Marty Jacobs needed only a few days of spring ball and summer drills to feel the rush again.
The Socastee football team now in his charge can use all the enthusiasm it can get.
Entering the 2019 season, the Braves and their interim head coach have nowhere to go but up. This is a squad that was 1-7 during last fall’s flood-shortened campaign and has lost 10 of its last 12 games dating back to the start of region play in 2017. And yet, the former Aynor head coach and 11-year Socastee assistant has already seen the beginning stages of progress.
“We definitely have to worry about it. We have to be on guard about it. But I do think it was kind of a fluke,” Jacobs said, referencing 2017 roster struggles that left the Braves frequently suiting up fewer than 30 players on Friday nights. “We had low participation and kids weren’t playing. I think having two middle schools now will help that.”
There was an uptick last year. And with 56 players on the team’s initial roster for this fall, Socastee is starting to see a number of bodies closer to that of other Class 5A programs, including local region foes Carolina Forest, Conway and St. James.
But to compete with those teams — the Braves are 0-5 against them as region opponents the last two years — Jacobs will also need to execute the goal he had since taking over the program on April 30 when former coach Doug Illing resigned after six years. One of the first things he told his assistants was that he wanted to build depth to the point of having two players ready to go at every position at a moment’s notice.
Easier said than done, of course. Still, it’s a much more reasonable request with the increased roster size.
“There are more people coming to play and there is more competition,” senior lineman Justice Spady said. “It’s raising the level of our whole team. There’s a lot more intensity. I feel like we could be more dangerous this year.”
Spady and his teammates in the trenches could be a big reason why. The Braves returned four starters on the offensive line and three on the defensive line.
There will be plenty of change around them, including at quarterback, running back, receiver, linebacker, the defensive backfield and all over special teams. The cupboard is not as bare as it was in years past, nor is the Braves’ 2018 record indicative of some of the pieces coming back this time around.
As far as Jacobs goes, his role in the rebuild won’t be fully understood until after the season, when he meets with school administrators to discuss the future. Regardless, he’s already attempting to reset the Socastee foundation.
“I love football. It’s my greatest passion,” Jacobs said. “I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t anticipate it. It was just waiting and being in the right place at the right time. Whether it is long term or not, I’m going to enjoy every minute.”