No surprises at the top: Fort Dorchester, the most dominant high school football team in the Lowcountry for the last five years, enters the 2019 season as the Charleston area’s No. 1 team in The Post and Courier's preseason rankings.
Head coach Steve LaPrad has perhaps his deepest team since winning the Class AAAA state title in 2015 with a perfect 15-0 record.
“We go about 10 deep at receiver and about that many in the secondary so we are certainly talented,” LaPrad said. “We have good players. But, as we all know, it takes more than talent to win a championship. You have to have leadership and focus and commitment. We still have to see how we stack up in those areas.”
Fort Dorchester is 60-8 since 2014 and last year’s nine-win season was the first without at least 10 wins in that span, although one of the losses was actually a win before Fort Dorchester was forced to forfeit for using an ineligible player.
The Patriots, as LaPrad said, have multiple options at receiver, a returning senior quarterback (De'Andrae Sabb) and senior running back (Kalil Jenkins), and a solid unit up front offensively. An up-and-coming freshman quarterback could be a major factor this season as well.
The defense has four players along the front receiving college offers, a Division I prospect (Darryle Ware) at linebacker, and depth in the secondary with several college prospects.
No one could legitimately argue the Patriots’ preseason ranking, but the real fun begins at No. 2. With no clear-cut favorite in the second spot, several teams will jockey for position throughout the season.
Despite heavy losses offensively, Berkeley should be a safe pick at No. 2 early on. Randy Robinson begins his fourth season with 32 wins in his first three years. The coach will be patient with a young group offensively but the line should be solid.
The defense will again be among the most athletic in the area.
“We lost a lot of really good players but we’re also very excited about the next group of young guys coming up,” Robinson said. “It might take us a little time but we have a chance to be a good football team this season.”
Timberland continues to be the most consistent program in the Lowcountry with 11 seasons of double-digit wins since 2002 and four straight nine-win seasons. The Wolves won’t have the number of marquee players that other programs have from year to year, but all they do is win.
Oceanside Collegiate, led by quarterback Sean Cooney and running back Keegan Williams, begin the season ranked fourth. Coach Chad Grier says the Landsharks are much deeper along the line of scrimmage this fall.
Goose Creek may be the area’s most improved team under second-year head coach Jason Winstead. The Gators return experience along the offensive line and should be solid at quarterback. The defense has seven returning starters and is particularly good in the back end.
First Baptist lost running back Mikey Dukes to Clemson but the Hurricanes will be able to throw the football with 6-5 receiver Sincere Brown on the outside. Junior Will Daniel, a Bishop England transfer, is at quarterback and coach Johnny Waters loves the potential of his offensive line this season.
As we conclude our summer series of the area’s top high school football players by position, we look at the guys who operate with little fanfare or publicity, until they mess up.
Ashley Ridge is led by the passing duo of quarterback Matthew Duncan and receiver Jaelyn Perry, with former West Ashley head coach Bobby Marion now calling the plays for the Swamp Foxes.
Summerville will need time to adjust without four-year starting quarterback Johnathan Bennett but the Green Wave should have a very good running game behind a veteran offensive line.
Woodland has two of the area’s top athletes in receiver Laval Davis and corner K’Ron Ferrell. The Wolverines feel like they can contend for the Class AA Lower State title.
Wando will be good defensively and much-improved at quarterback. If the Warriors figure things out along the front, they could challenge Goose Creek and Berkeley in Region 7-AAAAA.
Fall practice begins August 1 with Week 0 games scheduled for August 23.
Charleston area preseason top 10 teams
1. Fort Dorchester
4. Oceanside Collegiate
5. Goose Creek
6. First Baptist
7. Ashley Ridge