Depth issues, strength of schedule and potential on offense highlight upcoming Falcons season

By Drake Horton
Contributing Writer

Darlington – Remember ever hearing the saying “strength in numbers”. In sports, especially football, there could be nothing truer.

Talent is important, especially when it comes to the starting group, but players, regardless of the sport, have to take breaks and while it is not guaranteed to happen, usually at least one starter is going to get injured at some point in the season.

At those moments, a team’s depth is truly tested. It is where a talented team’s season can go from one of potential to one of disappointment. Heading into this upcoming football season that is exactly where the Darlington Falcons are sitting.

“Our numbers aren’t what we would like, so from a depth standpoint we are kind of concerned on how we are going to be depth-wise,” Darlington head coach John Jones said. “We’ve got to find some guys up front too. Right now our o-line and d-line is a big concern for us depth-wise and just getting guys into the right spot.”

So how does Darlington combat that type of problem? The answer is to attempt to get more out of what is available, even if it goes against Jones’ normal philosophy.

“We are going to be playing some guys both ways, more guys both ways than what we want, but we have to get the best 11 on the field,” Jones said, despite not wanting to have players go both ways.

And while it is never good to have depth issues, this season might be even more pressing with Darlington’s football region receiving a pretty staggering makeover.

What was a five-team region with Darlington, Hartsville, Crestwood, Lakewood and Lugoff-Elgin, is now a six-team region with Darlington, Hartsville, Wilson, Marlboro County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach.

That is not to take shot those three schools leaving, but the four replacing them have just made this region one of the toughest, if not the toughest, in all of 4A.

“I think one thing about this region that we are going into; I believe every coach in this region would tell you if this is not the best region in the state, the most competitive, it’s going to be one of the best, most competitive,” Jones said. “Whoever comes out of this region come playoff time are going to be tested and a tough out in the playoffs.”

But it is not just Darlington’s region that is difficult. The Falcons also play a very tough non-region schedule and that is more by choice than default, because according to Jones that is one of the best ways to prepare for tough region play.

This year’s non-region schedule includes Cheraw, Lamar, the defending 1A state champs, former region rival Crestwood and two 5A schools in West Florence and South Florence.

“We try to generate our non-conference schedule to make it as tough as we can because we feel like it benefits us when region play starts,” Jones said. “You know a lot of people water down their non-region schedule in different places to do different things, but we just feel like the harder our non-region schedule is the more it is going to help us adapt to what we have to play when we see region, especially in this new region.”

Now with a gauntlet ahead of them, the Falcons, like every other team in the region, is in full preparation mode and for Jones and company it has been somewhat of mixed bag, especially when it comes to depth due to the lower numbers of players coming out.

“We think it has been going pretty good,” Jones said, commenting on the team’s work and preparation over the past offseason. “We felt like we had a good spring; one of the best springs we’ve had. Our summer has been up and down a little bit, but we are making grounds and we are in a situation where we have to find some depth.”

So far the bright spot during this offseason has been the offense, where Darlington returns a vast majority of its talented skilled players. Even more promising has been the competition at the quarterback position.

Originally thought to be junior Brian Robinson’s job to lose, senior backup Silas Barr, who played a lot last season when Robinson was hurt, has really come along and spiced things up a bit in practice. That is not a dig at Robinson as much as it is a compliment to Barr who is progressing to help make the team better.

“Right now Silas Barr is doing some great things also,” Jones said. “Our quarterback competition, the battle for our job at quarterback, has been very interesting and it is going to continue to be interesting. They’ve been nip and tuck all summer long. Silas opens the door for us in some ways too. They both have unique characteristics that are going to allow us to do some different things offensively that we haven’t been able to do since Frankie was here.”

If this can carry over into the regular season, these two quarterbacks, both who have two very different skill sets, can really help ignite the potentially potent spread attack that Jones has envisioned since he arrived four years ago.

It might be believed that defense win championships and that might be true a majority of the time, but what is also true is the team with the most points at the end wins the game and wins can equate into championships if you earn enough of them at the right time.

With so many variables, so many possibilities, so many unknowns this season has the chance to go in so many different directions.
These Falcons know what direction they want to go in and that is down I20 to Columbia in December to play for a state championship.

Author: Stephan Drew

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