Summerville quarterback Johnathan Bennett and First Baptist running back Michel Dukes are good at football. That much is obvious.
But what really sets the pair apart, according to their coaches, are leadership abilities above and beyond the norm. Bennett and Dukes played and led well enough to share The Post and Courier All-Lowcountry player of the year honors.
Summerville coach Joe Call, who led his team to a region title and the Class AAAAA Lower State finals, is the Lowcountry coach of the year.
In the case of Bennett, he almost didn’t play football as he entered high school.
The 6-1, 215-pounder dreamed of playing college basketball. But on the first day of football practice in 2015, it was Bennett’s grandmother who forced him out of bed and on to football workouts. That one day changed Bennett’s life.
“Had she not been there to make me go, I honestly don’t know if I had played football ever again,” said Bennett, who played in the North-South All-Star game on Dec. 15. “It’s crazy how things work out over time. I ended up giving up basketball and taking football seriously, and things have really opened up for me.”
Bennett, who said he once imagined himself playing basketball for Duke, signed with Liberty University on Dec. 19 to play football. He even opted to forego his senior season in basketball and will enroll at Liberty in January.
Bennett, a finalist for the Mr. Football Award in South Carolina, finished the season with 2,337 passing yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for 707 yards and 17 scores. He led Summerville to 28 wins in three years as a full-time starter, accounting for nearly 6,000 total yards and 73 touchdowns over the last two seasons.
Summerville's Call, himself a former Green Wave quarterback, said looking past the statistics is how you find the most valuable part of Bennett.
“The kid is a natural leader,” Call said. “We can talk about his stats all day, and he was great on the field, but he has the personality that everyone is drawn to. He leads by example and he leads through his voice. When he speaks, his teammates listen because they respect how hard he has worked. As good as he was on the field, his leadership in our program may have been his biggest accomplishment.”
Similarly, no single player in the history of the football program at First Baptist School has meant more, or done more, than Dukes. Big things were predicted for Dukes as an eighth-grader, even though many felt he would eventually take his talents to a bigger school with more visibility.
But Dukes stayed at First Baptist, a small private school. As he grew and improved, the Hurricanes began to win. Dukes led the Hurricanes to consecutive SCISA Class AA titles as a sophomore and junior, and back to the AAA final this season before losing to Hammond.
The 5-11, 190-pounder set records at the school that will likely never be broken. He finishes his career with 8,762 rushing yards and 117 touchdowns. He posted three consecutive seasons of at least 2,000 rushing yards, including 2,240 with 31 touchdowns in 2018.
Like Bennett, however, Dukes will always be remembered by his coach, Johnny Waters, for more than his stats. During Waters’ first season as coach, in Dukes’ eighth-grade year, the Hurricanes were 0-10.
“He changed the program because he stuck with us when he could have gone elsewhere,” Waters said. “He stayed, and because he stayed, the program has totally changed. He was our leader, and others followed. He carried himself in the right way and he was a great teammate. Everyone played hard for him because they knew he was going to play his hardest.”
Dukes says he is glad he stayed at First Baptist, making lifelong memories in the process.
“First Baptist was good for me, it’s where I was meant to be,” he said.
Dukes has yet to make his college decision and has more than a dozen offers from major programs across the country. He made his official visit to Syracuse two weeks ago and is still considering South Carolina, East Carolina and Virginia Tech, among others.
ALL-LOWCOUNTRY FOOTBALL TEAM
First Team Offense
6-1, 215, senior
Bennett began starting games during his freshman year and started every game that he was healthy over the last three seasons ... He passed for 2,337 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for 707 yards and 17 scores as a senior ... Bennett had 4,064 passing yards and 1,476 rushing yards over the last two seasons, combining for 73 touchdowns ... Played in the North-South All-Star game and was a finalist for the Mr. Football award ... Named Region 8-AAAAA player of the year in 2018 ... Signed with Liberty University.
6-1, 195, senior
Two-year starter at quarterback and led the Stags to back-to-back region championships ... Named all-Region 7-AAAAA twice and passed for 2,391 yards and 22 touchdowns in the most balanced offense in the Lowcountry ... Totaled more than 4,000 yards passing over the last two seasons ... Wll sign with North Greenville.
