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Rejuvenated Gamecocks ready to repeat
Screven County looks to replace Mingle, Johnson

Screven County Gamecocks
Region: 3-AA
Head Coach: Ron Duncan (2nd season, 10-2)
Last Season: 10-2, 6-0 (1st place, Region 3-AA)
2012 Postseason: Lost to Early County in the second round of state playoffs
Key Losses: Aikeem Mingle, QB; Jeremy Johnson, RB; Tevin Sneed, WR
Key Returners: Josh Kerson, RB/DB; Donta Wilburn, WR/DB;

2013 Schedule
Aug. 30    Groves
Sept. 6        @ Effingham County
Sept. 13    Appling County
Sept. 20    Windsor Forest
Sept. 27        @ Harlem*
Oct. 4        Laney*
Oct. 11        BYE
Oct. 18        @ Westside*
Oct. 25        East Laurens*
Nov. 1        @ Josey*
Nov. 8        Dublin*

    Screven County was one of the state’s most impressive turnaround stories in 2012. After winning just five total games in the two previous seasons, the Gamecocks ran off a 9-1 regular season mark last season to clinch the Region 3-AA championship. Screven also picked up its first playoff win since 2003 before finishing with a 10-2 record.
    Of course, maintaining success can be far trickier than finding it.
    Screven County rode a 1-2 punch of quarterback Aikeem Mingle and fullback Jeremy Johnson to much of its success last season.
    Both graduated in the spring, but one thing that remains is the pride and attitude of a team that now expects to win.
    “We want to run a program that is first class in every aspect,” Screven coach Ron Duncan said.
    Duncan arrived in Sylvania last season after a brief stint at Elbert County and a successful previous run in South Carolina. Duncan implemented an option offense that the Gamecocks embraced, averaging 34.8 points per game.
    “I’m sure that some teams will be looking out for us a little more this season,” Duncan said. “But we’re focused on us. I feel like we had a productive summer and we’re just trying to move forward into this season.”
    One of the biggest factors in last year’s success was the Gamecocks’ overall health.
    None of their impact players missed much time and all of them were able to contribute in the most important games.
    That’s one new challenge that Screven’s 2013 squad is already having to deal with.
    Junior Chandler Rigdon moved to town in the offseason and figured to be the replacement for Mingle that the Gamecocks needed. But Rigdon broke his ankle in Screven County’s spring game and is out for at least the first few games of this season.
    Rigdon’s brother Wesley was just as unfortunate. He looked to provide the Gamecocks with another quality wide receiver, but is done for the season after tearing an ACL during a summer passing league.
    In all, four projected starters are out for considerable chunks of the regular season before it even begins.
    “It’s certainly not what we wanted, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” Duncan said. “(Senior) Rashad Hughley has moved in from wide receiver to take some snaps at quarterback. We definitely have to make some changes from the way we ran things last year, but I think that we’re up to the challenge.”
    The Gamecocks will once again give themselves a hefty challenge before diving into region competition. Screven County’s first four games are all against schools from higher classifications. Throw in some region rivals who will be looking for revenge and it’s clear that the Gamecocks will have their hands full with trying to stay at the top of the mountain.
    “I don’t think that we mind (being a target),” Duncan said. “Like I said, we want to be first class in everything we do. That means succeeding and winning games. When that happens, you need to work even harder to continue winning each season. That’s the road that I think we’re on.”
    The Gamecocks will get to see how they line up against live competition Friday as they host Jenkins County in a scrimmage.
    Screven hopes to have some early success leading into an October schedule featuring Lady, Westside of Augusta and East Laurens —the three other state playoff qualifiers out of Region 3-AA last season.
    Another region title this season would mark the first back-to-back championships for Screven since the three year span that began in 2000 and ended with the Gamecocks’ lone state title in 2002.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.