South Charleston’s passing game probably doesn’t need a complete overhaul. It just needs to complete more overall.
The Black Eagles recently featured one of the state’s most dynamic offenses, riding it to the Super Six finals three times since 2008, but those numbers have taken a hit the past two seasons.
Other than a 66-point explosion against St. Albans in 2018, SC has averaged merely 15 points per game during the past two seasons. That led to a 3-7 finish last year, ending a streak of five straight Class AAA playoff appearances for the Black Eagles.
When asked what could cure those blahs, coach Donnie Mays didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Everything in the offense starts with completion percentage,’’ Mays said, “and how well you’re completing it. There were a few games last year where we couldn’t complete a pass and a few games where we couldn’t catch passes. It worked both ways.
“I shored some things up with some off-season hires to help us on our coaching staff. It’s an area where I felt like maybe we needed to get some better attention to details.’’
South Charleston hit on only 66 of 198 passes last year, a completion percentage of just 33.3 percent. Most of the attempts came from then-sophomore Shyleik Kinney, who was 64 of 192 for 1,227 yards and 11 touchdowns against seven interceptions.
When the Black Eagles connected on a pass, it usually went for good yardage. They averaged a healthy 19.4 yards per completion, and one in every 5.5 completions resulted in a touchdown. They just needed the ball to find a receiver’s hands more often than it struck the ground.
“We’ve struggled a little bit on offense,’’ Mays said, “and a lot of it came back to quarterback play. But at the same time, a lot of it came down to how young we’ve been. We’ve been developing this group of juniors, and a lot of these kids have played since they were freshmen. We weren’t afraid to put them out there.
“Two years ago, we decided to go young and we felt really good about this year and next year. We’re no longer youthful; we’re pretty experienced at most positions. So I expect to see improvement, but that also comes with staying healthy.’’
The Black Eagles certainly have the makings of a dynamite passing game, especially if good-sized senior targets Samahji Simon (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) and Qwailei Turner (6-3, 210) remain healthy to complement the skills of fellow senior Romeo Dunham (6-0, 170), the team’s top receiver last season.
In the first six games last year, Simon caught 10 balls for 254 yards and five touchdowns before suffering a shoulder injury against Riverside. Turner, who’s also a basketball standout, had a variety of ailments and caught only two passes. Dunham grabbed 22 passes for 350 yards and one score.
Mays said Kinney has been pressed by incoming freshman Trey Dunn for starting quarterback duties this season. Dunn, in fact, took most of the repetitions this summer during 7-on-7 drills.
“We showed major improvement in the 7-on-7s this year,’’ Mays said, “and we did that without Turner and Simon. So we feel really good where we’re headed.’’
Mays said that whoever doesn’t win the QB duel in the preseason will likely see playing time at another position. He said Dunn can play in the defensive secondary, and Kinney could also play a receiving position.