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High School Football Preview: SCISA programs take on new look for 2022

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The Porter-Gaud football team will move up to Class AAAA in the SCISA ranks this season. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

The South Carolina Independent Schools Association will have a different look for the 2022 football season.

The private-school league has added a fourth classification, and several schools that have fielded eight-man football programs in the past are venturing into the 11-man ranks.

In the Charleston area, Porter-Gaud is now a part of the Class AAAA league, while First Baptist and Pinewood Prep will play on the Class AAA level.

At Charleston Collegiate, former NFL star Charlie Brown is the new coach. 

One eight-man team not jumping up is two-time defending state champion Holly Hill Academy, a program that has not lost a game since the 2019 season and appears to be a heavy favorite again this fall, with a few of its top competitors moving up to the 11-man division.

Aside from Holly Hill Academy, odds are against a serious SCISA state championship contender emerging from the Lowcountry. However, the area will have several competitive teams throughout the ranks.

Porter-Gaud

HEAD COACH: Brad Bowles

2021 RECORD: 8-5

WHAT TO KNOW: If not for the transfers of brothers Lawson and Marshall Pritchett, easily the two best players in the program, to a private school in Georgia, the Cyclones may have been in the state title conversation.

The departure left coach Brad Bowles with some work to do, but the cupboard is not totally bare. Senior linebacker Zihaire Jackson will anchor the defense after totaling nearly 70 tackles last season. Senior lineman Jaser Amer is a two-way performer and should rate as one of the top linemen in SCISA.

Junior James Ball had 68 tackles as a linebacker last season and sophomore Tony Brown will be a capable performer at running back. Senior Jack Rucker is another key returner as a receiver and defensive back. There are no quarterbacks with any experience to speak of, so finding some consistency at that position will be a major objective.

First Baptist

HEAD COACH: Johnny Waters

2021 RECORD: 4-6

WHAT TO KNOW: The Hurricanes have also been hit with transfers, and injuries as well, since last year.

Top athlete Dove Fishburne, a threat at receiver, defensive back and in the return game, is out with a torn ACL but could return in October if all goes well. Top defensive lineman James Pisano also suffered a torn ACL during the summer.

The leading tackler at linebacker, Kaine Moses, is now at Goose Creek and leading rusher Davian Brown, a three-year starter at running back, is now at Fort Dorchester.

Despite the losses in personnel, Waters feels the Hurricanes will be very competitive. Back from injury is quarterback Cooper Glazer and junior running back Elijah Denson will be a speed threat in the running game. The offensive line returns a wealth of experience, led by seniors Curtis Magwood and Roy Maybank.

Pinewood Prep

HEAD COACH: J.W. Myers

2021 RECORD: 5-6

WHAT TO KNOW: With some talent returning at the skill positions, the Panthers may end up being the best team in SCISA as far as Lowcountry teams go.

Myers returns a talented quarterback in sophomore Asa Windham, who passed for more than 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. Multi-purpose athlete Shane DaRe had more than 1,200 combined yards as a rusher and receiver, accounting for 12 scores.

Top receivers Terrance Stallworth and Troy Dandridge also return. Anchoring the offensive line are returning starters Zack Tyler and Ben Smith. Key returners defensively include linebackers Dylan Stockton and Corley Watson, and defensive back Noah Kessler.

Northwood Academy

HEAD COACH: Karl Lamont

2021 RECORD: 0-10

WHAT TO KNOW: The Chargers have struggled of late, managing just nine wins since 2016 and not winning a game since 2019. Lamont is the new head coach this fall, coming from Austin, Texas to breathe new life into the program.

Drake Pugh and Terrance Dessasure will be key two-way performers at receiver. Pugh also starts at linebacker, and Dessasure will be a defensive back. Junior Rhett Hill is slated for duties at quarterback and junior receiver Isaiah Glover is a returning all-region performer. Top linemen include Makael Wagner and Luke Saul and both will be two-way players.

Holly Hill Academy

HEAD COACH: Michael Nelson

2021 RECORD: 12-0

WHAT TO KNOW: The Raiders would have to play well below their level to lose a game this fall. Senior Tyler Wright returns at running back and is arguably the best player in the state among eight-man programs. Wright topped 2,000 rushing yards in 2021 and sat out the second half in several games.

Wright runs behind an experienced offensive line, led by Carter Judy, Mason Rudd and Dylan Rivera. Davin Walling anchors the defensive side at linebacker and is another of the top players in SCISA.

Dorchester Academy

HEAD COACH: Thomas McAlhaney

2021 RECORD: 6-4

WHAT TO KNOW: The Raiders will return a bevy of linemen that saw action on either side of the ball as underclassmen last year. Among that group are Nick Pinckney, Chantz Judy, Dallas Wade, Ben West, Lucas Chavis and Kade Loggins. Connor Hartzog will be a key performer at running back and linebacker while Ben Marchant is a returner at tight end and defensive end.

Colleton Prep

HEAD COACH: Greg Langdale

2021 RECORD: 4-7

WHAT TO KNOW: Walker Nettles, Gus Warren and Wyatt Drew are returning starters along the offensive line, which should be the strength of the team. Perhaps the best overall player is senior Noah Catterton, who works at running back and defensive end. Cole Davis and Cayden also return at running back and defensive back and Drew Rushton is a returning linebacker.

St. John’s Christian

HEAD COACH: Kevin Brown

2021 RECORD: 6-5

WHAT TO KNOW: The Cavaliers were 6-5 a year ago and will have a new head coach this fall. Offensive coordinator Kevin Brown, a former offensive coordinator at Coastal Carolina, will assume head coaching duties. Last year’s head coach, Brandon CLontz, will stay on staff as the defensive coordinator.

The Cavs have good leadership and ability at quarterback in junior Shy’Juan Grant and senior Ryan Pierce. Pierce also will anchor the secondary, along with returning safeties Clark Moraux and Sonny Redders. Senior Jonathan Biering is moving from tight end to running back and the Cavs have a solid unit returning along the front.

Charleston Collegiate

HEAD COACH: Charlie Brown

2021 RECORD: 2-5

WHAT TO KNOW: Former St. John’s High and NFL star receiver Charlie Brown heads up the Sun Devils program and feels his 2022 team can be more competitive.

Brown will feature returning quarterback Mason Hawes offensively, along with junior running back Zaiden Grant, who led the team in touchdowns last fall. Hawes also plays free safety and Grant is a linebacker. Anthony Gaines will be a two-way performer at running back and defensive back while Salters Hill is a welcome addition at defensive end and tight end after not playing football in the last two years.

Faith Christian

HEAD COACH: Ben Greene

2021 RECORD: 4-6

WHAT TO KNOW: The Knights did not have a senior on the roster last season and managed four wins, so the expectations for a winning record this fall are real.

Leading the offense will be senior running back Matterius Bell while sophomore Elijah Brown, a third-year varsity player, returns at quarterback with play-making abilities. Sophomore Will Watts is a key returner as a defensive end and tight end and senior Omari Johnson will be a threat at receiver while also playing in the defensive secondary. Freshman Christian Hewett is among the top linemen and will play both ways.