their high-school days.
The Sharks will run a zone-read offense and 3-4 defense, though personnel may tweak those schemes in the first year. May River failed to put up a point in last Friday’s region jamboree, though the defense held its own during a period against Ridgeland-Hardeeville.
“I think we’ve got guys in the spots that we want them now,” Summers said. “There’s a lot of little things they’re doing right; there’s a lot of little things they’re doing wrong that we have to correct.”
May River fans may want to keep this number in mind: After that initial season, Westwood averaged nine wins over the three years that followed.
“We’ve got a great group of young men,” Summers said. “They’ve shown the resiliency. They’re not quitting, not backing down. If they continue to do that and get better each and every day, we’ll be right up there with the Westwoods and those other teams.”
May River Sharks
REGION: Class 3A, Region 8
COACH: Rodney Summers (first year, 29-19 overall)
2015 RECORD: First season
KEY RETURNERS: None
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: Startup programs are never easy, nor does it help when you start with two road games against stacked rosters. Consistent improvement will be the primary goal, with hopes of plucking off a couple wins in the second half.
- Aug. 19: at Hanahan, 7:30 p.m.
- Aug. 26: at Bluffton, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 2: vs. Whale Branch, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 9: at Hilton Head, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 15: at Beaufort, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 23 vs. Manning, 7:30 p.m.
- Sept. 30: vs. Bluffton, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 7: at Ridgeland-Hardeeville, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 14: Open
- Oct. 21: vs. Battery Creek, 7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 28: at Wade Hampton, 7:30 p.m.