Memorable year in Lowcountry football highlighted by state title for Gators, Virgil Smalls

Goose Creek’s Virgil Smalls

The 2011 Lowcountry high school football season might not be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but you have to go back 46 years to match the success that area teams enjoyed this fall.

Goose Creek (Division II-AAAA), Timberland (Division I-AA) and Bishop England (Division II-AA) proved to be the best in the state in their respective divisions.

It was the first time since 1955 that the High School League crowned three teams from the Lowcountry as state champions.

Throw in Bluffton, which lost to South Pointe in the Class AAA state championship, and the Lowcountry was well-represented during state championship weekend.

The Lowcountry had great teams -- and players.

Goose Creek's Virgil Smalls heads up the All-Lowcountry Football team as The Post and Courier's player of the year.

He's a 5-11, 270-pound thunderball who left his mark on the gridiron and in Palmetto's Finest, the official record book of the High School League.

He is one of seven Gators who were named to the All-Lowcountry first team.

Smalls was a four-year starter who carried the ball 243 times this fall for 1,270 yards and 40 touchdowns. The 40 touchdowns in a single season is third in state history. He finished his career with 716 carries for 3,788 yards and 90 touchdowns. Only Demetris Summers, who played for Lexington High from 1999-2002, and Marcus Lattimore, who played for Byrnes High from 2006-09, scored more career touchdowns with 127 and 104, respectively.

"It feels good to be in that group," said Smalls, a two-time first team All-Lowcountry selection who played in the Shrine Bowl. "To accomplish something like that was beyond anything I could have imagined. I didn't know I could do it.

"Individual honors are nice, but it was better to win the state championship," Smalls said. "I'm proud to be part of this team. We're a family, and you can't win a state championship if you don't play as a family. We became tight. We became family."

The Gators, who are 27-2 the past two seasons, led the state's Class AAAA teams offensively in rushing yardage, total yardage and scoring. They were just as effective in defense, leading the state in rushing defense and finishing second in scoring defense.

The Gators have three players on the first-team offense: Smalls, Matt Steffensen and Tramel Terry. Steffensen is a first-team selection as a lineman for the second straight year, and Terry is arguably the top junior in the state. He split time between running back, receiver and return man, and finished with 2,031 all-purpose yards.

The Gators are also well-represented on defense with four selections. Linebacker T.J. Burrell is headed to Clemson, while junior defensive end Gerald Turner already has offers from South Carolina and Clemson. Raemond Robinson, who split time between linebacker and safety, is headed to The Citadel to play basketball. Senior Linebacker Trevon Bennett is a first-team pick for the second straight year.

Timberland, which is 26-2 the past two years, has four players on the first team, while Bishop England has three.

The Wolves' picks include offensive lineman Bobby McNeil, defensive end James Middleton, linebacker Daquan Lucas and defensive back Lee Mayes.

Bishop England's picks include Andrew Bunch, Cameron Swails and Drew Costa. Bunch made the team as an athlete, Swails played linebacker, and Costa is a repeat select as kicker.

John Cantey, who led the Bishops to a 13-1 record and their first state title in school history, is the coach of the year.

Wando, Bluffton and Cane Bay each have two first-team selections. Wando's selections are defensive end Gimel President and offensive lineman Tyler Statsky. Bluffton's selections are quarterback C.J. Frazier and receiver Dimitri Lowry. Cane Bay's selections are offensive lineman David Bryant and running back Anthony Enos.

Note

The All-Lowcountry football team, player of the year and coach of the year are selected by The Post and Courier from schools in Regions 8-AAAA, 7-AAAA, 7-AAA, 6-AA, 7-AA, 6-A and local independent schools based on all- region and all-star teams selected by coaches.

Reach Phil Bowman at 937-5592 or on Twitter at @pandcphil.