The best team in the state of South Carolina in 2012 never got a chance to prove it on the field.
Goose Creek breezed to a perfect 11-0 mark during the regular season before its march to a second straight state title was halted because the South Carolina High School League ruled the Gators had used an ineligibe player during the season.
“We’re not going to play this season with a chip on our shoulders,” said Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy. “We’ve put the 2012 season behind us. What happened last year has nothing to do with this team.”
The Gators return plenty of skill players on offense, including quarterback Dantez Bennamon, running back Caleb Kinlaw and tight end Kalan Ritchie.
Goose Creek will get its toughest challenge from Stratford in Region 7-AAAA. Stratford quarterback Jacob Park, who committed to Georgia, has thrown for more than 3,700 yards and 35 TDs over the past two seasons.
Wando, which won a school-record 10 games during the regular season a year ago, must replace many of their offensive skill players. Cane Bay and West Ashley will rely on experienced defenses to get them through the early part of the season.
GOOSE CREEK GATORS
2012 RECORD: 13-0 (on the field)
COACH: Chuck Reedy (12th year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 11 (5 offense, 6 defense)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Caleb Kinlaw, QB Dantez Bennamon, TE Kalan Ritchie, LB Daylin Julius, CB Omar McRae, DL Daquan White, OT Tyler Hood, WR Jordan Barnes, WR DeAndre Daniels
NOTES: The Gators are trying to put the disappointment of 2012 behind and focus on 2013. The departure of WR/RB Tramel Terry, now with Georgia, won’t hurt as much with the return of RB Caleb Kinlaw, who committed to Georgia Tech after rushing for 1,006 yards and 15 TDs last year. … Dantez Bennamon is one of the top option QBs in the state. Kalan Ritchie, who committed to South Carolina, will be one of Bennamon’s top targets. The Gators’ defense will be the biggest question mark with five new starters, but Daylin Julius is one of the Gators’ top returning tacklers. “Our biggest question marks are on defense,” Reedy said. “We’ve got some very good skill people back, including Dantez and Caleb, but we lost a good bit on defense.”
2012 RECORD: 11-2.
COACH: Ray Stackley (29th year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 10 (3 offense, 7 defense)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Jacob Park, RB Jordan Johnson, LB Cecil Smith, DB Michael Simmons, DB Taylor Morrison, OL Michael Hughes, WR K.J. Givens, DL Steven Hill, LB T.J. Deveaux
NOTES: Jacob Park, who committed to Georgia during the summer, is not only one of the top quarterbacks in the state, but in the nation as well. With just one starter back on the offensive line, the Knights will rely on their seven returning starters on defense to keep them in games early until an untested offensive line comes around. The Knights will have plenty of experience in their back seven defensively. Morrison had 11 interceptions last season. “We’ve got some very good young skill players, but they’re untested,” Stackley said. “The defense is going to have to carry us early in the season.”
2012 RECORD: 10-2
COACH: Jimmy Noonan (5th year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 5 (3 offense, 2 defense)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Kenny Waring, OL Nolan Kelleher, LB Matt Norman, OL Kirk Evans, LB Tyler Ragsdale, LB Ryan Williams, OL Kirk Evans, OL Garrett Ralston, DB Chance Price, QB Dalton Stubbs
NOTES: The Warriors had their best regular season in school history, winning 10 games for the first time ever. The Warriors, however, were eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs. The Warriors have to replace plenty of big-name players from a year ago. Gone is quarterback Christian Hart, who threw for more than 2,700 yards and 26 TDs, and most of the receivers, including Citadel signee Rudder Brown. The Warriors are especially young at the skill positions. Dalton Stubbs is penciled in at quarterback. But the Warriors do have offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher, who committed to Florida, and running back Kenny Waring. Defensively, the Warriors will be led by linebacker Matt Norman and defensive back Chance Price. “We are replacing four offensive skill positions that accumulated more than 4,000 yards of offense last year,” Noonan said. “We don’t have the size we’ve had in the past and our quarterback hasn’t had many varsity snaps. You don’t know what’s going to happen until the lights come on.”
CANE BAY COBRAS
2012 RECORD: 7-5
COACH: Russell Zehr (third year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 12 (5 offense, 7 defense)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Devin Kilgore, RB Ramonte Frasier, WR Devin Dingle, LB Matt Rudy, DL Savion Pinckney, DB Tracy Gilliard, WR Kevin Bunch
NOTES: The Cobras jumped out to a 5-1 start in 2012, but went 2-4 in the second half of the season. Zehr believes that another year in the weight program will help the Cobras down the stretch this season. Frasier has excellent speed coming out of the backfield. Matt Rudy led the team in tackles as a sophomore in 2012. “We’ve got pretty good team speed,” Zehr said. “David Kilgore is a playmaker, and we return a pretty good nucleus on defense.”
WEST ASHLEY WILDCATS
2012 RECORD: 1-10
COACH: Bobby Marion (6th year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 11 (4 offense, 7 defense)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Pedro Manigault, OL Brett Toth, DB Bryce Middleton, RB Juwan Wise, RB Marquise Jenkins, WR Thomas Spigner, WR Brian Mack, DL Alex Byrd, LB Lee Russell, LB Lionel Jenkins
NOTES: After winning six games in 2011, the Wildcats tumbled to a 1-10 campaign in 2012. The Wildcats return starting quarterback Pedro Manigault and offensive lineman Brett Toth. The Wildcats have seven returning starters on defense, including senior defensive back Bryce Middleton. “I think we’ve got a pretty good nucleus of players returning on both sides of the ball for us,” Marion said. “I think our defense is a little ahead of our offense, and we’ll probably have to lean on them early in the season until some of our offensive guys start to develop.”