Running back, First Baptist
5-11, 190, senior
Dukes is easily the best player in the history of the First Baptist program ... Finished his career with 8,762 rushing yards and 117 rushing touchdowns ... Also had 743 career receiving yards with nine more touchdowns ... Rushed for 2,240 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2018 ... Named SCISA all-state the last three seasons ... Has more than a dozen Division I FBS offers, including South Carolina, Syracuse and East Carolina.
Running back, Berkeley
6-0, 190, senior
Wicks is a two-time All-Lowcountry selection ... A two-year starter at Berkeley after transferring from Stall after his sophomore year ... Rushed for nearly 4,000 yards the last two years, including 1,877 yards and 22 touchdowns this season ... Two-time all-region pick ... Signed with Old Dominion.
Wide Receiver, Berkeley
5-9, 165, senior
Chisolm was one of the area’s most dynamic players, excelling as a pass-catcher as well as a kick and punt returner ... Selected to the SC Shrine Bowl team and was named the Region 7-AAAAA player of the year ... Caught 56 passes for 911 yards and 12 touchdowns this season ... Holds school records for receptions, yards and touchdowns, set as a junior.
Wide Receiver, Summerville
5-11, 200, senior
Banks was a versatile player for the Green Wave, finishing with 62 receptions for 757 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2018 ... All-Region 8-AAAAA this season ... Three-year starter and also served as the backup quarterback for the Green Wave.
Wide Receiver, Berkeley
6-4, 180, senior
Part of the explosive receiving duo for the Stags, Pesnell caught 42 passes for 629 yards and 11 touchdowns ... Was Berkeley’s clutch receiver in crucial game situations because of his leaping ability and great hands ... Selected to the all-region team in 7-AAAAA this fall ... Has several Division I offers.
Offensive line, Summerville
6-4, 280, senior
Served as the anchor on Summerville’s offensive front, paving the way to more than 5,000 total yards in offense ... Two-time all-region selection and also a top baseball prospect as a pitcher ... Was a three-year starter ... Signed with Western Kentucky and will enroll in January.
Offensive line, Ashley Ridge
6-4, 285, senior
Anchored the offensive line for the Swamp Foxes, earning all-region honors twice ... Three-year starter produced an 86 percent blocking grade with 47 pancake blocks this season.
Offensive line, James Island
6-2, 270, senior
Drayton was a mainstay on the Trojans’ offensive line for the last three seasons ... Selected to play in the North-South All-Star game ... Named to the 7-AAAAA all-region team and has signed with The Citadel.
Offensive line, Berkeley
6-6, 335, senior
Three-year starter on the Berkeley offensive front, paving the way for more than 5,000 yards this season ... Twice named all-region and is entertaining several college offers ... Also a top-ranked student in the senior class at Berkeley.
Offensive line, Fort Dorchester
6-1, 320, senior
Benjamin was a two-year starter and an all-region pick in 8-AAAAA this fall ... Also selected to play in the North-South All-Atar game this season.
Athlete, First Baptist
5-10, 170, senior
Major was a major factor as a return specialist and the team’s leading receiver this fall ... He caught 37 passes for 665 yards and six touchdowns while also returning two punts and a kickoff for scores ... Three-year starter and two-time all-state selection in SCISA.
5-10, 175, senior
The top placekicking threat in the Lowcountry, Wiel was selected to play in the North-South all-star game ... This season he made 13 of 18 field goal attempts with a long of 43 yards ... Also converted 15 of 16 extra point attempts ... Named all-region in 7-AAAAA.
First Team Defense
Defensive Line, Summerville
6-0, 300, senior
Anchored Summerville’s defensive line for the last two seasons ... Named All-Lowcountry in 2017 ... Started as a freshman on Ashley Ridge line before transferring ... This season tallied 39 tackles with two tackles for loss ... Earned all-region honors in 2017 and 2018.
Defensive Line, Wando
6-0, 290, senior
Three-year varsity starter for coach Jimmy Noonan ... Two-time all-region pick ... North-South All-Star game participant ... 51 total tackles with 19 tackle for loss and eight sacks in 2018.
Defensive Line, Fort Dorchester
6-0, 290, senior
Mainstay on the Fort Dorchester defensive front for the last two seasons ... Earned all-region honors in 8-AAAAA.
