Felder trying to take Calhoun Academy to next level
By C.R. Cumbee
St. Matthews—The Calhoun Academy boys’ basketball team is under new direction this winter as former player Johnny Felder took over. He coached the team in 1991 and led the Cavaliers to the mountaintop, and hopes he can rekindle that magic again this season.
“I graduated from Calhoun Academy. My jersey was retired there and I coached the only boys’ state championship team we’ve had there,” Felder said. “My family and a lot of friends live and go to school in that community. I was approached about trying to reinvigorate the program and get interest back up. That’s what got my attention.”
The Cavaliers opened the season 1-3 with a victory over Jefferson Davis, but the coach can see the potential. There are only eight players on the roster – five seniors and three juniors – so everybody will be relied on to contribute.
“We’ve got a really good junior class and a strong ninth-grade class. We could have a really strong this year and we’re set up well for two or three years down the road,” Felder said. “We’re in a good position to do some things in our region this year that maybe some people might not expect us to do. But we’ve got a lot of work to do to get there.”
Forward Caleb Crosby is the only player to start all four games this year and has been solid around the basket. Guard Ford Conger, a SCISA all-star in football, is the team’s most consistent scorer early on.
Rhett Walker, another guard, may be the best all-around player the Cavaliers have, with Felder referring to him as “the glue of the team.” Forward Elijah Ott has been the top scorer in two of the four contests.
Forward Lawton Wright and guard Fuller Prickett have each seen time in the starting lineup as well while guard Clay Crenshaw and center Dillon Ulmer will see significant minutes in reserve roles.
“I’ve had other coaches and officials comment on how hard our team plays so the effort level and enthusiasm are there. We’re running an entirely new system that none of these kids have ever run before. We’re playing a lot of pressure defense and a faster pace than they’ve been accustomed to in the past,” Felder said.
Calhoun Academy will next face Holly Hill Academy, a team they narrowly lost to earlier. No matter the result, expect the Cavaliers will look for more consistency as they try to contend in conference play.
“We need to shoot the ball more consistently, and when we get turnovers, we need to finish on the other end more consistently,” Felder said.
Bruins fall in third round of Class 4A playoffs
By C.R. Cumbee
Orangeburg—Every head coach hopes their team peaks late in the year and plays at its highest level in the postseason. The Orangeburg-Wilkinson football team did just that.
The Bruins finished third in their conference after a 5-5 regular season, but knocked off Region 7-AAAA co-champion Marlboro County and Region 8-AAAA champion Berkeley in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“It was a great success. We’ve been blessed. You work hard all year because you’re really preparing for the playoffs. That’s what it’s all about. For us to be playing our best football in the playoffs, we consider that a success and something to build on,” head coach Tommy Brown said.
Unfortunately, the dream ended in the third round of the playoffs at Hartsville. The Red Foxes, who are currently ranked No. 2 in the state, pulled away in the second half for the 35-20 victory.
“We played one of the better programs and we competed well. A loss is a loss, but you look at where you’re going and what you’re trying to achieve in your program. We’ll have a chance to be successful as the years go on,” Brown said.
Although Orangeburg-Wilkinson walked off the field in defeat, the way they played should serve as a confidence booster heading into 2017. The Bruins have a solid nucleus returning next fall, including running back Theo Johnson, who gained over 1,000 yards in his first year starting.
Wide receivers Zach Felder and Jalen Darby will be weapons on the outside. Defensively, Rodney Tyler and Zyon Utsey will return up front with Skylar Mack and Reggie Jamison continuing to hold down their spots at linebacker. Deon Haynes is back in the secondary.
“Our kids know we can play with anybody. We came into the playoffs and beat some good teams. The younger kids know what they’re doing now and they know how to work. It’s something to build on going into next year. We’ve got a good group coming back, especially on defense,” Brown said.
While those players will get another chance at a state title, the Hartsville loss marked the end of the high school careers of several key seniors. Quarterback Jasaun Grainger was a threat with both his arm and his legs and will be the biggest loss.
Most of the offensive line will graduate as well. De’Andre Thompson, who was named a North-South all-star, Javin Ammonds, Clinton Bonaparte and Jamar Feggins all left their mark on the program.
“It was a great class. They showed a lot of leadership and I think several of them are going to do well on the next level. I’m very proud of what they did. They kept the team together and led us to the third round of the playoffs,” Brown said.