Thursday, August 14, 2014
Coaches' whistles pierce the muggy, early morning air as troops of Kelly green shuffle through the Daniel Island practice fields.
Bishop England has developed into a football power over the past few seasons and for head coach John Cantey, winning begins at 7 a.m. in August.
There's a dedication to success John learned from his dad and former Bishops coach, Jack, that's helped rebuild the Bishops back into a perennial contender. Two Class AA state titles in the past three years and a 20-game winning streak in Region VI – the players have bought into the blueprint for winning.
“Winning is mental,” Cantey said. “Most guys come in expecting to win now. That's the expectation that wasn't there in the past. Our guys are committed to working hard in the summer because they've seen what it takes to be successful.”
The Bishops expect to dress nearly 60 players this season – the most in Cantey's seven-year tenure. With the added depth, he says his team won't rely as heavily on two-way players as it has in the past.
“We don't have to stretch as thin,” Cantey said. “I don't even pay attention to how many starters we've lost because we've got guys coming in that are going to be just as good or better.”
Bishop England returns three starters to its 3-4 defense that allowed just 14 points per game last season. Senior safety Lawton Fosberry returns to captain the secondary after leading the team in tackles, intercepting four passes and scoring two defensive touchdowns in 2013.
“We'll flow and we'll read teams,” Cantey said. “We have a lot of smart football players who can get us the ball back. That allows us to take a few more risks on offense because we know the defense can get us the ball.”
The Bishops' offense hinges on their flex-bone, triple-option rushing attack that averaged 229 yards per game last season. Replacing running back Nick Shiver has been a priority this summer. As a senior last year, Shiver rushed for nearly 1,500 yards, 25 touchdowns and accounted for 46 percent of the Bishops' total yards.
Cantey says instead of one player, the Bishops have a stable ready to step up. Senior Jonathan Browning returns after a year off and will likely share carries with senior Drew Pampu in a backfield that also includes sophomore Jack Mock and junior fullback John DeStefano.
Leading the way for the backs is 6-foot-2, 285-pound junior center Blake Jeresaty and 6-foot-4, 285-pound senior left guard Hudson Little. The two anchor both the offensive and defensive lines for the Bishops, along with returning starting left tackle Edward Bolchoz.
“Our foundation is based on that line,” Cantey said. “With those guys, we know we're going to be very physical up there, control the ball and wear teams down with body shots until they fall. We should be able to run the ball on most everybody.”
Little received offers from Charleston Southern and Newberry this summer. Cantey describes him as the most physical player he's ever seen in 40 years at Bishop England. For him, the only player that comes close in comparison is Paul Repik, a Bishops legend and 1982 Shrine Bowler.
“Our frontline has to get that push up front if we want to execute,” Little said. “My expectations are high for everybody. I feel like I need to be a leader this season and show that we can battle with these bigger schools.”
The Bishops face a team from a higher class in three of their first five games. The out-of-region schedule features a season-opener Aug. 29 against Class AAAA West Ashley, followed by AAA Hanahan, rival Porter-Gaud, AA-power Timberland and AAAA James Island.
“We have to get our work in somewhere,” Cantey said. “We challenge our guys to always get better. It doesn't matter who we're playing, only that we improve each week.
“We all have high goals set, but we just play football. Our players come into it knowing this is what we do.”
Frankie Mansfield, the sports reporter for the Moultrie News can be seen all around the state following teams to meets, games, and matches. For score updates, breaking sports news, and more, follow @fjmansfield on Twitter and like Moultrie News Sports on Facebook.