10 stories to watch this prep football season

By Scott Eisberg

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- We're heading into the last week of June. That means we're right around the corner from another prep football season and there are several big stories to watch as coaches set their line-ups and players lace up their cleats for summer practice.

10. James Waring goes to Lincoln {}

Why would you leave one of the top 1A football schools in the area to take easily the toughest job in the area? Just ask James Waring. He's making this move, again.

Waring is a Lowcountry guy: he's from here, he's coached here for over twenty years, and he's done some big things. He's not a "big school" kind of guy, but has always made a solid mark grooming kids and grooming defenses at smaller schools like Stall, Cross and most recently St. Johns.

Why after last season did he decide to leave his post at a football-happy town like Johns Island and go to tiny Lincoln Hight School in McClellanville? Simple, Waring has always had affection for Lincoln, and he knows he can win there -- he's done it before in the early 90's.{}

Over the past few years, Lincoln has struggled to field a group of 11 kids to even play iron man football, but Waring feels he can get kids to play, people in the seats, and interest in the school. It'll be tough. In the early 90's when he won a region title at Lincoln, it was a much bigger town, a more thriving fishing community.

While some of the fishing has dried up in McClellanville, Waring hopes there is still some wins in the sea in northern Charleston County.


9. Timberland reloads again

Every year, it seems like the same story for Timberland. They win. They win convincingly. They run into Dillon in the playoffs. And they lose.{}

Two years ago, the Wolves managed to get past Dillon with a masterful game plan from Art Craig and won a state title, but the Wolves went back to the norm this past season. The rural Berkeley County school has the football pedigree; they've got a coach who is one of the best in the area and has managed to stay at Timberland rather than chase bigger jobs. They've flat out got talented, good kids who love to play football every year. They draw crowds on Friday nights. Those crowds want another title and after getting one, it's hard not to.{}

Will this be the year that Timberland gets back to the promised land of Columbia?


8. The North Charleston merry-go-round {}

It's about time the merry-go-round stops and a coach stays more than a year or two. For the better part of the past decade, it's just been a revolving door of head coaches roaming the hallways off of Montague.

The newest one is Chris Reger, who steps up to the plate after being the team's offensive coordinator.

Ra'Shan Frost seemed to be the answer last year, showing up with plenty of energy after a successful college coaching stint at Charleston Southern. But Frost didn't work out like several coaches before him.

The Cougars just haven't looked like they did under Jimmy Brown in the mid 2000s when their high-octane offense and defense was running up and down the field, and the old rickety scoreboard putting up numbers in the 50s and 60s. They've got athletes, there is no denying that. What they need is one solid coach to build a program from the ground up and lay roots.

There is a chance that the Cougars do have a better showing this year. Reger was on the staff last year so the players do have an idea what he does offensively. They can only hope he sticks with them, and the school sticks with him to start the train going in the right direction.


7. Will Colleton County win a game?{}

It's been a really rough stretch for Colleton County football. The program has lost 34 straight games. They've moved on from longtime head coach LeRoy Riley. They've never won in their not-so-new-anymore stadium.

Things are going in the right direction under second-year head coach Chris Collins, but will the Cougars grab a victory this year?

The town likes football, and Collins likes his team, they just need to get over that hump. They came so close on a Thursday night game last year against a solid Cane Bay squad, but Colleton County couldn't pull it out.

There were some rumors this offseason that Collins was looking to leave after one season in Walterboro. Luckily for the school, he didn't.{} He ran a solid spring practice schedule, and if his track record as an assistant holds true, the Cougars might break that brutal slump this year.


6. Wando hoping to not be one and done

The Wando Warriors were one of the top teams in the area last year. Jimmy Noonan has his "system" fully installed. It's a system that certainly worked at Spring Valley and has shown that it certainly can work here in Mt. Pleasant.

Noonan is one of the best in the business and one of the most respected coaches in the area. But there's one problem: after a breakout year last year, the team lost in the first round of the playoffs.

Wando has showed in the past they can make a run. In 2006, they made a run all the way to the lower state final game with players like Jamie Childers and Chleb Ravenell.

