Palmetto Pigskin Preview: A look at the high school season

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) - Long summer days are giving in to big Friday nights under the lights at high schools across the Lowcountry. One thing is for sure, though: this is shaping up to be a big year for football.In Summerville, legendary coach John McKissick begins his 63rd year as the leader of the Green Wave. With the big 30-9 win in Week 0 over Providence High in Charlotte, McKissick now has win 614 under his belt.He already has 10 state titles and is looking for another. On paper, this looks to be one of his best teams ever, and certainly appear to be a favorite to make a run for the state title.Summerville quarterback Sawyer Bridges is back again, which translates to a strong possibility of seeing the Green Wave still active in December. For McKissick, it's always great to start the year, especially after a tough off-season for his wife's health."She broke a hip two years ago, but she came through. Two months ago, she broke the other hip but she is doing well and she is excited for me. She is as excited about it as I am," said McKissick.And then there's Stratford.Last season, Stratford made a run all the way to the state title game before falling to Northwestern. This year, the team returns with two major pieces missing - last year's Mr. Football, Jacob Park, and head coach Ray Stackley. Park committed to Georgia and is on the sidelines now for the Bulldogs. Stackley, meanwhile, ended his three-decades-long coaching career.Joe Marion, one of Stackley's top assistants for the past 26 years, took over the head coaching job and will run it much like Stackley did. But Marion says there will be plenty of changes, too.He says he still talks to Stackley, and after a tough Sertoma loss to Timberland, the Knights have a bit of motivation for Week 1 and the first officials game under Marion against old rival Berkeley."Hopefully it's motivation to work harder in practice and get better. We've got a long ways to go before Berkeley, they're good. We've got to get back to the grind and get going," Marion said.That showdown in Moncks Corner comes Friday night, and Berkeley is certainly a team to watch for. Head coach Jeff Cruce finally has his system fully in place after four years at the helm.The Stags beat a top 2A team in the state, Johnsonville, 42-27 in Week 0.And tradition seems to favor Berkeley. Cruce's teams tend to make a run deep into the season during his fourth year.Goose Creek's transfer QB out with torn ACLThere was plenty of drama throughout the off-season between a pair of 4A schools after West Ashley standout quarterback Pedro Manigault transferred to Goose Creek for his final season.The Wildcats filed a grievance with the high school league, but the Gators won that decision.However, two weeks into camp, Manigault tore his ACL and MCL in a non-contact drill. It was a crushing blow to the Gators that ended Manigault's season. But he's keeping his head up."He's a very talented young man. Before he came, when we played him I thought he was one of the most athletic quarterbacks I'd seen in my 13 years here. He has great athleticism," head coach Chuck Reedy.It all fit perfectly. He's tall, athletic, and fast, fitting the quarterback mold, meshing with his teammates until one play ended it all."I heard a snap at the time. I still had hope it wasn't this serious because there was no swelling. At the end, it was as bad as we had though. I'm going to push through it, get ready for college and cheer my team on," said Manigault.For Manigault, the new opportunity is gone and his high school career is over."I want to be on the field now. My senior year was going to be a big part of my recruiting. I pray they stick with me and keep recruiting me," he said.All schools will have to go back to the tapes from West Ashley to see what he was capable of. His knee may be in rough shape, but his outlook is quite the opposite."I love Goose Creek. It was a pleasure coming over, experiencing practice with them, experiencing the tradition, how they do things," he said.As for Manigault's new team, Goose Creek had no problems at Sertoma, romping West Ashley 27-8. It was their final dress rehearsal under the new quarterback Dominique Jefferson before a big trip to Ohio to take on traditional powerhouse, Pickerington Central."It's different, it's special. We have played out-of-state and that was nice. It's good to see how you match up from others from other state. Ohio is a great football state. To go up and play a team from another state will be fun," said Reedy.Fort D Patriots looking for big games from football prodigyAnother team primed to make some big moves this year is Steve Laprad's Fort Dorchester Patriots. The team is coming off a first round playoff exit last year.This year, the Patriots are loaded and they showed it in Week 0 at South Florence. They dismantled the Bruins 34-10 and racked up more than 400 total yards of offense.With their potent quarterback Kobe Garrett and running back Datron James, the roster is impressive. But a name that many may not have seen before is 14-year-old Dakereon Joyner. He's already picked up an offer from South Carolina before ever playing his first high school game."We've had a lot of good athletes, been fortunate. But I've never had one this mature who handles his business like this. He loves the game, loves playing, practicing. He doesn't mind working hard. The biggest thing for him is how he handles the next four years," Laprad said.Without ever stepping out onto the field, he's already pulled in an offer from Steve Spurrier."I had just turned 14. The first thing I did was thank God, without Him I can't do anything, then I thanked my Mom and my sister," said Joyner.Spurrier saw what Laprad saw in Joyner."You get kids, we coaches call it the 'it factor.' Some just have it. I don't know where it comes from. He's got about six helpings of it," Laprad said.But the thing that pushes a boy to play like a man, a forced maturity, is the loss of his father five years ago. The number 5 on his back is a reminder of what pushes his heart."It helps me, the stuff my dad did in high school. I want to do the same things. I want to accomplish his goals and beat his records," Joyner said."I can tell it's a motivating factor for him. His mother makes sure he does the right things. She's tough; it's good. Very educated, great job. She's a great role model. I see it out here," Laprad said. "He has that extra gear. If that's from his dad, wow. I think it tells you what kind of kid he is."On the field, he stands out because of how he carries the football. Off the field, the attention is on how he carries himself. But first, he still has to take the field for that first Friday night under the lights.For Dorchester, Summerville, James Island, and West Ashley are some of the many teams to be featured this season on our Friday Night Rivals live stream and broadcast.No more Thursday nights. This year, the live TV game is broadcast on WMMP and simulcast online at Already this season, James Island took the drive to Hanahan and walked away with a 29-27 win in a game that went a full three hours.Still on tap for the season:Aug. 29: Colleton hosts BeaufortSept. 