Defensive Line, Garrett Tech
6-5, 250, senior
Four-year starter and three-time all-region selection ... Named the Class AA lineman of the year by the SC Coaches Association ... 55 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and seven sacks ... Also forced and recovered two fumbles, returning one for a touchdown ... Played in the North-South All-Star game.
Defensive Line, Goose Creek
6-3, 245, senior
Earned All-Region 7-AAAAA honors and was selected to play in North-South All-Star game ... Two-year starter ... 76 total tackles with 16 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks during the 2018 season.
Linebacker, Fort Dorchester
6-3, 215, senior
One of the area’s top defensive players over the last three seasons ... Selected to the SC Shrine Bowl team and had seven tackles in the Shrine Bowl game ... Two-time all-region and twice named all-state ... 134 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and three sacks this season ... Finished with more than 300 career tackles.
6-1, 215, senior
School record-holder for career tackles as a three-year starter ... 123 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks this season ... All-Region 7-AAAAA in 2018 ... Has several preferred walk-on offers from Power 5 schools, as well as The Citadel and Ivy League schools.
Linebacker, First Baptist
6-1, 195, senior
Leading tackler over the last three seasons for the Hurricanes ... Three-year starter ... Two-time SCISA all-state ... 128 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, five sacks and five fumble recoveries in 2018.
6-1, 215, senior
Senior leader on the Summerville defense this fall ... 137 tackles, eight tackles for loss, three sacks and one interception this season ... Selected to play in North-South All-Star game ... Two-time all-region pick and three-year starter.
Defensive back, Berkeley
6-0, 180, senior
Three-year starter and team leader in the Berkeley secondary ... Selected to play in North-South All-Star game where he had two interceptions and was named South team defensive player of the game ... A two-time all-region selection ... Two interceptions in 2018.
Defensive back, Timberland
5-10, 175, senior
Two-year varsity starter and twice named all-region ... Had eight interceptions as a junior, earning first-team All-Lowcountry honors ... This season had four interceptions, nine pass breakups, 37 tackles and two fumble recoveries ... Also had four touchdown receptions on offense ... Played in the North-South all-star game.
Defensive back, Ashley Ridge
6-0, 180, senior
Finished among the area leaders in tackles with 116 total stops and added one interception ... Selected to the 8-AAAAA all-region team ... Two-year varsity starter.
Defensive back, Summerville
6-0, 175, senior
Dynamic all-around performer who excelled on special teams as well as in the secondary ... 47 tackles, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries this season ... Also had a 99-yard punt return for touchdown and a 70-yard kickoff return for touchdown ... Two-year varsity starter who also starts on the basketball team.
5-10, 180, senior
Excelled as a return specialist and cornerback for the Stags ... Had five interceptions, returning one for a touchdown ... Also returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this season, averaging 46.7 yards per kick return.
Punter, Cane Bay
6-0, 175, senior
Handled all of Cane Bay’s kicking duties this fall ... Averaged 37.7 yards per punt with a long of 60 yards ... Dropped five punts inside the 20 ... Also made 20 extra points and three field goals.
