A new era will begin at Lakeside High School when the football season kicks off Aug. 31. Jody Grooms, a high school football coach from Wadesboro, N.C., was hired as Lakeside's athletic director and head football coach.
His task is to turn around a football program that has seen only 11 wins in five years.
"Probably our biggest weakness is that these kids haven't really experienced winning on this level yet," Grooms said. "I think that's an attitude or acquired trait. I know there's not a magic potion, but hopefully our kids will get it figured out."
Although Grooms hasn't had a chance to improve in the win column yet, he has made strides in the area of motivation. Morale was up at Panther Stadium during preseason workouts this year.
"We've taken a giant step forward already," Lakeside senior Kyle Tau said. "He's an awesome coach. He's just a fireball. It was more intense over the summer under him."
As bad as the past has been on the Lakeside football field, Grooms said the team will benefit from what took place last year. The 2-8 record is nothing to brag about, but there is a silver lining.
"I came into a pretty good situation," Grooms said. "(Former head) coach (Randy) Hill and the previous staff found themselves in a situation where they had to play a lot of those young kids. A lot of sophomores played; therefore, a lot of those guys have playing experience now."
That includes junior free safety Kyle Tudor - a returning starter who has 10 games of varsity experience with half of his high school career still to play. The same goes for other juniors who will lead the team this season, including last year's starting quarterback Chad Chandler, receiver/defensive back Michael Paul and lineman Martin Seymour.
"Now they're juniors with experience," Grooms said. "Nearly all of those guys return, and they already understand what we're trying to do. We're still young, but we've got that depth and experience, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We're going to need those guys to carry us some early in the season."
With most of the defense intact from last year, the attention turned to the offense in the offseason, where the starting quarterback and running back spots remained up for grabs.
Chad Chandler, Will Evans and Justin Pitock are competing for the starting job. Patrick Tynan, Jay Price and C.J. Marshall are some of the candidates competing at running back.
Those question marks might be answered when Lakeside scrimmages Butler on Thursday.
"We don't know yet. We've seen them against each other, but we haven't seen them with live bullets yet," Grooms said. "I really don't think we've got one person who's going to jump out at you. I just think we've got a collective group of kids who, when they play together, have an opportunity to do some good things."
Aug. 31 vs. Aquinas
Sept. 7 at Greenbrier
Sept. 14 at Evans
Sept. 21 vs. ARC
Sept. 28 vs. Statesboro
Oct. 5 at Brunswick
Oct. 12 vs. Ware County
Oct. 19 at Glynn Acad.
Oct. 26 vs. Wayne Co.
Nov. 2 at Effingham Co.
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