The newest crop of Warriors may be more talented. Nolan Kelleher is one of the top players in the entire state with schools like Alabama visiting him. Wando will have to replace signal caller Christian Hart, but for the most part there is a good nucleus in place and all the Warriors need to do is win when it counts -- the postseason.{}


5. It's time to win at Berkeley

Jeff Cruce was supposed to be the answer in Moncks Corner. After two years in charge, there were some restless fans in Berkeley County last year, even some rumblings about Cruce's job stability.{}

One thing is for sure: Cruce is back again this year, and people are itching to get back to the 2009 state title form.

Berkeley may not have athletes like Bruce Ellington, Andre Ellington, Kory Brown, Omar Brown or Ryan Brown anymore, but they do have tradition and a coach who has proven himself to be one of the best offensive minds in the area.{}

Cruce built programs at Hanahan and Cane Bay, but it wasn't broke at Berkeley when he took over for Dr. Jerry Brown and that is why people have been a bit upset. It's a big year for Cruce to prove he can win at Berkeley, the school he called his "Dream School."


4. The Year of Jacob Park

There might not be a more sought after high school player from this area since A.J. Green. Almost every school in the country came to Goose Creek to try and swing Stratford quarterback Jacob Park, but Georgia won.

Park is big; he can sling it; he can run; he can lead a team -- Jacob Park is flat out a prized recruit.{} Now that his recruiting is done, he should have a clear mind to go out and have a monster senior season.{}

Park was injured at the end of last year, but he's back healthy now. All eyes will certainly be on Park this year -- the Lowcountry hasn't had a quarterback of his caliber in a long time.

Look out on the sidelines this year, too. Maybe you'll see Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, Steve Spurrier, Mike Gundy or others trying to snake him away from Mark Richt, but Park is solid in his commitment.{}

His next job, though, is taking Ray Stackley back to the promised land.


3. Summerville on the rise

What is a countdown like this year without John McKissick and Summerville? They were young last year, really young, but Sawyer Bridges is a solid quarterback who learned a lot as a freshman.{}

The Wave has Darrin Smalls who has major college offers all over the country and has recently committed to play for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. Yes, they also have John McKissick and a top staff leading them.{}

It doesn't matter if they win or lose, there will be thousands in the seats on Friday nights watching the newest crop of Green Wave.

McKissick has win 600 behind him and he's back for more.{} He's weathered plenty of storms, he's weathered new schools like Fort Dorchester, Ashley Ridge and Cane Bay forming in Summerville and taking kids away from him. It looks like Summerville might be back to the top of the Flowertown pecking order after a few years away from that prime position.


2. Can Bishop England pull off a three-peat? {}

Bishop England has been a dynasty in plenty of sports -- volleyball, soccer, track and field among them, but now, it's a football school as well. Since John Cantey has taken over the Battling Bishops, boy have they thrived.{}

The former BE quarterback and son of legendary head coach Jack Cantey, John has won two traight state championships at BE. They have been absolutely dominant. Being a guy who used to take snaps, Cantey's based everything around solid quarterbackss -- Danny Croghan and Kevin Herbst -- but he'll have to replace them.

Cantey will also have to replace one of the most elusive running back's the school has ever had in Deangelo Stephenson.

Don't put it past Cantey and the Battling Bishops to pull off the three-peat. From day one as a player and day one as a coach, Cantey has proved he's a winner.


1. The Goose Creek rebound

The saga is over, the drama is in the past, and the Gators are back. There is no doubt that Goose Creek was the class of the state last year. Even though they have rings, they don't have a state championship. {}

The court case surrounding ineligible player Justice Rogers absolutely consumed the Lowcountry last November. In the end, the SCHSL had their way and Goose Creek was denied a chance to play for the state title.

There is no doubt, the Gators will be back and reloaded this year. Chuck Reedy has proven he can groom the best talent in the area and there is no question the Gators are chomping at the bit to get back to where they were two years ago when they won the school's first state championship.{}

But the school no longer has Tramel Terry at wide receiver. Jalen Stevens is gone. Don't worry about Goose Creek because this is a 24/7/365 program and the next guy will step in. Count on Caleb Kinlaw being one of the most heavily recruited running backs in the state.

All the Gators have to do is forget the past, put the saga and drama behind and continue to do what they do on the field. Another state championship should be firmly within reach.