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Lowcountry High School Football Previews: 5-A

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 2:02 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) -

5-A

Ashley Ridge Swamp Foxes

Head Coach: Shane Fidler (2nd season)

Last season: 2-6

Top Returners – Nick Downing (NT, Sr.), Faruq Etti (OT, Sr.), TJ Wilson (LB, Jr.), Will McCune (K, Sr.)

Top Newcomers – Alex Ledford (LB, Jr.) Chris Simmons (WR/Jr.)

Shane Fidler enters his second season at the helm of Ashley Ridge, hoping to lead the Swamp Foxes past a 2-6 record in 2020. “We were young, but now we’re stronger than we were last year,” said Fidler. “There’s been a lot of buy in from the year before. A full offseason will also benefit us.”

Fidler points to the offensive and defensive line as the team’s position of strength heading into the fall. Senior nose tackle Nick Downing and senior offensive tackle Faruq Etti expect to make their presence felt up front. Ashley Ridge will also feature a pair of stud linebackers in junior all-region player TJ Wilson and transfer Alex Ledford.

Chris Simmons is expected to make a splash at wide receiver after spending last season with the junior varsity squad. Fidler added that punter/kicker Will McCune will be a critical piece to the team this season. The senior is generating buzz amongst college scouts.

Ashley Ridge opens the season August 27 against Colleton County.

Berkeley Stags

Head Coach: Jerry Brown (19th season)

Last season: 4-4

Top Returners – Luke Gadsden (RB, Sr.), Gabriel Cook (WR, Fr.), Reginald Campbell (RB, Sr.)

A familiar face returns to Moncks Corner as Dr. Jerry Brown takes over the Berkeley High football program. Brown won three state tiles from 1992 to 2010.

11 years later, his goal is to return Berkeley to prominent status across the Lowcountry and around the state of South Carolina. “I feel like I never left,” Brown said on the first day of practice Friday. “These are familiar surroundings. I spent 18 years on this practice field. This is where we made those championships.”

The Stags will be very deep along the offensive and defensive lines, but the team is still trying to slot different players at different positions.

Berkeley opens the season against Fort Dorchester.

Cane Bay Cobras

Head Coach: Russell Zehr (11th season)

Last season: 3-4

Top Returners – Kameron Durant (OL, Jr.), Andre Mitchell (OL, Sr.), Jayvion Johnson (QB/WR, Sr.)

The talent pool is deeper than ever at Cane Bay. Head coach Russell Zehr is eager to work with a plethora of athletes as the Cobras look to bounce back after a 3-6 2020 campaign.

“This team has the ability to be very, very successful,” said Zehr. “It’s about how hard they’re willing to work and how physical they’re going to be.”

Cane Bay’s offense was mostly one-dimensional last season, but with two dual-threat quarterbacks splitting reps Zehr is optimistic the Cobras can sustain drives and put up more points this fall. Cameron Durant and Andre Mitchell will help the lead the charge in keeping those QBs standing upright.

Zehr likes the talent on the defensive line, but feels they need a lot of work before the season kicks off.

Cane Bay opens the year August 28th against Orangeburg-Wilkinson

Ft. Dorchester Patriots

Head Coach: Steve LaPrad (19th season)

Last season: 7-1

Top Returners – Zolton Osborne (QB, Jr.), Davion Joyner (WR, Sr.), Demetris McKelvey (WR, Sr.), Marion Mitchell (WR, Sr.), Max Garrido (OL, Sr.), DJ Watson (NT, Sr.)

Top Newcomers –

After a surprising first-round exit from the 2020 playoffs, Steve LaPrad and the Fort Dorchester Patriots are expecting a bounce-back season this fall.

Fort will be loaded on the defensive line with eight interchangeable pieces, some of whom LaPrad believes will go on to play Division I. That begins with senior nose tackle DJ Watson, listed at 6-foot-2, 285 pounds and receiving interest from South Carolina.

On offense, junior Zolten Osborne returns under center and will have a multitude of weapons at his disposal. Senior Demetris McKelvey is back at wide receiver, along with senior Davion Joyner – who was limited after separating his shoulder early last year.

The Patriots will play a more rigorous schedule in 2021, adding Dorman and Carolina Forest to its non-conference slate.

Fort Dorchester opens the season August 26 against Berkeley.

Goose Creek Gators

Head Coach: Jason Winstead (4th season)

Last season: 5-3

Top Returners – Drew Moore (QB, Jr), James Levine (WR, Sr.), Khyon Smith (WR, Sr.), Jayden Johnson (OL, Sr.), Demitri Simmons (RB, Sr.)

Top Newcomers – Aaron Bryant (LB, Jr.), Maruion Scott (LB, Jr.), Curtis Smiley (DT, Jr.)

There’s a youth-movement sweeping across the Goose Creek roster this fall. With the departure of 26 seniors, head coach Jason Winstead is ready to usher in a new era of Gator football.

“We’re going to be really young,” said Winstead. “A lot of guys have never played varsity football before. It’s going to be a process. Hopefully by region play they’ve matured a little bit.”

