MOUNT PLEASANT — No Stall football team ever played at the old Wando Stadium on Mathis Ferry Road, but head coach Joe Bessinger has told his players the stories of his alma mater.
He warned them of the dangers of its home crowds, how such a tall sea of black and garnet could overwhelm its visitors, especially when provoked by the thunder of its legendary band.
Bessinger knew Wando’s old stadium well, having won there as both a player and assistant coach. He’s now been introduced to its new facility, too, as Wando slammed Stall, 52-13, Friday on the opening night of District 2’s sparkling new $16.5 million stadium in North Mount Pleasant.
“It’s kind of nostalgic for me. That old stadium held a special place in my heart as a player and a coach,” Bessinger said. “There are mixed emotions because I’m proud of my alma mater and this is a beautiful facility. I just wish we could’ve have put on a better game to open it.”
Wando had seven different players score for an offense that rushed for more than 300 yards just a week after being held to less than 20.
Sophomore quarterback Reed Garris threw for two touchdowns and ran for another in his debut in front of his home crowd.
“It was good to see our offensive line get some movement up front,” Wando head coach Jimmy Noonan said. “We’ve struggled in the run game and that’s just not good high school football. There’s still a lot of work to do, of course, but it was nice to put some points up.”
Garris showed valuable poise in just his second varsity start, keeping plays alive with his feet and creating downfield with his arm. A budding baseball prospect who already holds an offer from The Citadel, Garris dropped in several well-placed passes, many after fighting off pressure from the Stall defense.
Garris shook off a tackle behind the line of scrimmage early in the second quarter and dropped a touch pass over top of the defense to Maken Glover for a 22-yard score. He added a 15-yard touchdown to Jahmal Haynes in the final minutes of first half to send Wando into the break with a 24-0 advantage. Garris later spun off a sack and broke free for a 13-yard touchdown run that put Wando ahead 31-6 midway through the third quarter.
“I’m proud to see him make those plays,” Noonan said. “Some of that is just instinctive and that’s what you want out of your quarterback.”
Wando’s offense had plenty of opportunities as its defense didn’t allow Stall a first down more than 33 minutes into the game. Stall scored its first touchdown — a 12-yard catch by Monty Lewis set up by a Wando fumble midway through the third quarter — without moving the chains. Stall didn’t add its second score until the final minute of the game.
“We expected our defense to be the strength of our team at this stage of the season,” Noonan said. “Any time our defense can play that way it’s only going to help our offense along. That was certainly the case tonight.”
Wando (1-1) will travel to Fort Dorchester next week, looking to snap a five-year losing streak against the Patriots. Stall (0-3) will travel to James Island still searching for its first win.
But the night belonged to the venue, magnificent in both structure and outcome as Wando unveiled its new home much in the same way it opened its old one 35 years ago, celebrating as a winner.
“It wasn’t free of errors but ultimately I’m proud of our guys,” Noonan said. “This is the right way to open this place.”