Don’t look now, but another college football team in South Carolina has jumped into the top 25 rankings. Newberry College is ranked No. 23 this week in both the Division II AFCA Coaches Poll as well as the D2Football.com after running its record to 6-0 with a 44-9 homecoming win over Tusculum last Saturday.
Corey Washington, WR, Sr., N. Charleston
Romelo Doctor, RB, Fr., Ashley Ridge
Edmond Robinson, LB, Jr., St. John’s
B.J. Mazyck, LB, Woodland
Taylor McDonnell, LB, So., Bluffton
Jordan McDonnell, FB, Sr., Bluffton
Tyler Stasky, LT, R-Fr., Wando
Wesley Brown, RB, Sr., St. John’s
Brett Borders, DE, So., Stratford
Dontavia Reid, LB, Jr., Goose Creek
Picked to finish fifth in the eight-team South Atlantic Conference, the Wolves are the surprise team of the SAC and the Palmetto State under fifth-year head coach Todd Knight.
“We’ve really tried to approach each week by saying it’s just another ballgame, go back to work. The kids say it, the coaches say it. I’m no busier than I was the first week for Elizabeth City State,” said Knight, who has a strong Lowcountry pipeline working for Newberry.
Ten players from the area are on the team’s two-deep chart, including six starters, for this Saturday’s game at Lenoir-Rhyne. It’s not just the playing roster that has strong Lowcountry ties. Knight was a defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Charleston Southern before moving to Newberry. Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Cedric Williams is a James Island High graduate. Offensive coordinator Bennett Swygert was a standout quarterback at Summerville and later coached at Fort Dorchester High. Assistant Jeremiah Jones also coached at Charleston Southern.
The leading tacklers on the team with 38 each are linebackers B.J. Mazyck (Woodland) and Edmond Robinson (St. John’s).
Senior wide receiver Corey Washington from North Charleston High School was an all-South Atlantic Conference receiver last season when he caught 51 passes for 776 yards and nine touchdowns. Washington has 20 catches for 408 yards and has six TDs this year.
The team’s leading rusher this season is freshman Romelo Doctor from Ashley Ridge. Doctor earned a starting spot two games ago and has netted a team-high 271 yards while scoring five touchdowns. Doctor is averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Behind Doctor is senior Wesley Brown of St. John’s, who is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has scored three TDs.
Doctor said he expected to redshirt this season and did not play the opening game. But he told his position coach the next game he felt like he could make a difference and ended up carrying five times for 22 yards and a touchdown. In the Wolves’ most recent game, Doctor had nine carries for 104 yards and a TD.
“I got a chance in games to show the coaches what I could do. I’ve worked my way up and started two games,” Doctor said.
“We started (the season) pretty slow even though we got the win. The first week was sloppy, the second week a little better and the third week better than the second week. We have a lot of confidence now.”
Knight said Doctor is a special football player and a special person off the football field.
He described how well Doctor treated his mother and grandmother, and became even more impressed when he went into Doctor’s room and saw trophies and awards for things other than football.
“He’s a well-rounded, special kid and he’s showing that here on our campus now,” Knight said.
Knight said he had high expectations for this year’s team, partly because of the number of returning players from last season.
“We brought a lot of kids back,” Knight said, “but we had a new offensive coordinator (Swygert).
“You’re always a little concerned with a new guy calling plays for you. But the personnel were there. We felt like with the guys we had that we could be successful.”
Knight said the Wolves are pleased to be nationally ranked, but they know polls mean nothing on game days.
“We were ranked in the top 25 last year when we started 4-0. So we bettered that mark this year with a 6-0 start,” he said.
“The thing we have to overcome this year is not stumbling. I think the guys have the right frame of mind, one ball game at a time. When the game is over, let’s go back to work.
“We are fortunate to be undefeated. We just have to continue to work hard and don’t let it get blown out of proportion.”