Kenny Walker coaches the Ashley Ridge football team. Jimmy Noonan coaches the Wando football team. They will be on opposite sidelines tonight when Wando hosts Ashley Ridge in a 7:30 showdown.
Their paths first crossed in 1992 at The Citadel. Walker was a graduate assistant for the Bulldogs wrestling team when Noonan was a graduate assistant on the football team after a successful playing career.
"I spent a lot of time in the weight room," said Walker, a Pennsylvania native in his first year as coach of Ashley Ridge. "I got to know him quite well. I was quite impressed. But I never thought I would coach against him."
Not too many people thought this would be a big game when the schedules were released. After all, Ashley Ridge is in its first year as a Class AAAA school, while Wando has struggled in recent years, compiling a 5-17 record over the previous two seasons.
But both teams enter tonight's game with 4-1 records.
"It's kind of neat," Walker said. "But to be honest with you, our coaching staff didn't think that it would be a big game when we started practice in late July."
Noonan, in his second year at Wando, is pleased with his team's effort. The Warriors are averaging 27 points on offense, while the defense is allowing only 8.4 points per game. The special teams play has been solid as well. Last week, Evans Townsend scooped up a blocked punt and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. The defense also put points on the board when Cameron Coakley set a state record with a 109-yard interception return as the Warriors blasted Colleton County by a 42-3 score.
"Believe me, the offensive coordinator loves it when the defense and special teams come up with touchdowns in the same game," Noonan said. "That takes the pressure off the offense."
Sam Norton has settled in as quarterback for the Warriors. He leads the team with 345 yards and four touchdowns rushing, and he has passed for another 211 yards and two more touchdowns. The Warriors like to run the football. They average 211 yards per game on the ground.
Ashley Ridge quarterback Cameron Cox also is a dual threat. He has rushed for 237 yards and a pair of scores, while passing for 985 yards and nine scores. Cox's favorite receivers are Seamus McKinney and Nick Webb. Sophomore running back Romelo Doctor has 391 yards on the ground and five scores.