LAMAR, S.C. – Lamar might have a new coach in Chad Wilkes, but the expectations will be like they were yesterday.
And last year.
And the year before: To win a state championship.
Wilkes takes over for Corey Fountain (now coach at Clinton), who led the Silver Foxes to state titles in 2015 and ’17, along with two state runner-up finishes (2016, ’18).
He has been with his new team long enough to know there is a considerable amount of talent on this year’s team.
“We have a chance to be pretty good,” said Wilkes, who coached C.E. Murray the previous two years. He coached the War Eagles to the 2017 Class A lower-state final. “We’ve just got to come together as a team and make sure we take care of the mental side of the game and play with discipline and focus and those kinds of things.
“Lamar has had a lot of recent success, so it’s key to fight complacency and know they are as good as they were last year, but they weren’t’ quite good enough,” he added. “So, there’s still room for improvement, there.”
Cam Galloway returns at quarterback after breaking his left humerus midway through last season against Gray Collegiate.
“He’s going into the season as the starter," Wilkes said. "Cam can do a lot of different things, although he might not take every single snap at quarterback. He might take some snaps at different positions, because J.J. Langley (who replaced Galloway after his injury) can do a lot of things there. And Tyler McManus has a lot of talent from a throwing standpoint.”
At running back, Rashad Johnson returns as a starter.
“He ended up with starting the final four games and wound up with 400 yards in those four games,” Wilkes said. “His vision is unbelievable. It’s crazy, and he’s still young and only a rising junior. He’s not the absolute fastest guy. He’s not a burner like Jac’Quez Lucas was, but he’s really tough."
Jiaquell James returns after earning playing time last year.
“(James) is faster than Rashad and even bigger than Rashad,” Wilkes said. “He’s got to work on his vision and patience. But he’s one who has the chance to be really explosive. He reminds me more of a Jac’Quez-type back.”
And after not playing last year, Travion James can see time at running back.
“He started in the (2017) state final as a 10th-grader, and he’s probably the fastest player on our team,” Wilkes said.
Junior Shane Amerson, meanwhile, will anchor the offensive line at guard.
“He’s probably our best football player,” Wilkes said. “I remember when he was a freshman (in 2017). He was unbelievable as a freshman. There were times when he was the best player on both sides of the ball in the 2017 state final. His size and athletic ability, combined with his 6-3, 280 frame, he can move and has great feet and is super coachable.”
Wilkes also likes his front line on this side of the ball.
“It should be one of the strengths of our team, because we’re really big,” Wilkes said. “We’re blessed with a lot of size – more size than average for Class A.”
Davon Medlock will start at nose guard.
“He’s 5-11 and 315, so he’s got a lot of size but also a lot of explosiveness,” Wilkes said. “He’s the strongest kid on the team. He can get the defense lined up. He can take double teams on and hold his ground.”
Gage Langston and Pierson Braddock were on the line as well.
At linebacker, Zack Bailey returns after suffering a season-ending injury late last year.
Other linebackers include Langley and Ronnie Abson.
One change in the secondary involves a change at linebacker. Sophomore Pat Anderson, who made 48 tackles and 9 ½ sacks last season along with an interception, forced fumble and three recovered fumbles, will now play strong safety.
“We felt like he was a better fit there, and he wanted to do it, too,” Wilkes said. “What we run, our strong safety is the outside linebacker half the time, like he was last year. And when he’s at strong safety, he has the length and speed to roam around and make plays. At times during 7 on 7, he shut down half the field. You try to throw the ball, and he’s going to get to it.”
Braddock is expected to be the punter, averaging 35 yards. But with the Silver Foxes’ offensive line, Wilkes said he expects his team to go for it more often than not.