Lowcountrys championship football teams open practice with more players, more pride
In 2002, Goose Creek High School coach Chuck Reedy took over one of the worst football programs in the state. On Friday, the Gators opened practice as the defending Division II-AAAA state champions and are favored to win the title again this season.
Goose Creek, along with Division I-AA state champion Timberland and Division II-AA state champ Bishop England, were among hundreds of high school teams across the state to hold their first practices Friday.
Reedy recalled that first season at Goose Creek, when his team won only one game.
“The first thing I had to do was change their attitudes,” he said. “I had to make them competitive. We were so bad that we didn’t talk about winning and losing. We talked about getting better and becoming competitive.”
The players listened and learned. Goose Creek improved from 1-10 in 2002 to 14-1 in 2011.
The record isn’t the only drastic change during Reedy’s tenure. He had 40 players and eight coaches in 2002. On Friday, 158 players turned out for practice, and Reedy had nearly 20 coaches, which includes volunteers.
“The 158 players include junior varsity players, but so did the 40 in my first year,” Reedy said. “I think the main thing is we have improved every year. Now that we’ve won a state championship, that’s a tremendous challenge. They expect to win. They expect to win the state championship. Anything else will be a disappointment.”
Timberland won its first state championship since the school opened in 1996, posting a 13-1 record.
The state title has boosted interest in the program. Friday’s first practice drew 72 players, the biggest turnout in Craig’s 12 years at the school.
It also brought respect.
“There were three television stations out here today,” said Craig, who has led the Wolves to a 51-4 record the last four years. “And, we get to play on TV for the first time on Thursday Night Lights. I spoke at two or three coaches’ clinics over the summer, so it’s been real crazy.
“It was easy to get our kids fed during summer camp this year,” Craig added. “In the past, two or three people provided the food. This year, we had to turn down people.”
Bishop England is coming off a 13-1 record and first state football championship in the school’s history. The Bishops lost a pair of All-Lowcountry selections in Andrew Bunch and Cameron Swails along with quarterback Danny Croghan, but talent remains.
Fullback/linebacker Griffie Loy is a major college prospect, as is speedy running back DeAngelo Stephenson.
Coach John Cantey, who is in his fifth year as coach, said winning a state title has helped with the roster numbers.
“We will dress 44 players on the varsity and 50 on the junior varsity team,” he said. “That’s a lot more for our junior varsity team. We usually have about 35 players.
“I think we’re winning over kids who play other sports. Now we are getting kids who at first didn’t want to play football. Now, they are playing two sports.”
Cantey said winning the state title has helped football become a “more valid” sport at Bishop England, noting how often his team was overshadowed by the school’s programs that have won numerous state titles.
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.