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High school football in 2020: 5 storylines for a season like no other

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Porter-Gaud cheerleaders wear face coverings and practice social distancing during a SCISA football game played Sept. 4. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

The biggest and most obvious storyline for the 2020 high school football season is the pandemic that continues to affect nearly every aspect of our lives.

The coronavirus wiped out the entire spring sports season for high schools across the state, and the uncertainty as it pertains to a fall sports season was prevalent throughout the summer.

As it stands now, the football season will take place, albeit at a reduced level of games and fewer postseason opportunities. SCISA schools got underway on Aug. 28 and are slated to play a full regular-season schedule of 10 games, but they have had several games canceled due to positive COVID-19 tests at some schools.

The S.C. High School League kicks off its season Friday night, with most teams playing a seven-game regular season and with shortened playoffs.

Aside from the pandemic, here are five storylines for a high school football season like no other:

Remember realignment?

Back in February, the High School League finalized its region and classification realignment for the next two years. Soon after, the high school sports world was turned upside down by the pandemic shutdown, so many may have forgotten about the changes that were put in place.

Here are the new regions for Lowcountry schools:

Region 8-AAAAA - Fort Dorchester, Ashley Ridge, Summerville, Stall, West Ashley.

Region 7-AAAAA – Berkeley, Goose Creek, Cane Bay, Stratford, Wando. 

Region 7-AAAA – Colleton County, Beaufort, Hilton Head, James Island, May River, Lucy Beckham, Bluffton.

Region 8-AAA – Hanahan, Bishop England, Battery Creek, Oceanside Collegiate, North Charleston, Academic Magnet.

Region 6-AA – Burke, Lake Marion, Philip Simmons, Hardeeville-Ridgeland, Timberland, Woodland.

Region 7-A – Baptist Hill, Charleston Math & Science, Cross, St. John’s, Military Magnet, Whale Branch.

Coaching carousel

There was plenty of shakeup among area high school coaching staffs during the offseason. Nine high schools will have new head coaches with several coaches making moves within the area.

New head coaches include Rocco Adrian (Wando), Joe Call (Oceanside Collegiate), Ian Rafferty (Summerville), Shane Fidler (Ashley Ridge), Mike Howard (St. John’s), Donnie Kiefer (West Ashley), Art Craig (Hanahan), Jamar McKoy (James Island), and Greg Wright (Timberland). Also, former Wando assistant Jamel Smith is the first-ever coach at Lucy Beckham, which will play as a junior varsity team this season.

Hurricanes hunting for title

First Baptist made three consecutive state title game appearances before an early playoff exit last season. Coach Johnny Waters may have a team capable of contending for the SCISA Class AAA title this fall.

The Hurricanes, off to a 4-0 start, feature senior quarterback Will Daniel, who topped 3,000 yards passing last season. The receiving corps received a major boost with the transfer of Jaylin Hayward from Stratford. Freshman running back Davian Brown gained almost 1,000 yards as an eighth-grader. The Hurricanes also return two key defensive leaders in linebacker Mikey Blandin and defensive back Ramon Kelly. The defense has returned four interception for touchdowns in the first four games.

North Charleston's new stadium

This season marks the opening of a brand new multi-sport facility in North Charleston. The District 4 Regional Stadium will serve as the home field for Stall, North Charleston, Military Magnet and Academic Magnet for football, as well as soccer and lacrosse. The new stadium, which will seat about 6,000 fans, has a synthetic playing surface, along with locker rooms, concessions, a press box and restrooms. It is located off West Montague Avenue and Dorchester Road, and is visible from I-526. The project cost more than $22 million.

Games of the year

With an abbreviated schedule, every game will be important this season. Goose Creek gets the honor of the toughest early schedule in the area. The Gators will open with games against Berkeley and Fort Dorchester in the first two weeks of the season.

Fort Dorchester and Berkeley will meet in the final regular- season game on Nov. 6. Fort Dorchester, Goose Creek and Berkeley are the top three teams in The Post and Courier’s Lowcountry Top 10 rankings.

Oceanside Collegiate and Hanahan will clash on Oct. 9 in a game that could determine the Region 8-AAA title, though Bishop England may have a say in who wins the region. Bishop England and Oceanside play Friday night.

Region 7-A could be decided on Oct. 23 when Whale Branch visits Cross.

Lowcountry Top 10 football rankings

1. Fort Dorchester

2. Goose Creek

3. Berkeley

4. First Baptist

5. Summerville

6. Oceanside Collegiate

7. Wando

8. Cane Bay

9. Timberland

10. Hanahan

Friday's Lowcountry games

Fort Dorchester at Ashley Ridge

Goose Creek at Berkeley

Stratford at Summerville

Cane Bay at Wando

Stall at West Ashley

May River at James Island

Hanahan at North Charleston

Colleton County at Bluffton

Bishop England at Oceanside Collegiate

Philip Simmons at Burke

Woodland at Lake Marion

St. John’s at Whale Branch

Cross at Military Magnet

Charleston Charter at Baptist Hill

Augusta Christian at First Baptist

Porter-Gaud at Heathwood Hall

Thomas Heyward at Beaufort Academy

Colleton Prep at Hilton Head Christian

Spartanburg Christian at Northwood Academy

Christian Academy at Dorchester Academy

Greenwood Christian at St. John’s Christian

Laurens Academy at Northside Christian

Palmetto Christian at Richard Winn Academy

W.W. King at Cathedral Academy

Charleston Collegiate at Andrew Jackson

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