Kickoff Countdown: Braves riding quality over quantity

It’s safe to say that Socastee High football coach Doug Illing is more of a “glass half full” guy, which might explain his optimism entering the 2017 season with a roster that’s half empty.

Despite playing in Class 5A, the highest classification in South Carolina, the Braves boast only 27 players on their roster heading into the season. Illing prefers to focus on the quality over the quantity, and he likes the momentum his team carries into the campaign.

“The guys didn’t quit on us, so we went into the offseason with a lot of positivity,” said Illing, referring to Socastee’s late-season victory over West Florence. “The kids have kept working hard. I’m excited about where we are at.”

Socastee does have some talent to go toe-to-toe with Region 6-5A foes and nearly half the roster (13 players) consists of seniors. But the light numbers could create depth issues once the Braves get into league play. Staying healthy will be critical, especially senior signal-caller Hunter Illing. The head coach’s nephew will be needed to keep the Braves rolling on offense.

The quarterback will have fellow seniors like running back Dashaun Myers and receivers Edward Tucker and Devin Stamp to spread the ball around, and a formidable offensive line should give him time to operate. However, many of those players will be forced to line up on both sides of the ball to bolster a defense that struggled last season.

The Braves open the season against North Carolina schools West Brunswick and North Brunswick before facing five straight games against Horry County rivals. If Socastee can stay healthy and positive through the home stretch of the region schedule, a playoff berth is a realistic expectation.

SOCASTEE BRAVES SCHEDULE
8/18 West Brunswick
8/25 at North Brunswick
9/8 Myrtle Beach
9/15 at North Myrtle Beach
9/22 St. James
9/29 at Carolina Forest
10/6 Conway
10/12 at West Florence
10/20 at South Florence
10/27 Sumter

Photo by Joel Beachum

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