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Chris Pendleton: “Baby Gronk”

By Barry Every
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Over his entire varsity career to date, Pendleton has caught 49 passes for 998 yards and 11 touchdowns.

After winning just eight games the previous two seasons, Savannah (Ga.) Country Day took the region by storm finishing (10-3/4-1) and going three rounds deep GHSA-A (Private) State playoffs. It marked the first time in 12 years that the Hornets hit double digit wins on the gridiron.

Head Coach Dennis Coyle relied heavily on the legs of senior running back Adam Byck who accounted for 83% of the Hornets season total in rushing with 2,061 yards.

Though the Hornets were ground and pound in 2017, one bright spot in the passing attack was junior tight end Chris Pendleton. Last season he led the team in receiving yards and touchdown receptions. Over his entire varsity career to date, Pendleton has caught 49 passes for 998 yards and 11 touchdowns. As a sophomore he accounted for an amazing 51.2% of teams total in receiving yards.

“Chris has good athleticism for a big kid and big receiver,” Coyle said. “He’s really won a lot of one-on-one battles over the last two years versus some of the best defensive backs in the area, especially on seam routes. This coming season we hope to isolate him more on shorter routes because he matches up well versus smaller defensive backs and linebackers.”

Just last month Pendleton took part in the International Bowl IX held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas. After two lengthy camp circuits with USA Football he was selected to represent the United States on the Under-18 team that faced Canada. While in Arlington, Pendleton’s position and football acumen earned him the nickname “Baby Gronk”.

Next up for Pendleton is leading the Hornets on the ball diamond. As a sophomore, the nifty fielding first baseman, batted an incredible .449 while leading his team with eight homeruns and 44 RBI’s. Defensively he did not commit a single error.

Last Spring Pendleton was able to attend one college camp held at Marshall University. During the season he made an unofficial visit to Appalachian State, one of the schools showing interest in his talents. Also showing early interest are Mercer, South Florida and Wofford.

But there are three schools he would like to hear more from - TCU, Texas A&M and Georgia.

“My father went to A&M, and I just love the campus,” Pendleton said. “I was also able to visit Fort Worth and the TCU campus on a school trip; I really liked what I saw there. And how can you not be interested in the SEC Champion Bulldogs.”

Currently he has a 2.8 GPA which may seem ordinary. Consider this, Savannah Country Day School is the pinnacle of college preparatory schools in the Savannah/Coastal Region, that GPA probably equates to a 3.7 or higher at your average in-state public school.

Pendleton recently took the ACT earlier this month and is awaiting his results.

“The students have two to three hours of homework a night,” Coyle said.  “The rigors and challenges they face here prepare them for college; you won’t have to worry about our kids not graduating at the next level. They are prepared to be successful in the classroom.”

In the meantime what can Pendleton do to prepare for his senior season?

“We lose four of five starting offensive linemen as well as Byck and linebacker Jonathan Palmer, those guys were fantastic,” Pendleton said. “I’m determined to get better and I really want to take on a bigger leadership role. I want to be that guy that the younger players look up too; I also am that guy that is willing to go out there and grind every day.”

Without Byck, expect Savannah Country Day to have a slightly different look on offense in 2018.

“We’ll have a more wide open offensive attack this fall,” Coyle said. “We have a three-year starting quarterback coming back and of course Pendleton. It also helps that our entire defensive front seven comes back. Expect Pendleton to catch somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 passes this fall.”

Pendleton admits he has to take a more vocal leadership while honing his skills as a blocker. His mantra this fall will be to keep his head up while blocking and never make excuses for dropped passes, which seldom happens.

“My grandfather always says any ball that hits your hands has to be caught,” Pendleton said. “I also plan on doing my part to get every player on board working hard each day. We have to show the young guys what needs to be done to have success.”

Pendleton and his mates are not just counting on continued success, but breaking their losing streak to bitter rival Savannah (Ga.) Calvary Day. They last beat the Cavaliers on October, 9 2009. A victory will definitely assure a higher seed in the GHSA-Playoffs due to the Power Rating System used in Georgia’s smallest classification.

College coaches looking for an every-down tight end may want to make a stop at Savannah Country Day during the Spring evaluation period. They won’t be disappointed as the Hornet’s boast multiple underclassmen with FBS/FCS ability, and grades won’t be an issue.