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SHALLOTTE — Bob Hanna is using no shortcuts as he takes over as coach of the West Brunswick High School football team.
A stern remark during an interview discussing the team’s starters revealed Hanna’s no-nonsense approach.
“I grade film,” he said.
Just a few weeks after being hired after a 20-year career at Irmo (S.C.) High School, where he was 163-93 and reached three state title games, Hanna has assessed the Trojan program and the work he and his staff need to do.
“It’s been fun, but it’s been chaotic, at times,” he said. “The kids are great, but they need to be coached up. They have a lot of bad habits. We’re trying to change the mentality, the thinking. There are some choices that they have to make that they haven’t been used to making. And it’s not their fault, because they’ve been through three head coaches in three years, so they have no standard to go by.
“They’ve been used to doing things a certain way, and that way is not conducive to good football. I’m trying to be as fair with them as I can be. They know when they break some of the rules that we put in place, there are consequences. And I don’t know that there have been consequences in years past. But that’s the only way I know how to do it, and I’ve had success with it. And I will not change the way I do things.”
The 49-player roster has more sophomores (15) than seniors (nine). One of those seniors, Dylan Howard (5-9, 175), will be the starting quarterback, Hanna said.
“We’re going to run the football,” Hanna said. “We’re going to throw it when they give us opportunities to throw it.”
The other quarterback is junior Hunter Ashburn (5-10, 165). He also will be the kicker.
“Hunter has some speed, some quickness,” Hanna said. “And if he doesn’t start at quarterback, he might end up starting as a slot receiver. He’s a good athlete that can make people miss.”
Sophomore Anthony McCray (5-9, 180) will the tailback and sophomore Maliek King (5-11, 220) will be the fullback.
“(Anthony) is as good a running back I’ve had,” Hanna said. “(Maliek) has the potential to be as good a fullback I’ve had in a while. They’re pretty good players, but we got a long way to go with them.”
Expect McCray and King to get a lot of rushing attempts.
“I just believe in a physical football team,” Hanna said. “And we’re not physical yet. I don’t know if we can be, because you have to get strength in the offseason. The overall strength level of the team is not very good. Some have lifted, and they’re fairly strong, but not the number we need. We’re kind of in a jam. We want to be physical, but I don’t know whether we’re capable of being physical.”
The team already has suffered a setback. Starting center Josh Dispirito suffered a shoulder injury and is out for the season, Hanna said.
“He’s a great kid,” Hanna said. “He really was leader in our offensive line. That just hurt.”
Before the injury, the offensive line was junior tackle Dylan Fish (6-4, 299) and sophomore tackle Taye Vereen (6-0, 220), sophomore left guard LeGarick Jeffries (5-10, 265) and senior right guard Zack Taylor (5-11, 200). A returning lineman is senior Dalton VanSteen (6-1, 225).
Assistant coach Jordan Lancaster, as he had to do so often last year, will have to shuffle players — this time before the season begins.
“He’s one of my better coaches,” Hanna said. “When I see that offensive line, I see coaching — and coaching the right things. I’m glad to have him as an offensive line coach.”
The wide receivers are juniors Quinlyn Moore (5-10, 165) and Daquane Burgess (6-1, 175). Moore was second-team all-conference last season.
“They’re two wide receivers that are as good as I’ve ever had,” Hanna said. “They can go up and get the football. They have been impressive to me.
“I really like that set of receivers. They’re good players. They got enough speed and quickness to make people miss. And they got the ability to get deep.”
Two others who will help the passing game are sophomore tight end Hunter Chaney (6-1, 210) and junior wide receiver Tristan Lewis (5-8, 165).
On defense, West will play a three-man front with junior Nate Gilbert (6-2, 215) at nose guard, sophomore Josh Woodard (6-5, 230) at one defensive end and senior Daniel McRainey (6-1, 215) at the other defensive end.
“They get after it,” Hanna said. “I’d like for them to be a little bit stronger.”
Among the linebackers are senior Shermonde Fulwood (6-0, 210), junior Shane McKenzie (5-10, 180), senior Timmy King (5-8, 175) and sophomore Brandon Wehrly (6-3, 220). Wehrly also is the punter.
The cornerbacks are senior Davonte Hewett (5-9, 165) and sophomore Tariq Thomas (5-10, 170).
“Davonte is a good cover corner,” Hanna said. “And he’s a senior leader. That’s what we need. That’s what we’re missing.”
The free safeties are senior Chris Ash (5-11, 165) and junior Trey Babson (5-8, 165). The strong safety is sophomore Jimmy Cochran ( 5-10, 170).
“Our goal right now is to get better every day,” Hanna said “We got a long season. We play a lot of good football teams, bigger teams than us. But our goal is to get into the playoffs. By then, we’ll be a lot better football team than we are right now.”
West will have to triumph at South Brunswick (winless last year) and beat Topsail on Homecoming Night (West won 20-14 last year) to win the 3A part of the Mideastern 3A/4A Conference. Those games are in October.
The Trojans open the season against three straight South Carolina teams. West will have just three school days to get ready for the Aug. 28 game at Myrtle Beach, the defending South Carolina Class 3A champion. But Hanna is ready to guide the Trojans.
“Primarily, this is a sophomore-junior football team,” Hanna said. “I’m used to having 35, 40 seniors. But if these 10-graders and juniors stay, we’ll build this. And it will be fun. Got a long way to go, but we’re heading in the right direction.”
(Subject to change)
Game time: 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 22, Socastee, S.C.
Aug 28, at Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Sept. 5, at North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Sept. 12, at South Columbus
Sept. 19, North Brunswick
Sept. 26, Laney
Oct. 3, no game
Oct.10, at South Brunswick
Oct. 17, Topsail (homecoming)
Oct. 24, at New Hanover
Oct. 31, Hoggard
Nov. 7, at Ashley
Nov. 14, first round playoffs
Michael Paulis sports editor of the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.