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2024 Football Preview: Gaffney

After a 2023 campaign where they went 9-4, lost the region 2-5A championship to Byrnes, and bowed out to eventual 5A state champion Dutch Fork in the 3rd round of the playoffs, Gaffney enters this season with a chip on their shoulder.

 

This year, there will be a lot of changes in the roster as they lost several key contributors. Most notably among them are a pair of Shrine Bowlers in Jarriel Jeffries (defensive lineman now playing for Newberry College), and Jake Burke (Offensive Lineman now at Coastal Carolina). They also said goodbye to two North-South All Stars in defensive lineman Caron Foster (now at Limestone University), and wide receiver Emazon Littlejohn (now with South Carolina). The two other noteworthy losses are wideout Drew Medley, who is now playing baseball for Chad Holbrook at the College of Charleston, and Quarterback Riley Staton – now playing at Catawba College.

 

Despite the losses, it would suffice to say that with the talent churned out over in Cherokee County every year, the Indians don’t have to worry too much. They will still have a loaded roster this season, returning a thousand-yard rusher in junior Jaiden McDowell (averaged 5.5 yards per carry with 13 TDs in 2023 in addition to 45 receptions for 548 yards and 4 touchdowns), as well as recent four-star senior South Carolina Offensive Tackle commit Shedrick Sarratt. At the offensive skill positions, they return senior receivers JaMarcus Smith (averaged 60.5 receiving yards per game last year with 6 touchdown catches), and Shane Davidson (7 receptions, 131 yards, 4 TDs a year ago).

 

Some other returners to the roster Coach Jones believes are poised to have big years are Sophomore O lineman CJ Brooks, and senior Center AJ Suttles. On the defensive side of things, Senior Linebacker Andrew Ruppe (29 tackles, 24 solo, 1.5 for a loss, and 3 interceptions last season), senior cornerback Jayden Sims (24 tackles, 22 solo, 3 picks in 2023), senior safety Viante Robbs (36 total tackles, 28 solo, 3 interceptions), and senior linebacker Imari Boyd (51 tackles, 38 solo, 13 assists, 3 sacks) are looking to build on their 2023 successes.

 

Dan Jones is also particularly excited about the potential of junior offensive lineman Scottland Dover, who missed most of last season with an ACL injury.

 

There are 4 newcomers to the Gaffney roster that Jones says could make an immediate impact. Most notably is junior Quarterback Jayvon Gilmore, who transferred in from Ben Lippen School in Columbia. Last year, he went 118 for 226 passing for 1,767 yards with 22 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions. He can also run when needed, tallying 48 carries for 112 yards. Gilmore currently has 16 division 1 offers — most notably among them Arkansas, Texas A&M, Boston College, East Carolina, UCF, NC State, Va Tech and Louisville.

 

At receiver, Shelby (NC) transfer Eli Falls, who tallied 36 receptions for 508 yards and 9 touchdowns for the Golden Lions a year ago will be a big weapon for Gilmore. Jones also says Freshman corner Zion Dawkins and Sophomore halfback Trason Smith could have big years.

 

Undoubtedly, Gaffney looks to have all the pieces in place to assert themselves as one of the top teams in the newly-realigned Region 2-5A that now includes Eastside, Riverside, and Wade Hampton.

 

“We are excited about 2024. I just wish we had a lead-up game before playing a loaded JL Mann team. That is a tough way to start the year. Then we follow it up with one more tough battle with Greenville before starting region play three weeks in. We have some old foes in the region with Dorman, Spartanburg,  Byrnes, and Boiling Springs. As usual, that will not be easy, but it will get us prepared for the playoffs. I am excited about the potential of this team. Now we will see if they can put it together on the field”, said Jones, who will retire following the season.

 

Gaffney opens on the road with the JL Mann Patriots on August 30th with a 7:30 kickoff.

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