Despite the major overhaul – the Gators do return a few key pieces from last year’s playoff team. Junior Drew Moore returns under center with all-region running back Demitri Simmons lining up behind him. Kyhon Smith will likely be the team’s leading receiver after hauling in nine touchdowns in 2020.

Winstead is eager to see junior linebacker Aaron Bryant and junior wideout Maurion Scott take the next step after stellar seasons on the JV squad. He adds that junior defensive tackle Curtis Smiley may turn some heads after putting on over 40 pounds this offseason.

Goose Creek opens the season August 28th versus Berkeley.

Stall Warriors

Head Coach: Joe Bessinger (8th season)

Last season: 0-7

Top Returners – Ky’Juan Mack (RB/CB, Sr.), Charles Watson (QB, So.)

Top Newcomers – Zeme Felder Shuler (RB, Jr.), Hayden Gregory (OL, Fr.)

There’s nowhere to go but up for the Stall Warriors this fall. After a winless 2020 campaign, Joe Bessinger believes his team can turn things around come August.

“I like the makeup of this team,” said Bessinger. “It’s a core group of kids that have really bought in. They’re more experienced than we were last year. We’re a team that could surprise a few people. But we’re going to have to do the little things and not hurt ourselves.”

Sophomore Charles Watson returns as QB1 and senior Ky’Juan Mack is expected to be the teams’ go-to playmaker. “When the ball is in his hands, he’s dynamite,” said Bessinger. “He fits the mold and has tons of playmaking ability. I hope the stars align for him.”

The Warriors return some size up front, with three lineman standing over 6-foot-4. Freshman Hayden Gregory is someone to keep an eye on. Bessinger called the 14-year-old “strong as an ox.”

Stall opens the season August 27 against Bishop England

Stratford Knights

Head Coach: Dennie McDaniel (4th season)

Last season: 4-3

Top Returners – Jakai Robinson (DB, Sr.), Jalen Barry (QB, So.)

Dennie McDaniel enters his fourth season at the helm of the Stratford Knights, looking to build on a 4-3 season from a year ago.

“It’s just amazing to have everyone together,” said McDaniel. “High school football is the greatest sport there is.”

The Knights will be a young unit with a lot of talent, according to McDaniel. Stratford continues to shuffle players around after adding new faces during the spring and summer.

Jakai Robinson returns on the defensive side of the ball. The junior is a versatile back that split time at both safety and corner in 2020. On the offensive side, Jalen Barry will lead the Knights under center. Only a sophomore, McDaniel knows there will be some growing pains, but is pleased with the work he’s put in this offseason.

Stratford opens the season August 27 against Woodland.

Summerville Green Wave

Head Coach: Ian Rafferty (2nd season)

Last season: 4-4

Top Returners – Xavier Mitchell-Brown (SS, Sr.), Carnell Jones (DL, Sr.), Dakari McCutchen (WR, Sr.)

Ian Rafferty begins his 2nd season with the Green Wave for a team that has to replace one of the top quarterbacks in the area from last season. Colby Shirey transferred out but Rafferty says he’s got an open competition for this years starting spot with a couple of guys that he thinks are more than capable of taking over the position.

Defensively, the Green Wave are stacked with returners such as Carnell Jones up front and Xavier Mitchell-Brown in the backfield.

Summerville begins the season at home against Westside on August 27th.

Wando Warriors

Head Coach: Rocco Adrian (2nd season)

Last season: 2-5

Top Returners – Dez Loring (RB, Sr.), Max Pickren (S, Sr.), Devon Yard (QB, Jr.), John Hutto (QB, Sr.), Luke Beasenburg (DE, Jr.), Blake Bynum (DL, Sr.), Khaliq Edwards (DL, Sr.), Thomas Willet (LB, Sr.), Terrell Miller (LB, Sr.)

Top Newcomers – Alex Gomez (LB, Jr,), Gabe Major (WR, Sr.), Landon Bryant (WR, Jr.)

Now that the interim tag has been taken off for head coach Rocco Adrian, he’ll have a big decision to make early on in the season for who will be the teams starting quarterback. Devon Yard and John Hutto will battle it out in preseason for the position. Whoever wins will have Des Loring, one of the top backs in the area, to fall back on. A solid defensive front led by Thomas Willet will have Max Pickren in the backfield to help out.

West Ashley Wildcats

Head Coach: Donnie Kiefer (2nd season)

Last season: 5-2

Top Returners – Jahleel Porter (RB/S, Sr.), Lebron Anderson (DE, Sr.), Sakharis Smalls (WR/DE, Sr.), Caleb Edwards (LB/TE, Sr.) Dravian Blake (OL, Sr.), Khalil Robinson (WR, Sr.)

Top Newcomers – Gabe Johnson (QB, Sr.)

No team had a bigger turnaround last season than West Ashley and the Wildcats return maybe the best player in the Lowcountry, Jahleel Porter, to try and improve on that this season. Porter will move all around on the offensive side of the ball even taking snaps at quarterback. Gabe Johnson will provide a good mix at QB for when the Wildcats look to throw the ball more.

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