Who is No. 1? We won’t know that until the high school football state championships in December. But when it comes to the Lowcountry, there’s a little more certainty.
High School Football Previews
Sunday: Top 10 players in the Lowcountry, Region 7-AAAA and 8-AAAA previews and all team schedules
Monday: Top 10 teams in the Lowcountry, Region 8-AAA and Timberland previews
Tuesday: Feature on Bishop England’s Fosberry brothers. Region 6-AA and 6-A previews
Wednesday: SCISA preview, Feature on Porter-Gaud standout Michael Preddy
Thursday: Sertoma preview: The Kinlaw family
Friday: Sertoma Day 1 coverage.
Saturday: Sertoma Day 2 coverage, regular season coverage.
Chuck Reedy has built the Goose Creek Gators into one of the state’s best programs, and there’s little reason to believe that success will fall off this season. Despite heavy graduation losses, the Gators are the team to beat with proven skill players and promising linemen.
It should be a memorable year in the Lowcountry with big-time players, headed by Stratford quarterback Jacob Park, and big-time rivalries.
And, Summerville coach John McKissick continues to build on his legacy and victory totals. He begins 2013 with 602 career victories.
Here’s a look at the top 10 teams in the Lowcountry.
No. 1 GOOSE CREEK GATORS
2012 RECORD: 13-0.
COACH: Chuck Reedy (12th season)
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.
THE SKINNY: Goose Creek was kicked out of the playoffs and had to forfeit games because of an ineligible player, but the Gators went 13-0 on the field to push a winning streak to 26 games. It should be more of the same with a potent running game and a passing attack that continues to develop under returning QB Dantez Bennamon. The defense lost some key players but should be at full strength by the time playoffs begin.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “Our strength will be on offense where we have an outstanding quarterback, running back and tight end, along with a big offensive line,” Chuck Reedy said.
No. 2 STRATFORD KNIGHTS
2012 RECORD: 11-2.
COACH: Ray Stackley (29th season)
RETURNING STARTERS: 8 (3 offense, 5 defense)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Jacob Park, RB Jordan Johnson, LB Cecil Smith, DB Michael Simmons, DB Taylor Morrison.
THE SKINNY: The Knights need to have some young linemen step up to protect quarterback Jacob Park, arguably the top player in the state. Running back Jordan Johnson is a scoring threat every time he touches the ball. Linebacker Cecil Smith returns to lead a defense that allowed only 15.6 points per game.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “We have some outstanding skill players, including a great quarterback,” Ray Stackley said. “If our line develops, we can have a great season.”
No. 3 SUMMERVILLE GREEN WAVE
2012 RECORD: 7-5
COACH: John McKissick (62nd season)
RETURNING STARTERS: 9 (4 offense, 5 defense).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: DB Darin Smalls, LB Mac McCurry, QB Sawyer Bridges, OL Zack Bailey, TE Sean Smith.
THE SKINNY: With 67 seniors and juniors on the squad, the Green Wave looks poised to improve on last year’s 7-5 record. USC commitment Darin Smalls is a fourth-year starter and leads the defense; sophomore quarterback Sawyer Bridges, a Clemson baseball commitment, has lineman Zack Bailey (6-5, 315) and tight end Sean Smith (6-6, 212) at his disposal.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “We’ve got the bodies, we’ve just got to get them right,” John McKissick said.
No. 4 BLUFFTON BOBCATS
2012 RECORD: 12-2
COACH: Ken Cribb (fourth year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 7
PLAYERS TO WATCH: DL Shameik Blackshear, WR/DB B.J. Hill, OL Josh Darrell, DE K.J. Ford, RB Gerald Roberson.
THE SKINNY: Bluffton lost 21 seniors from last year’s squad, which went 12-2 and made the Division II-AAAA semifinals thanks to a forfeit win over Goose Creek in the playoffs. But the Bobcats return seven starters, including USC commitment Shameik Blackshear (6-4, 235) at defensive end. Record-setting quarterback C.J. Frazier is gone, but sophomore Alex Davis is ready to step in to what Cribb anticipates will be a balanced offense. The team has gone 12-2, 14-1 and 12-2 in the last three years.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “Our experience, I think that’s an advantage for us,” said Ken Cribb. “And our team speed is probably at an all-time high.”
No. 5 HANAHAN HAWKS
COACH: Charlie Patterson (fifth season)
RETURNING STARTERS: 14 (4 offense, 10 defense)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: QB Mason Schwerzler, WR Terrell Green, RB Quan Wade, OL Jacob Billings, DB Marlon Washington, LB Lyndon Young, DL Vontrell Grant, LB Ronald England.
