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Newberry High School

 Newberry to challenge Chapman for region supremacy

By C.R. Cumbee

Staff Writer

Newberry—Replacing most of his starting lineup a year ago wasn’t too much of an issue for Newberry football coach Phil Strickland. The Bulldogs went 10-4, won a region championship and advanced to the Class AAA Upper State championship game.

This fall Newberry returns 15 starters and should be in the mix for a title again this year. They saw tough competition in the preseason with scrimmages against Gilbert and Strom Thurmond and jamborees with Blythewood and Abbeville in preparation for the opener against Keenan.

“We did scrimmage some really good teams and we fared okay. We’ve got some young faces that haven’t quite figured it out, but that’s what the preseason is for. If we can block and tackle a little bit better, we’re going to be okay. We’re pretty competitive but still wet behind the ears,” Strickland said.

Offensively, the Bulldogs have one of the most productive running backs in the state in senior Amir Abrams, who gained nearly 2,500 yards on the ground in 2016. He will be used in multiple ways this season.

“He’s a workhorse. He’s going to get the majority of the carries, but he’s also one of our best receivers. We’re going to line him up at wide out and bring him in motion some for some speed sweeps too,” Strickland said.

Quarterback Tyriq Goodman, fullback KT Robinson, slot receiver Zymere Epps and wide receiver Jaleel Gilliam are the other veteran skill players.

The offensive line has three starters back in tackle Alec Blackmon, who moved outside after playing center a year ago, guard Amir Cromer and tackle Keonta Singleton. Jarious Singley and James Sims are the newcomers up front along with tight end Caleb Bickley.

Senior free safety Terrell Rogers is the leader on the defense and can make an impact from the back of the formation or at the line of scrimmage. Flanking him in the secondary are Gilliam and Lamarcus Moore, both cornerbacks.

“He directs everything from back there. He’s played well and was our leading tackler last year. We ask him to do a lot of run support and he’s done a good job for us,” Strickland said of Rogers.

Josh Epps and James Werts are back on the defensive line, with Amir Griffin, Darius Gray and Coby Sligh rotating in as well. Willie Young and Gabe Harmon return at the inside linebacker spots. On the outside is sophomore Rae Wilmore, who Strickland says has plenty of potential. Amad Willis is a hybrid outside linebacker/strong safety.

“Defensively, we’re still working on our fits. We’re still not fitting in the holes right, but that comes with more reps. We took it on a chin a couple times in the scrimmages, but that’s stuff we can iron out. We’ve got the talent, we’ve just got to make sure we’re in the right place at the right time,” Strickland said.

Once region play gets underway, Newberry will be in a dog fight each week. They won’t have an easy game against Chapman, Woodruff, Clinton, Broome or Mid-Carolina.

“It’s a pretty tough region. A lot of teams have a lot of people back. Chapman is the defending state champion so the target is on their back,” Strickland said.

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