Summer officially ended Friday for most high school football players across the Lowcountry with teams holding their first practices of the season.
In football-rich Berkeley County, it marked a new beginning for three coaches. One, Stratford’s Dennie McDaniel, has previous head coaching experience, while Goose Creek’s Jason Winstead and Hanahan’s David Morbitzer are making their debuts as head coaches.
In McDaniel’s case, he takes over at his alma mater after two separate stints as an assistant. He spent two seasons as the head coach at St. John’s, compiling a 12-10 record, and also worked as an assistant at Wando.
“This is definitely different for me,” McDaniel said Friday morning. “Every year, as a player and a coach, getting any sleep before that first practice was very difficult. Last night was as hard as its ever been to sleep. I was up at three in the morning making sure things were squared away. It’s hard to describe the range of excitement and emotions for me. I am ready to get going and start the process of rebuilding this program.”
Stratford boasts one of the area’s most successful programs over the last 30 years, but stumbled to a 2-9 record last fall after winning just one game in 2016. McDaniel has definite goals in mind for his first season.
“We want to have those high expectations that we are used to having here but we also have to set goals that are attainable,” he said. “We want our kids to compete. We will only accept the best effort and the best attitude. We have set a mindset to where we want these guys to compete every day and every play.”
Winstead comes to Goose Creek from upstate powerhouse South Pointe, where as defensive coordinator he was part of five state championship teams in seven seasons. South Pointe won 92 games in those seven seasons. Goose Creek has won a total of five games in the last two seasons.
“I feel like I have prepared myself for this opportunity and it’s very exciting to be out here finally for this first day,” he said. “It has a different feel as the head coach but it’s still football. We’ve been working hard all summer. The kids are responding well. Their attitudes have been great. We’ve got a long way to go right now but it’s exciting to be here. We’re ready to go.”
Morbitzer spent the last nine years on the staff of former Hanahan head coach Charlie Patterson, who retired after the 2017 season. The coach has moved from his role as offensive coordinator and line coach to that of an overseer.
“It’s great to finally be out here,” said Morbitzer, who prepped at Lexington High and played at The Citadel. “I have been preparing for day one for a long time. Being a head coach has always been on my list of goals.
“It’s different in terms of what I am doing out here but we have great coaches and great kids. Our coaches will get the best out of these guys and I feel like our players will respond. It’s just fun right now. First days are fun for me.”
North Charleston and Woodland also have new head coaches. Devon Smalls is taking over at North Charleston while Cody Craig has been promoted to head coach at Woodland. Craig is the son of Timberland head coach Art Craig.
Philip Simmons High had its first official varsity practice on Friday. The school opened a year ago but played a junior varsity schedule.
Local teams are gearing up for three preseason jamborees in two weeks.
The 49th annual Sertoma Classic will be held on Aug. 9-10 at Johnson Hagood Stadium. The Moncks Corner Lions Club is hosting its first-ever jamboree on Aug. 10 at Berkeley High School, the same night that Fort Dorchester, Ashley Ridge and Woodland compete in the Dorchester County jamboree.