12: the Holy War between Porter-Gaud and Bishop EnglandSept. 19: Goose Creek goes to Fort DorchesterSept. 26: Berkeley takes the quick trip to Timberland for a huge regional rivalry matchOct. 3: Stratford heads to SummervilleOct. 10: West Ashley takes on Wando in another big rivalry gameOct. 17: Burke and Johns Island face off in 1A playOct. 31: Summerville and Ashley River face offNov. 7: Wando heads to James IslandThe names to watch on the gridironYear in and year out, the Lowcountry puts out some of the best talent in the country. The NFL is laced with players who got their start in the tricounty, including AJ Green, Roddy White, Robert Quinn, and Carlos Dunlap.This year is no different. Big names in coaching and recruiting are already flocking to the area with their eye on talent. Among the names on most coaches' lists is Woodland defensive end Michael Barnett. He's already committed to play at Florida State.Goose Creek defensive end Javon Kinlaw is only a junior, but the 265-pounder is already being drooled over by schools all over the country. Steve Spurrier already has an offer in to the beast from Goose Creek.And then there's Colleton County wide out Latrell Nieves. He's as fast as they get and already has offers from Virginia, Marshall, and several other schools.No list can be complete without Summerville offensive lineman Zack Bailey. He's had the most offers since Green was a player. He committed earlier this year to Spurrier."I just want to help the team. I want to fight for a starting spot. That would be great, but there are seniors and guys been there before. They know it better; they know it better. I want to help for national title. It was a relief to make a decision and get it off my chest and focus more on football," he said.The top offensive lineman in the Lowcountry last year was Wando Warroior Nolan Kelleher. He's now at Florida, which means head coach Jimmy Noonan has to do some reloading with the tribe east of the Cooper.Wando also battled a staph infection over the summer, which cost the tribe several practices. They're back up to full speed now, though.And Noonan has plenty of young guns, including Bailey Hart taking snaps, running back Kenny Waring, and wide out Zola Davis."Preseason practice is one thing and non-region is one thing, but we want to be our best in October and these guys are getting better and better year in and year out," said Noonan.There are also several new coaches stepping into big roles and looking to make a name for themselves this season.Along with Marion at Stratford, Jim Graham is stepping into the light at Lincoln; Nick Hopp takes over at Garrett Tech; and there's a lot of energy on the sidelines at Stall as Joe Bessinger takes over as nearly two decades as an assistant."Our goal starts from two things: great attitude and great effort. Effort every play, attitude no matter what; football is life. It's how you respond when down," said Bessinger.There were also big changes at James Island as Ike Allred took over. Allred brings a big-time mentality after coaching 12 years in college. He runs a Clemson-esque, fast-tempo offense."We're as fast as you can go, two back and one back, but we are looking to add some excitement," said Allred.Already, Allred has had a big debut, beating Hanahan in a televised game.But the more emotional story for the Trojans is the number 41 on every player's helmet, paying tribute to two former players who died suddenly in separate accidents.At Ashley Ridge High School, the Swamp Foxes are seeking a big improvement over their last two 4-8 seasons.This year the team is hoping to end that trend and has been thinking a bit more like the 2011 team that notched 10 wins and a deep playoff run. The offense is looking for a big boost from a former, and now once again, quarterback.At 6-feet, 5-inches tall and 225 pounds, Steven Duncan stands out in a crowd."We're happy to have Steven back. He's got a strong arm and extends plays, can throw the ball downfield on the run. He's a leader on the team, and we certainly enjoy having him back," said Coach Kenny Walker.The starting quarterback for the Swamp Foxes is back at Ashley Ridge after spending a year tossing touchdowns for a season at Porter Gaud."To be back at the Ridge, it's a great experience. There's a lot more competition up at the 4A level, a lot better players. It's a big family here," said Duncan.With Sertoma in the books, there is only so much teams can take from the short scrimmages, but it can give a big boost of confidence or a swift wake up call.The Timberland Wolves can take some confidence from their outing this year. Art Craig's traditional 2A power seems to find themselves in the 2A semifinals year after year, but they've only made it to two state title games.In football-crazy St. Stephen, football is life and life looks to be good this year after Timberland beat the defending 4A lower state champs Stratford at Sertoma. They're just hoping it carries over to regular season play."This is a completely different team than last year. If they live off last year, we'll get our fannies beat every week. If they live in moment, falling behind and battling back is something I've been waiting for on this team," said Craig.

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1A teams could make some noise this season

The big schools may get most of the press, but there is plenty of competition at the 1A ranks as well.

The Burke Bulldogs are back to 1A after making a jump up and Earl Brown believes the Bulldogs will compete like the old days.

And then there's the biggest 1A rivalry in the area, St. John's and Baptist Hill. Both teams have a lot of talent and a chance to make a run to the regional championship, making for another fun year in 1A.

And to close out the Palmetto Pigskin Preview, ABC Sports 4 put together a top 10 list of teams as the season starts.

Here's how the staff sees it:

  1. Summerville
  2. Goose Creek
  3. Fort Dorchester
  4. Timberland
  5. Stratford
  6. Woodland
  7. Berkeley
  8. Hanahan
  9. Wando
  10. Bishop England