As high school football players hit practice fields across the Lowcountry on Friday, the first day teams can hold workouts, here are five top storylines to follow during the 2014 season.
Stratford Joe Marion
James Island Ike Allred
Stall Joe Bessinger
Garrett Nick Hopp
Lincoln James Graham
First Baptist Johnny Waters
Palmetto Christian Chris Shimakonis
Dorchester Academy Chris Meyers
Colleton Prep Thad Wells
St. John's Christian John McCall
Faith Christian Dale Feagin
McKissick rolls on
This will remain the top storyline in the Lowcountry for as long as Summerville head coach John McKissick continues to stalk the sidelines of Memorial Stadium. McKissick enters his 63rd season at the helm with 613 career victories.
People have been trying to retire McKissick for the last decade, but the 87-year old is still going strong. There is heavy sentiment around town that 2014 could indeed be his last season, but only McKissick will decide that. Meanwhile, his 2014 Green Wave team should be a state title contender.
Gators hunt big game
In what could also be the final season for Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy, the Gators have beefed up their non-region schedule. The Gators open the season Aug. 30 in Ohio, taking on Pickerington Central High School, a team that went 8-3 last season.
Four weeks later, Goose Creek will host Eastern Christian Academy of Elkton, Maryland, a private school program with several Division I prospects. Goose Creek was 12-1 last season and has not lost a game in Region 7-AAAA since 2009. The Gators also have added former West Ashley quarterback Pedro Manigault to their roster this season as a transfer.
Top secret Timberland
With most attention focused on the bigger schools each year, the Timberland High program, under head coach Art Craig, has won more games than any team in the area over the last 10 years.
Craig has guided the Wolves to 111 victories since 2004, which ranks third in the entire state behind Byrnes (130) and Dillon (122). Craig has posted 12 consecutive winning seasons, reaching double figures in victories nine times. His teams have lost only once in region play since 2005 and Craig is 164-41 in 16 seasons as a head coach, which includes three seasons at Cross.
While this is not considered a banner year for big-time college prospects in the Lowcountry, there still are a handful of players drawing major attention.
The area's top two prospects are Summerville offensive tackle Zach Bailey and Woodland defensive lineman Michael Barnett. Barnett already has verbally committed to Florida State, spurning offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and others.
Bailey has numerous scholarship offers as well, with South Carolina and Clemson leading the way.
Other area prospects that show Division I potential include Goose Creek running back Tyrik Johnson; Fort Dorchester defensive tackle Eurndraus Bryant; Wando's trio of running back Kenny Waring, linebacker Tyler Ragsdale and tight end Ben Jacques, a Charlotte commitment; and Bishop England lineman Hudson Little.
Summerville has a pair of defensive prospects that may garner Division I interest in linebacker Mac McCurry and end Kawaun Cox, and Cane Bay linebacker Matt Rudy has received interest in football as well as wrestling. Berkeley offensive tackle Alex Brown (6-9, 310) has received offers from East Carolina and Middle Tennessee.
New faces, new places
The Lowcountry has 11 new head football coaches, with a couple of them filling big shoes.
At Stratford, Joe Marion replaces Ray Stackley, who won 270 games over 29 years at the school. Marion was a member of Stackley's staff since 1988 and was the school's defensive coordinator since 2000.
At Dorchester Academy, Chris Myers replaces the legendary Stanley Gruber as head coach. Gruber won more than 325 games at Dorchester and Myers, who played for Gruber, is making his head-coaching debut in 2014.
Also, former Newberry College assistant Ike Allred begins the task of turning around the James Island program. Nick Hopp takes over at Garrett and James Graham is the new man at Lincoln.