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C. E. Murray High School
Greeleyville

War Eagles building depth during spring football practices

 

By Justin Driggers

Special Correspondent

 

Greeleyville – There was one thing that was fairly evident to coach Chad Wilkes’ during C.E. Murray High School’s loss to Baptist Hill in last year’s Class A lower state title game.

“We had a lot of kids who really played a ton of snaps and sort of got worn down and I think we were really just out of gas at that point,” Wilkes said. “We had guys who had literally played every snap.

“So for us, this (offseason) is really about bringing some of the younger guys along to take some of the stress off the older guys, especially early in the season.”

CEM finished the season 11-2 and won the Region V-A title while also securing a first-round bye in the state playoffs. The War Eagles won two playoff games, including a road victory over Hemingway, before falling to Baptist Hill.

Eight seniors and one transfer are gone from that squad, but 24 players are returning including most of the offensive and defensive lines.

Rising senior Jasper Graham returns to his spot at right tackle while rising sophomore Quincy Blake is back it at right guard. Blake graded out at 81 percent with 22 knockdown blocks last season.

 Kobe Montgomery will slide in at left tackle again this year with Tyrese Montgomery beside him at left guard. Both are rising juniors.

The only position up for grabs is at center after four-year starter Malik Starling graduated. Wilkes said there is a three-way battle going on for that position, with Graham also still a possibility after filling in for Starling at times last year.

C.E. Murray also has two other big holes to fill offensively. Rising senior quarterback Elijah Bey transferred to Cane Bay for his final year while Shrine Bowl wide receiver Darius Rush graduated and is now enrolled at the University of South Carolina.

Bey completed 140 of 227 passes for 2,224 yards and 30 touchdowns a year ago. A significant portion of those went to Rush, who finished with 47 catches for 863 yards and 17 scores.

“He’s obviously someone you won’t be able to replace,” Wilkes said of Rush. “We’re actually going to be a little bit different team without him. We’re probably going to run the ball a little bit more and rely on our offensive line a little bit more.”

Replacing Bey under center will be Antonio McKnight – a rising junior who would have been the top receiver had Bey stayed. McKnight had 21 catches for 309 yards and three scores last season.

McKnight will have some weapons returning, however. D’Nigel Beaufort and Dajuan Reid will line up at receiving along with returning tight end Sean Swaringer. Swaringer had 37 catches for 698 yards and six TDs last season.

Jamall Gibson and C.J. Robinson provide a speedy combo at running back. The duo combined for more than 700 rushing yards in ’17.

Defensively, the War Eagles are switching to a 3-4 scheme. Kobe Montgomery will line up on the defensive line as well. He had 49 tackles, 13 for a loss and 4.5 sacks a year ago. Graham will also play both sides of the ball and Tquese Bynum returns as well. J’von Benbow will see playing time also.

Swaringer and Robinson return to their spots at linebacker while Darrious Cooper and Darrell McCrea will take over starting roles, although McCrea is currently injured.

In the secondary, Beaufort and Derrick Bright will be the safeties with Gibson and Reid each playing cornerback.

Among the newcomers who will likely have an impact, Wilkes said rising sophomore Pharrell Gamble could see time at linebacker or offensive guard and is also in the mix for starting center. Nyzier Austin could also see time at center or guard on offensive while his twin brother Nyziah Austin is likely to see starting time on the defensive line.

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