Summer is over for thousands of high school football players across South Carolina with the official start of practice this week.
Most teams in the Charleston area hit the practice field for the first time on Friday. Those teams have three weeks to prepare for their season-opening games on Aug. 23.
Perhaps the best thing about the start of practice is every team feels optimistic about their chances of competing for and winning championships. One of those teams with eyes on improvement is Goose Creek, led by second-year head coach Jason Winstead.
Goose Creek, once an area powerhouse in football, has fallen on hard times in recent years. Winstead took over last year and the Gators won four games, which is more than the previous two seasons combined.
For Winstead, who came from South Pointe High, four wins is not enough.
“Last year it was ugly at times,” Winstead said. “To be honest, there were some games where we knew going in that we’d have a hard time competing. It is better this year. I think we can compete. I feel like we can go into most every game feeling that we have a chance. We’re not there yet, but we are better.”
The Gators return 15 starters, including eight on offense. Senior Emmanuel Mukuamu returns at quarterback, along with receivers Damon Mouzon and DJ Matthews. Though relatively inexperienced along the defensive front, the back seven defensively is loaded with talent and experience.
“It’s always good to have guys back a little more experienced and a little stronger,” Winstead said. “We like the work we’ve put in. It’s getting better overall. We have a bigger coaching staff and everyone is on the same page.”
New faces on the sideline
Four teams in the Lowcountry have new head coaches this fall. Marc Klatt, the former head coach at Wade Hampton of Greenville, takes over at Charleston Charter School for Math and Science. Klatt was at Wade Hampton the last four seasons.
Brad Bowles is the new coach at Porter-Gaud. Bowles was an assistant at Goose Creek and head coach at St. John’s for two years before moving to Providence High in Charlotte for the last four seasons.
Alvarez Pringle takes over at Military Magnet after former head coach Harold Ross stepped down to focus on his duties as athletic director. Ross will remain an assistant coach on the staff.
William Wineberg is the interim head coach at West Ashley, moving up from his role as defensive coordinator.
Two former head coaches, Bobby Marion and Rick Reetz, are settling into new roles at new schools. Marion, the former West Ashley head coach, is the offensive coordinator at Ashley Ridge this fall. Reetz left his head coaching position at Porter-Gaud to call the offensive plays at James Island this season.
Home away from home
North Charleston and Burke will not play home games at their own stadiums this season.
North Charleston’s football facility, Attaway-Heinsohn Field, was demolished after last season to make way for the North Charleston Center for Advanced Studies.
The Cougars will play their home games at Garrett Academy of Technology, which no longer has an athletic program. A planned regional stadium in North Charleston is expected to be ready for the 2020 season. The new 6,000-seat facility will be used by North Charleston High, Academic Magnet, Stall and Military Magnet.
Burke’s home stadium, Stoney Field, is still undergoing major renovations and will not be available this season. The Bulldogs are scheduled to play home games at Ravenel Stadium in West Ashley.