NEWBERRY — Entering into his ninth season with the Wolves, Newberry College Coach Todd Knight served as guest speaker at the Newberry County Touchdown Club’s first meeting of the season, giving insights as to what to expect from the Wolves as they prepare to face off against The Citadel at 6 p.m. Saturday.
“Nine years I’ve been coming to NCTDC. You don’t know how much you motivate and help teams in this county. I remember a couple of years ago, you (NCTDC) came out to cut watermelons like you always do to get the season started. We didn’t have a very good day that day, we didn’t have a very good scrimmage,” said Knight. “The T.V. cameras came out of Columbia and the first question they asked was ‘Did you see anything good or positive out there today?’ and I said the only good thing I saw was the NCTDC come out and cut watermelons.”
Knight, in his nine years at Newberry has seen a lot, from great players coming and going to being present for the 100th year of football to the 1,000th game.
“All of that being accomplished by the guys, staff and everybody, a lot of people will say that over the years when stuff like that happens people start to change. But I think at Newberry we haven’t and I like that and I hope that I haven’t changed because you can’t be somebody that you’re not,” said Knight.
Newberry College currently has four former players on active NFL rosters, which is a higher percentage of its total enrollment than any college in the nation regardless of NCAA division. Those players include Ron Parker, Brandon Bostick, Corey Washington and Ed Robinson.
Knight also highlighted recent Newberry graduate Cole Watson, who is currently playing for the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League.
“Cole was a very versatile player when he was here, he could do everything. But in the Canadian league, when you punt the ball the guy that returns it has the option to return it or he could punt it back to you. That’s tailor-made for Cole Watson, he did all of that for us and the Canadian league fell in love with that,” said Knight.
Knight said that despite having a great season last year, it’s hard to improve on being undefeated in the conference, and added that there is always room for improvement.
“I went over it with a fine tooth comb. I think that we need to improve in the discipline area. I just felt like we could have had more discipline on the team and I called Clemson, Carolina and Alabama to see what they do and I felt like they didn’t really work with us so I ended up going with an old-school discipline that I got from my dad,” said Knight. “We’ve got some great kids, so I don’t think we’ll have to use it very often and we are going into a big ball game.”
Going into this season, Knight said he thinks he’s got a great group of guys up front, including wide receiver Markell Castle and tight end Baptiste Staggers.
“In the tailback spot, we did lose Romelo Doctor and he was the tailback for us for years. I honestly believe we are deeper and more talented in tailback than any years that I’ve been here,” said Knight.
On the defense, there’s defensive lineman Jamarcus Henderson, defensive end Josh Parker, outside linebacker Will Elm and inside linebacker Joe Blue.
“Joe Blue is pretty special in my house and he’s one of the best players I’ve been around in my 15 years,” said Knight.
Starting quarterback for the Wolves this season is Nick Jones.
“Nick is a kid who came in after we had some injuries and discipline issues. Nick came in and won the conference championship for us against Wingate. It started with Tuskegee, we were rolling and he gets hurt and can’t come back for the second half, so we had the fourth string wildcat receiver playing quarterback with less than two minutes to go, dangerously close to a field goal and the receiver throws an interception,” said Knight. “Nick Jones stood up in front of the team the other game and talked about the Tuskegee game and he apologized to the team for getting hurt and letting everybody down. He said ‘You can count on me’ and I guarantee you everyone will run through a wall for Joe Blue.”
Currently Whitmire is 1-1, Mid-Carolina is 0-1, Newberry High School is 2-0 and Newberry Academy and Newberry College have not played yet.
Whitmire Community School Coach Charlie Jenkins brought three of his players, Lomas Davis, Alex Little and Ben Burleson along to the meeting.
“These guys are seniors. We only have seven seniors on the team this year. It’s not because people aren’t playing, it’s because of the class size,” said Jenkins.
The Wolverines started off the season falling to Wagener-Salley 7-62, and last week bringing home the 16-26 win over Great Falls.
“They (Wagener-Salley) are a really good Class A football team that’s a whole lot faster than us. So many times our guys were in the right spot doing what we were asking them to do and sometimes they’re just faster than you are,” said Jenkins.
Friday night the Wolverines will be taking on Ridge Spring-Monetta followed by hitting the road to take on Lewisville.
Louie Alexander, Mid-Carolina head coach, said that despite falling to Chapin last week the team still played hard.
“As far as the year goes, I’m probably as excited as I was when I started 23 years ago because of the type of kids I have. I have 17 seniors this year and there’s not a bad kid among them, everyone of them is a leader in my building,” said Alexander.
Alexander added that the team doesn’t have a lot of depth, which is something they are working to improve throughout the season. Friday the Rebels will be at home as they take on Saluda High School.
Newberry High School Coach Phil Strickland has felt like his guys have worked hard going into this season and in pre-season.
“Pre-season we had some trouble blocking and tackling, so we really worked hard on that. We played Keenan in the first game and jumped 0-42 in the first half. Then we had Ninety – Six come in and for some reason we do not play well against Ninety – Six. We almost lost to them last year and the first part of this game we were down,” said Strickland.
This week the Bulldogs will hit the road to take on Batesburg – Leesville.
“We have the tendency to start off slow and then try to play catch up. Hopefully we can come out and play a lot better from the get-go, but we’re really excited about our guys. We’ve got eight returning starters on offense and seven and a half or so on defense,” said Strickland.
Newberry Academy Coach Benji Sease and his Eagles will play their first game of the season this week against Northside Christian Academy.
“We have seven seniors out of our 12 players and we’ve added four new kids to the team this year. We’re led this year quarterback Matt Cole. He hasn’t played for us since ninth grade and we’re glad to have him back,” said Sease. “Last year, Northside Christian Academy was the only team that I felt really beat us. They pretty much ran over us the whole game. We’ve been working hard in the off season and been developing mentally and physically.”
NCTDC’s next meeting will be held Sept. 18 at Henry Hall of Central United Methodist Church with guest speaker Donnie Shell. Also, in next month’s meeting NCTDC will begin recognizing its Players of the Month.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.