All-Lowcountry Second Team
QB: De’Andrae Sabb, Fort Dorchester; Matthew Duncan, Ashley Ridge; Gunnar Nistad, Porter-Gaud
RB: Nick Cunningham, Ashley Ridge; RB Mario Anderson, Stratford
WR: Jaylen Perry, Ashley Ridge; Tyshon Richardson, Stall; Brody Hopkins, Summerville
OL: Josh Blackstock, First Baptist; David Martin, Berkeley; Kamryn Patrick, Ashley Ridge; Terrence Frasier, West Ashley; Adam McKanna, Summerville
ATH: Kenyatta Jenkins, West Ashley
PK: Jonathan Weitz, Porter-Gaud
DL: Jaheim President, Ashley Ridge; Emmanuel Johnson, Fort Dorchester; Jamaal McKinney, Timberland; Xavion Washington, First Baptist; Jaylen Miller, Berkeley
LB: Jake Dunn, Berkeley; JaXavier Legare, West Ashley; Luke Mills, Hanahan; Keesler Lawrence, Porter-Gaud
DB: Jamar Barron, Baptist Hill; Kevon Gregory, Summerville; Noah West, Ashley Ridge; Donald Vanderhorst, Hanahan
ATH: Caleb Pierce, Porter-Gaud
P: Luke Litwin, Hanahan
QB: Rashad Maxwell, Baptist Hill; Myron Wigfall, First Baptist; DQ Vinson, James Island; Travis Lott, Stratford; Sean Cooney, Oceanside Collegiate; Connor Rourk, Palmetto Christian; Dre Martin, Stall; Will Pickren, Wando; Colby Weeks, Dorchester Academy; DJ Gadsden, Timberland
RB: Kalil Jenkins, Fort Dorchester; Keegan Williams, Oceanside Collegiate; Brandon Broughton, Charleston Charter; D’Mario Gerald, Charleston Charter; Shiron Hart, Hanahan; Gale Ball, Hanahan; Yaphett Bienvenu, West Ashley; Tyrone Hicks, St. John’s; Tyrus Richardson, St. John’s; Micah Staggers, Cane Bay; Matthew Williamson, Timberland
WR: RJ Hamilton, James Island; Walker Rhue, Oceanside Collegiate; Maken Glover, Wando; Dalton Welch, Palmetto Christian; James Levine, Stall; Jack Trouche, Porter-Gaud; Qway Simmons, Fort Dorchester; Antoine Parker, Fort Dorchester; Sincere Brown, First Baptist; Kellen Noonan, Wando; Demarius Anderson, Stratford; Terrence Brown, Baptist Hill; Chase Way, Dorchester Academy
OL: Jekobe Taylor, St. John’s; Cameron Curry, Cane Bay; Malachi Jones, Cane Bay; Jackson Rape, James Island; Kaleb Brown, Ashley Ridge; Jackson Worel, Oceanside Collegiate; Donovan Green, Oceanside Collegiate; Myles Castain, Oceanside Collegiate; Holsten Slack, Porter-Gaud; Alex Garrido, Fort Dorchester
ATH: Dominique Kershaw, West Ashley; Jayvonte Burnell, Baptist Hill; Andrew Thomas, Porter-Gaud; Savion Townsend, Baptist Hill; Zion Coker, Oceanside Collegiate; Eddie Marinaro, Bishop England; Steven Schlosser, Academic Magnet
PK: Alex Lazik, Ashley Ridge; Eduardo Geromino, Stall; Justin Johnson, First Baptist; Chris Haynes, Oceanside Collegiate; Kobe Shelton, Fort Dorchester; Wyatt Olson, Summerville
DL: Devin Ray, First Baptist; Danny Davis, Cane Bay; Kendall Chakeris, Palmetto Christian; Daniel Gunn, Palmetto Christian; Anthony Dickerson, Stall; LaMontray Heatley, Stall; Anthony Jackson, Ashley Ridge; Quavon Frazier, James Island; Mark Jellema, Oceanside Collegiate; Donta Gilliard, Baptist Hill
LB: Daryl Ware, Fort Dorchester; Carson Rourk, Palmetto Christian; Jordan Judge, Stratford; Demond Navarre, Berkeley; Chase Smith, Cane Bay; Ross Greenhill, First Baptist; Colby Taylor, Summerville; Luke Taylor, Summerville; Chase Merrick, Porter-Gaud; JD Key, Porter-Gaud; DeVonte Gaddist; St. John’s; Drew Owens, Bishop England; Rhett Butcher, Ashley Ridge; Nathan Estep, Ashley Ridge; Jamal Barron, Baptist Hill; Tyquan Bright, Baptist Hill; Caleb Calandra, Oceanside Collegiate; Jakari Moultrie, Oceanside Collegiate; Shemar Thompkins, West Ashley
DB: Jackson Zehr, Cane Bay; Jordan Brown, St. John’s; Sullivan Clair, Bishop England; Charles Michel, Bishop England; De’Shaun Stephens, Baptist Hill; Caleb Edwards, West Ashley; Terrence Smalls, Timberland; Dwalynn Deleston, West Ashley
P: Major Chestnut, James Island; Blaise Dampier, Ashley Ridge; Jarren McCoy, Bishop England; Nathan Newman, Philip Simmons.