While 2020 has been a year of adapting to the new normal as the country copes with the COVID-19 pandemic, the old normal remains in place as it pertains to high school football in the Lowcountry.
As has been the case since 2015, Fort Dorchester will be the No. 1 team in the Lowcountry when the Patriots open the season on Sept. 25. Head coach Steve LaPrad has guided his program to a 71-10 record since 2014 with one state title (2015) during that run.
It’s way too early to predict if this year’s team can contend for a state championship, but there is no doubting the chances of another very successful campaign for Fort Dorchester.
The Patriots have some key players to replace but also return solid talent in key areas. Sophomore Zolten Osborne saw about half the snaps at quarterback as a freshman and is a developing college prospect. Senior running back Dwayne Wright gained nearly 1,000 yards on the ground last season. Senior Keith Desaussure is one of the top returning receivers and return specialists in the area.
Fort Dorchester lost three starters along the defensive line but returns the best group of linebackers in the area in Jayden Gardner, Otis Mack and Justin McElveen. Safety Khalid Gadson anchors an athletic secondary.
Goose Creek, No. 2 in The Post and Courier's first Lowcountry Top 10 rankings for this season, will lean on a veteran offensive line and very good receivers to break in a new quarterback. Last year’s signal caller, Manny Mukuamu, was the Lowcountry Player of the Year.
Berkeley, ranked third, is another of the area’s most successful programs in recent years and will again be talented across the board. Senior Solomon Butler is the next big-time receiver in a long line of playmakers at Berkeley.
Joe Call left Summerville, ranked fourth, as head coach and has landed at Oceanside Collegiate, which is No. 5. He will have to replace major production at quarterback (Sean Cooney) and running back (Keegan Williams), but the program left by former coach Chad Grier is on solid ground with established depth.
Former Fort Dorchester assistant Ian Rafferty is the new head coach at Summerville and will lean on a good defense and returning quarterback Colby Shirey this fall.
First Baptist (No. 6) and Woodland (No. 9) each return 3,000-yard passers in Will Daniel and Keyuan Johnson, respectively. Daniel already has thrown for 491 yards and five touchdowns this season in leading the Hurricanes to a 2-0 start.
The most improved team in the area could be Hanahan, which is ranked No. 10. The Hawks won just one game last season but new head coach Art Craig will change fortunes quickly. Defensive leaders Kai Buffalo, Alex Herriott, and Andrew Stewart will be strong performers for the Hawks.
Lowcountry football Top 10
1. Fort Dorchester - Loaded at skill positions on offense and strong linebacker corps will lead defense.
2. Goose Creek - Arguably the best offensive line in the area with good receivers.
3. Berkeley - Stags continue to be one of the most athletic teams in Lowcountry.
4. Summerville - New coaching staff but should be very good defensively.
5. Oceanside Collegiate – New head coach Joe Call has major production to replace offensively.
6. First Baptist - Hurricanes look to be a state title contender in SCISA AAA.
7. Bishop England - Talented players at skill positions and a strong offensive line will boost Bishops.
8. Cane Bay - Solid on the offensive and defensive lines with good experience at running back.
9. Woodland - Wolverines return quarterback Keyuan Johnson, who has passed for more than 3,000 yards.
10. Hanahan - Strong defense and new head coach Art Craig will make Hawks one of the most improved teams.
Friday SCISA football schedule
Pinewood Prep at Wilson Hall
Ben Lippen at First Baptist
Laurence Manning at Porter-Gaud
Beaufort Academy at Colleton Prep
Dorchester Academy at Orangeburg Prep
St. John’s Christian at Christian Academy
Palmetto Christian at Newberry Academy
Cathedral at Patrick Henry
Faith Christian at Charleston Collegiate