Aiken football shakin’ off past, making waves

Aiken football shakin’ off past, making waves


Aiken football shakin’ off past, making waves


Aiken’s Demonte Reece runs the ball during the Falcons’ football game against Woodward Oct. 3.

Aiken’s Demonte Reece runs the ball during the Falcons’ football game against Woodward Oct. 3.

It took just five weeks for Aiken High School’s football program to shake off its past.

The Falcons won three of their first five games. The program had won just six games over the previous six seasons, never more than two in a season. This year’s senior class endured winless freshman and sophomore campaigns and just one win last season. Now, the Falcons (3-3) have a chance to finish at .500 or better. The Falcons last won three games in a season in 2008.

“When you’ve lost for so long, you tend to be okay with losing and being adequate,” said first-year head coach Jeremy Pflug. “Our boys are starting to get that they can succeed. They’re starting to grasp that they can be a stepping stone to evolving the culture of the Aiken football program.”

The season has not been without adversity. In the team’s first win of the season on Sept. 3, a fight broke out against Dayton Jefferson. Several players were suspended, whether Aiken agreed with those decisions or not.

The Oct. 10 contest against Gamble Montessori will mark the first time the team has been at full strength since then. Those suspended for at least one game included four different linebackers and starting quarterback Samonte Griffin. In their absence, the future of Aiken football grew up quickly. Five sophomores have worked their way into the starting lineup.

“Our sophomore class is filled with leaders. They have taken the opportunity to take the reins and they have run with it,” said Pflug. “They play 48 minutes as hard as they can every single down.”

The team could have folded amid the suspensions to some of its key players. Instead, the Falcons rallied together. The suspended starters pushed their younger teammates in practice.

“Instead of moping about not playing, they did what they could to help their teammates,” said Pflug. “We really bonded together as a family and did what we need to do to succeed. It’s been very exciting to see our young men step up and be part of that culture.”

Griffin has evolved into a reliable quarterback this season, increasing his completion percentage from 47.9 last season to 65.7 percent this year. He has already matched his 2014 total of 13 touchdown passes, and has added 558 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. He has enjoyed a plethora of weapons, including Demonte Reece, Dequan Freeman, Isaiah Lyles, Kevin Seay, and Jalen Mack.

“We’ve been able to space out the ball. We don’t have one person doing everything,” said Pflug. “We’re fortunate to have a lot of athletes and it seems like a different player steps up each week.”

On defense, Lyles leads the team with 6.5 sacks. Terrell Harris (22 tackles) leads the linebacker corps. The Falcons have vastly improved their pass defense this season. Aiken has allowed just six points in its three wins. Tahjay Woodward has anchored the offensive line. The offense has averaged 31.6 games in Griffin’s five starts at quarterback.

With underclassmen stepping up into bigger roles and the players starting to believe in themselves, something unusual is happening at Aiken – the football team expects to win. The future looks bright.

Said Pflug, “It’s all about changing the culture.”

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