The 2022 season left the Irmo Yellow Jackets wondering what could have been.
Irmo went 4-1 through its non-region schedule and appeared likely to contend for the Region 4-4A title. However, losses to A.C. Flora, RNE, and Ridge View left the Yellow Jackets in a hole. Irmo would later pick up a win against Ridge View due to the Blazers being forced to forfeit much of their season due to violations. However, wins over Westwood and Lugoff-Elgin fortified the Yellow Jackets playoff position. A last second field goal by James Island kept Irmo from reaching the quarterfinals.
Even with the ups and downs of 2022, including two losses by six points or less, there is plenty of optimism with the Yellow Jackets.
Some of which stems from the offense’s potential in 2023. The unit averaged 21.8 points per game in 2022.
It is headlined by quarterback A.J. Brand, who threw for 1,449 yards, 25 touchdowns, and two interceptions last year.
The Yellow Jackets have gotten an upgrade at the skill positions, starting with running back where Gilbert transfer Jaden Allen- =Hendrix will tote the rock. Anton Jones Jr. is a smaller back who will spell Allen- =Hendrix.
Both players are capable of catching the ball out of the backfield. However, those aren’t the only two pass catching options. Donovan Murphy, from Maryland, and Telvin Smith could create mismatches at wide receiver. Coach Brand believes Murphy may be the best receiver at the X position since De’Aree Rogers in 2021.
Up front, Elijah Williams and Bryant Ham anchor the offensive line.
Defensively, All-State linebacker Jylil Favor is moving to middle linebacker. Isaiah McClary will line up at cornerback or safety. Malichi Smith and Demarkio Campbell will also be a part of the secondary.
Irmo is the best suited team to take advantage of the turnover at A.C. Flora and Ridge View. The season defining stretch for the Yellow Jackets will come in the first two weeks of October when Irmo travels to Ridge View and then hosts A.C. Flora. September will prepare the Yellow Jackets well with trips to Chapin and Hartsville. They also host Lancaster, River Bluff, and Airport.
Coach Brand never lacks for confidence when talking about his team. He’s had some talented teams at Irmo the past couple of years and looks to possibly have his best one yet.
The issue for the Yellow Jackets will be their ability to finish. In 2021, Irmo had the Region 5-4A title in hand after beating A.C. Flora. Then they fell to Westwood a week later and wound up with a tie for the title.
Last year, Irmo lost the first two games in region play by six and three points, respectively.
The region appears to be up for grabs. It’ll be up to the Yellow Jackets to finish the job.