Athlete of the Week: Dennison’s flexibility, selflessness helps Beaufort make deep playoff run

Sports

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – When James Dennison joined the Beaufort High School football team, he wanted to be the starting quarterback.

“That was the goal,” Dennison explained. “Trying to be the starter junior and senior year. But there were other plans.”

Tyler Haley, a tremendous athlete in Dennison’s class, emerged as one of the best quarterbacks in the Lowcountry. It became clear that, unless Beaufort was in a blowout, Dennison wasn’t going to get any playing time.

“Senior year, I wanted to get on the field any way that I could,” Dennison said. “I was open to playing receiver and I accepted that role.”

The longtime quarterback made the change this past summer and worked the entire offseason to learn a new position. Before he could take a single regular season snap, the game brought more change.

“We talked to him about it and he had a great attitude about it,” Eagles head coach Bryce Lybrand remembered “He kind smiled about it and said ‘Coach, I played linebacker in middle school.'”

His second position change, from wide receiver to linebacker, in a matter of months turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Dennison cracked the starting roster and rediscovered part of what made him fall in love with the sport years ago.

“It was really cool, getting to play linebacker again,” Dennison said with a smile. “Getting to hit people, be aggressive and not being the one getting hit every play.”

Getting hit less, while being able to hand out some punishment — sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Few can make the transition as seamlessly as Dennison did this year.

“He’s a lot smarter than I am,” Lybrand said with a chuckle. “So he took it in stride and did what he was supposed to do and kept playing. He’s a big reason why we are here.”

The Eagles will play for a Lower State Championship at home Friday night against West Florence. A win earns them a spot in next week’s SCHSL 4A football state championship. If the Eagles can finish this historic playoff run with some hardware, Dennison will have played a massive role in making it happen.

“You’ve got to stick with it. I had the chance to quite sophomore and junior year because I knew I wasn’t going to be the starter,” Dennison added. “I just told myself I was going to stick with it and good things would come. I stuck with it and now I’m starting linebacker.”

“He’s the model for what we want our program to be,” Lybrand said. “Just really proud of him.”

WSAV sports reporter Connor DelPrete will bring you the full story Wednesday night on WSAV at 11.

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