By THOMAS GRANT JR.
Shane Fidler has hit the ground running at Airport High School.
The new head football coach and athletics director has wasted little time energizing a program which has not posted a winning record since 2017.
Despite being the Eagles’ third head coach in three seasons, Fidler has found a receptive audience to his plan for Airport among the players and fans.
“We’re averaging like 90 kids at workouts right now,” he said. “The last game, I turned on the film, there were like 25 kids on the sideline. So kids at Airport want to play football. They want to be good. So, it’s our job right now as me as a head coach and the coaching staff that we’ve got to get them there. It’s our job everyday work hard, work hard for them. As kids, the Airport kids deserve that.
“The community deserves that. The tradition at that place. The success that they’ve had. All those people that live In that West Columbia, that Springdale, that South Congaree, that Gaston community. What it means to those people, we’ve got to work hard for them, and I’ve been impressed with the effort they’ve been pulling in.”
This is not the first “rebuilding” project for Fidler. He took over a 1-9 Waccamaw program in 2017, went winless in his first year and led it to a Top 10 ranking in Year 3.
Fidler then went to Ashley Ridge where he posted a 14-14 record competing in Region 8-5A with Summerville, Berkeley, and Fort Dorchester. Last season, the Swamp Foxes went 7-4 with wins over Conway, Berkeley, and West Ashley.
From those experiences, Fidler learned the importance of instilling discipline and “setting a culture” which will lead to success long term.
So far, Fidler is pleased with having as many as 50 players who’ve qualified for the team’s “100 percent club” for accomplishing set goals.
He’s also blessed to have a foundation player in senior offensive tackle Dylan Barbrey. The 6-7, 280-pound senior committed to Appalachian State and participated at the Shrine Bowl Combine this past weekend at Brookland-Cayce High School.
“He’s definitely deserving of it,” said Fidler regarding Barbrey making a post-season All-Star game. “He’s clearly someone you’ve got to look after. You don’t get to coach many offensive linemen that look quite like him and have the personality, great kid that he is.”
Barbrey will be responsible for helping protect new starting quarterback Jesse Hoover. The Brookland-Cayce transfer has quickly adopted his former rival’s philosophy and is pushing teammates at practice, Fidler said.
On defense, inside linebacker Bryant Cherry provides leadership and intensity both on the field and in the weight room. The Eagles also have another transfer in safety Kendell Stroman of Aiken, who Fidler said provides “swagger” to the back of the defense.
Airport opens the season Aug. 18 at Swansea.
Quarterback Jessie Ray Hoover is a B-C transfer. LB Bryant Cherry is a hard worker and mentality as a person. Captain the. DB Kelby Stroman has swagger and brings something to the bad end.