Defense is key to any football team and that will be no exception this year for Fort Mill to be successful.

The Fort Mill Yellow Jackets football team will kick off the 2022 season Friday night with a sense of optimism and urgency to prove themselves.

Fort Mill opens at home against Catawba Ridge and will be looking to make a statement right out of the gate. The past several years hasn’t been kind to Fort Mill when it comes to their record, but with every new season that comes around, so does a new opportunity. Fort Mill is coming off a 1-8 season last year.

“Excitement, enthusiasm and effort, we haven’t had to deal with,” said Fort Mill head coach Rob McNeely. “It is really good. The players are busting their tails and that is all we can ask.”

In previous seasons, Fort Mill has relied more on a passing offense to try and balance it with their running game. Coming back this season to lead both the running and passing game is senior quarterback Isaiah Haynes. Haynes played some as a starter last year upgrading from his role as backup after Kyle Neibch was injured toward the end of the season. Keeping Haynes on the field and injury free will be key to any success that Fort Mill has.

Look for Fort Mill to use more of a run-based offense this season than in years past, relying more on rushing the ball than throwing it. Haynes will still have targets like Max Piercy and Gannon Burt to throw to as well. McNeely said the transition to a running offense is needed.  

“We have to do something to get an advantage in the run game or teams are just going to load the box and bring the house,” McNeely said. “We aren’t physically good enough to combat that so we have to combat that with something in the run game.”

McNeely said his focus is on Fort Mill and he isn’t worried about a newly revamped Region 3-5A with the addition of teams such as Rock Hill, Blythewood and Spring Valley, to go along with familiar foes such as Clover and Nation Ford.

McNeely also added that getting better is a matter of mindset, one of which he and his coaching staff are trying to build into the team at every practice.

“We are just trying to be good today, so we can stack tomorrow on top of it,” he said. “I am focused on this team and nobody else. Every game is a new season. Every game is important, it doesn’t matter if it is region or non-region. We have to get into a mindset that we can actually win football games. When players believe in what we are doing and what they are doing and think we can win, that is a little more than half the battle.”

Defensively, the Jackets lost a lot of key players from last year’s team due to graduation. A new set of faces will have to step up to lead the Fort Mill defense which gave up 38 points per game last season. 

Fort Mill will have non-region games against Catawba Ridge, Chester, Indian Land, Lugoff-Elgin and York, before opening the region schedule Sept. 30.

2022 schedule

Aug. 19                 vs. Catawba Ridge

Aug. 26                 vs. Chester

Sept. 9                  at Indian Land

Sept. 16                at Lugoff-Elgin

Sept. 23                vs. York

Sept. 30                at Blythewood

Oct. 7                    at Rock Hill

Oct. 14                  vs. Spring Valley

Oct. 21                  vs. Clover

Oct. 28                  at Nation Ford

(Home games in bold. All games start at 7:30 p.m.)

Mac Banks:, @fortprep

Another key factor in this year’s season will be quarterback Isaiah Haynes and his performance each game.