GOOSE CREEK -- Joe Marion has experienced dozens of first practices in his long career in high school, but the new head coach at Stratford High admitted Friday's opening practice of the 2014 preseason felt a lot different.
Marion is replacing Stratford's legendary coach Ray Stackley, who retired in February after 270 career wins over 29 seasons at the school. Marion, an assistant under Stackley since 1988, was hired in April and was able to hold his first spring practice as head coach in May. But Marion says there is a different feeling to the opening of fall practice.
"It's a lot different, for sure," said Marion. "In the past, I would just grab my cones and bag of footballs and head off into my own little corner. Today I spent a lot of time collecting paperwork and making sure the physicals were complete.
"And, when the media people would show up I would just keep doing whatever I was doing and let coach Stackley handle all of that stuff. Now I'm the guy they want to talk to. So yeah, it is different. But I expected it to be different."
Marion thought he was prepared for opening day until he went to bed Thursday night.
"I laid down about 11:30 and soon figured out it was not going to be easy sleeping," he said. "I got up and watched some television. I took the dog out. I finally went to bed about 2:30 and I was up before the alarm went off. I've been a little anxious all week really."
Marion, the school's defensive coordinator from 2000-2013, now spends practice walking from station to station, giving instruction or advice, and trying to get a solid handle on every phase of the game.
"I know the overall aspects of the offense but I am paying more attention now than I did before because my focus was on the defense for so many years," said Marion.
As fate would have it, Marion is not the only member of the program that begins this season under the microscope.
Senior Jamison Mobbs is slated to be Stratford's starting quarterback this fall, and he to replaces an impressive figure. Gone from Statford is Jacob Park, a four-year starter at quarterback and the 2013 Mr. Football in South Carolina. Park entered the University of Georgia in January.
Mobbs, who has committed to play baseball at Clemson as a right-handed pitcher, says the pressure of replacing Park could be a major issue if he allowed himself to think about it.
"I do have big shoes to fill but my focus all summer has been on working hard and getting better, preparing myself to be the leader of this team," said Mobbs, who saw limited action in a mop-up role last season. "I have to keep working hard and I have a lot of work to do but I am excited about this opportunity.
"I don't really feel pressure. I just have to play as well as I can. I feel like the coaching staff has confidence in me. I have been in this program since the seventh grade and I feel like I am ready show what I can do. I grew up with all of these guys and we all are ready to play together."
Marion feels like Mobbs is more than ready to take on leadership of the 2014 Knights. He looks forward to growing as a head coach as Mobbs grows as a quarterback.
"I told Jamison we are both in big shadows and we both have big shoes to fill," said Marion. "We're in the same boat and we both have to get used to this. He knows this offense and he knows what to do. He's been in our program for a long time and he's a mature kid. He's not Jacob Park but he certainly has the potential to be a quality quarterback for us. Jamison will be fine being Jamison."
The football season kicks off Aug. 21-22 with the C.T. Lowndes Sertoma Football Classic at Johnson Hagood Stadium.