Without question, Fort Dorchester junior quarterback De’Andrae Sabb entered the 2018 football season with the biggest shoes to fill in the Palmetto State.
No player opened this season under more scrutiny than Sabb, who was tasked with taking over for Dakereon Joyner. Joyner, the state's Mr. Football last year who is now playing for the South Carolina Gamecocks, led the Patriots to a 40-3 record and state championship while accounting for more than 13,000 total yards and 157 touchdowns over three seasons.
Sabb spent last season as Joyner’s understudy, following the heralded leader around like a puppy and soaking in all he could. Fort Dorchester won most of their games easily, allowing Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad to play Sabb at least half a game nearly every week. Getting his feet wet last season gave Sabb a leg up heading into the 2018 campaign.
“I definitely feel like getting to play a lot last year has helped me be more confident this year,” said Sabb, who transferred to the Fort Dorchester district from Cane Bay as an eighth-grader. “Being able to run the plays and adjust to the speed of the game was really helpful. And, of course, having someone like Dakereon to watch really helped me learn the game so much faster.”
Sabb has a special affinity for Joyner. He says that while Joyner was a virtual celebrity, he also was a team player.
“Really he was like my big brother,” Sabb said. “He used to always tell me to be patient, that my time was coming. I would watch him in every practice and I learned as much as I could. Not just the plays and stuff but also how to be a leader. The quarterback has to be the leader.
“I never had to go to a coach if I had questions. I could just ask Dakereon and he was always willing to help me. He has been a big influence on me for sure.”
Sabb has taken well to his new role as the leader of Fort Dorchester’s offense. The Patriots are off to a 3-0 start and Sabb has accounted for 387 passing yards, 273 rushing yards, and 13 total touchdowns.
“It’s been good so far but we have a long way to go,” he said. “I am still learning every day. I have to keep my focus and keep improving. I want to get our passing game going. It’s inconsistent right now. With me being new and we have some new receivers, we’re just finding a rhythm. I think you will see a lot more offense as we get better together.”
LaPrad said during the preseason that Sabb was more than ready to take over the offense.
“He’s a good player, a good athlete, and we know what he can do,” LaPrad said. “We don’t need him to be Dakereon. Just be De’Andrae and he’ll be fine.”
Sabb heard all of the preseason talk about how Fort Dorchester would slip with so many new starters on the field, including him at quarterback. He says upholding the program’s winning tradition brings some pressure but he focuses on the game in front of him.
“I just have to be me and do the things I can do well,” he said. “It’s not just me. We have a lot of new guys but they can ball. We have a lot of talent. If we stay focused we can do great things.”
Fort Dorchester will host Wando on Friday night before taking on area power Berkeley next week.