Phil Smith has been coaching high school football for 19 years, but he’s in the midst of his first head coaching assignment, having taken over at Riverside.
And even though Smith was hired in January, Friday represented the start of in-season preparation, the first traditional practice.
“The jitters were there last night and early this morning, trying to get prepared and making sure everything went smoothly,” said Smith, who spent the past six years as Dorman’s defensive coordinator.
Lee Taylor, another veteran coach, hasn’t shifted schools, only responsibilities. He was Mauldin’s offensive coordinator the past seven seasons. Now he’s the Mavericks’ head coach.
He has been a head coach before. He has been through the first day many, many times. Yet it still creates a certain energy.
“I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night, and I probably won’t sleep a whole lot this weekend either,” Taylor said.
Friday was the first day of in-season practice for all fall sports, according to the South Carolina High School League schedule. The schedule has been altered following the approval in April of a proposal that opened up most of the year to offseason practice.
However, in football, it’s not as if they’re putting the pads on year-round.
“June 10 was a long time ago,” Taylor said, referring to the start of summer workouts. “The kids get, I won’t say bored, but it’s a mundane process. We come in and do the same thing … 7-on-7, lifting weights and conditioning. To be honest with you, that gets old. It’s time to get started, and we’re excited.
“You could hear (the kids) walking down the hall. They were real excited. The coaches were pepped up this morning.”
At Riverside, which has won five games in the past three years, Smith said the progress from the time he arrived until now has been “unbelievable.”
“There was pretty much a wholesale change across the board, and the kids have responded better than I anticipated,” he said. “I figured it would be a little tough at the beginning, but we have been pushing along since day one and they really have welcomed the new staff with open arms and have really come to work.
“I feel like (with) the experience of winning some games in the passing league and the improvement on a daily basis, the excitement is there for them as well.”
“The transition’s been easy,” Riverside senior offensive lineman Kyle Steffee said. “It’s been really good this summer. We’ve gotten a lot stronger, a lot faster.”
Steffee said he has been impressed with the team’s work ethic and “winning attitude.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It makes you want to get up and come here at 8 o’clock every morning.”