South Carolina public schools were allowed to start football practice on Friday, beginning a furious three weeks of preparation before the season kicks off on Aug. 18.
LowcoSports.com will have full previews of all 12 area teams in the coming weeks, but in honor of the opening day of practice, here are a few burning questions we’ll get answers for this season:
1. Can Bluffton High School pick up where it left off under new head coach John Houpt? Ken Cribb left after seven seasons with the Bobcats, and his tenure was marked with highs and lows – but mostly highs. After taking some lumps during a four-year stint in Class 4-A, the Bobcats returned to Class 3-A last season and went undefeated in the regular season before losing in the Lower State semifinals. Houpt is a defensive guru who has been the coordinator for some dominant defensive units at Bluffton over the years, so it’s safe to say things won’t change on that side of the ball. The biggest question is whether the Bobcats will be good enough on offense to return to make another deep run in the playoffs.
2. Will Walter Wilson lead a revival at Battery Creek High School? Wilson went 52-28 in seven seasons at Calhoun County before spending the past four seasons as an assistant at Class 4-A schools. Granted, those teams Calhoun County teams were loaded with NCAA Division I talent, including former South Carolina stars Alshon and Shamier Jeffery, but Wilson gets much of the credit for developing those players into major-college material. There are enough athletes at Battery Creek to think he could find a few diamonds in the rough and turn things around quickly.
3. Will May River High School take a big step forward in year 2? A lot of new schools experience the second-year bump, and it won’t be a surprise if it happens at May River. The Sharks won two games in their inaugural season – two of their last three in the regular season – and were playing much better ball in October than August. Unlike last year, they had a full summer of workouts and 7-on-7 and should hit the ground running in the school’s sophomore season.
4. Who will run the ball at Beaufort High School? Coach Mark Clifford loves to run the ball, and the Eagles have had a steady stream of outstanding backs. But they lost their top two backs to graduation in Omar Cummings and Wyatt Sherpensky, which should result in a great preseason competition for playing time in the backfield. Clifford will count on some combination of Kyliek Middleton, Logan Adkins, and Traeshawn Heyward to pick up the slack.
5. Who will catch the ball at Hilton Head Island High School? The Seahawks had one of the area’s best receiving duos last year with a pair of D1 signees in Tyler Hamilton (Purdue) and Bryce Singleton (Florida International). Finding some reliable targets will be a priority in the preseason for coach B.J. Payne, and the key to keeping the offense clicking.
6. Will a Lowcountry team make noise in SCISA this year? Not so long ago, the Hilton Head Island teams ruled the private-school league. While a return to those times doesn’t appear imminent, Thomas Heyward Academy is the area private school to keep the closest eye on, as senior dual-threat quarterback Logan Thomas leads an experienced team that will be a tough out in the playoffs.