THE SKINNY: Schwerzler, Green and Wade will shoulder the load on offense. The return of 10 defensive starters should help counter the offensive void left by RB Octavius Hayes, WR Mario Gates and QB Anthony Smalls.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “We want to win the state championship,” Charlie Patterson said. “That’s our goal, and we feel like that we have guys that can compete at that level.”
No. 6 WANDO WARRIORS
2012 RECORD: 11-2.
COACH: Jimmy Noonan (fifth season)
RETURNING STARTERS: 10 (5 offense, 5 defense)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: RB Kenny Waring, OL Nolan Kelleher, LB Matt Norman, OL Kirk Evans.
THE SKINNY: Graduation took a big toll as the Warriors lost all-state quarterback Christian Hart and standout receiver Rudder Brown from a team that had its best regular season ever. Look for running back Kenny Waring to be a workhorse as the Warriors break in a new quarterback. Nolan Kelleher, who committed to Florida, is the anchor of the offensive line. Linebacker Matt Normans leads a rebuilt defense.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “We are replacing four offensive skill positions that accumulated over 4,000 yards in offense,” Jimmy Noonan said.
No. 7 TIMBERLAND WOLVES
2012 Record: 11-2
RETURNING STARTERS: 10 (five offense, five defense)
KEY PLAYERS: RB Bernard Harmon, RB Shamelle Williams, OL Wyatt Craig, QB Matt Gable, QB Ryan Hood.
THE SKINNY: The Wolves have been simply amazing the past five years with a 62-6 record, but this could be a rebuilding year as Art Craig seeks to put another impressive squad on the field. One of the biggest losses is Brian Moore, a four year-starter on the offensive and defensive lines. The quarterback position has been a two-man battle between Ryan Hood and Matt Gable.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “We’ve got to improve each day and get better each day,” Art Craig said.
No. 8 WOODLAND WOLVERINES
COACH: Mathis Burnette (third year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 11 (five offense, six defense)
KEY PLAYERS: RB Patrick Shepherd, RB Jari Smith, OL/DL Michael Barnett, OL Josh Mays, LB Daquan Bolden; LB Brandon Jamison, DL Makil Alston, DB Roderick Britt, DB.
THE SKINNY: The Wolverines might have the most talent in the highly competitive Region 6-AA, but must put all the pieces together in Burnette’s third year. The team lost most of its skill players from last year’s team that averaged a whopping 41 points per game. The Wolverines have five starting linemen who weigh at least 230 pounds, including Michael Barnett, one of the top juniors in the state.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “We’re not nearly as deep as we were last year,” Mathis Burnette said. “The main thing is to get the 11 best players on the field any way we can.”
No. 9 BISHOP ENGLAND BISHOPS
2012: 13-1, 7-0
COACH: John Cantey (sixth year)
RETURNING STARTERS: 7 (three offense, four defense)
KEY PLAYERS: CB/RB Nick Shiver, DB Reed Fosberry, OL Hudson Little, OL Chandler Sambets, LB Harrison Boals, LB Lawton Fosberry.
THE SKINNY: The Bishops have won back-to-back Division II-AA state titles, but graduated 20 players from last year’s team. Among the key players who graduated are running back DeAngelo Stephenson, fullback Griffie Loy and quarterback Kevin Herbst, so the defense might have to carry the team early. The Bishops, 26-2 the past two years, have a strong offensive line and a defense that has allowed only 262 points in the last 28 games.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “We can’t rest on our laurels,” John Cantey said. “We have to work hard. Most of the players have bought into what we’re trying to accomplish.”
No. 10 CROSS TROJANS
COACH: Shaun Wright (fifth season)
RETURNING STARTERS: 7 (four offense, six defense)
KEY PLAYERS: RB Devontae Shepherd, WR Dionte Evans, WR Diamonte Evans, QB Roger Ravenell, OL Malcolm Garrett, QB Jamar Matthews.
THE SKINNY: The Trojans finished third in their region, losing all three games at home. But they finished strong to win the Division II-A state title, the first championship in the school’s history. The Trojans averaged 43 points in the playoffs, but a key fixture, Brandon Halls, graduated. A pair of sophomores, Roger Ravenell and Jamar Matthews, look promising as his replacement. Running back Devontae Shepherd is among the best backs in the state.
WHAT THE COACH SAYS: “We don’t ever talk about state titles just preparing and getting better every week,” Shaun Wright said. “We want to make a good showing in our region and get into the playoffs.”