Jamie Snider’s Lions adopted a new motto this season.
A year after Loris couldn’t seem to hold a late lead, coaches constantly say “finish,” a reminder not to let victory slip away.
That’s what happened throughout last year’s 4-7 campaign, but the most painful game was when the Lions gave up a 22-6 lead in the playoffs against Brookland-Cayce, a team that went to on reach the lower state title game.
“We couldn’t finish,” said Snider, who has led the program since 2011. “Our big mantra for this season is to finish.”
The Lions will certainly have some playmakers to help that cause. Offensively, the team’s biggest threat is wide receiver Jahrique Isaiah. The senior made a splash at some of the team’s summer camps.
“He has had a great spring and summer,” Snider said. “Every field we were on they said, ‘Who’s that receiver? Who’s that receiver?’ Because he caught everything thrown to him.”
The person who will be tossing those passes to Isaiah is junior quarterback Gage Conner. Conner primarily played on defense and special teams last season, though he did get some time under center.
This season, however, he is ready for the challenge of leading the offense. Snider said Conner is a student of the game with an ability to analyze situations and make quick adjustments that many players can’t.
“Gage has been a lot of fun to be around,” Snider said. “He makes good grades in school, but has a football brain, as I call it, as well.”
Conner said he’s confident in the line playing in front of him.
“Offensive line is looking pretty strong,” he said. “I feel like we’ve got a lot of heart this year. And I’ve always been told if you’ve got heart and you take the heart out of somebody else, you can kind of win the game.”
Loris has more than a dozen seniors, and a group of emerging players is joining the mix.
“We’ve got some experience, we’ve got some youth and it’s going to depend on how all that comes together,” Snider said. “But their excitement level is great. … It’s hard to quantify that. They’re excited about football. They’re excited about practice.”
Despite last season’s losing record, Snider pointed out his team often played against top-notch competition.
“Seven of the 10 teams we played made the playoffs,” he said. “Five of them won a first-round playoff game. I think that says more about our schedule than anything else.”
The Lions will face another difficult schedule this season, and Snider isn’t sure how this group will respond. Still, he’s encouraged by the team’s early practices and their commitment to a strong finish each game.
He said one of the team’s leaders, senior defensive tackle Javonte Turrentine, summed up their approach well: “Finish every rep, every game and the season.”
“That’s what we’re after,” Snider said. “We’re not talking about wins and losses. We’re just talking about finishing.”