After taking a huge step forward a year ago, now John Paul II’s football program takes a big step up.
The Golden Warriors make the move to SCISA 2A this season, and they hope to take another step in their progress, as well, after finishing 6-5 and reaching the SCISA 1A playoffs in their second season playing 11-man football.
“In SCISA, I think there’s a pretty big difference between 1A, 2A, and 3A,” coach Kevin Wald said. “With the experience we have coming back, I think we can be competitive in 2A. What we need to find out is if we can be in that upper echelon.”
They certainly have the talent to do so, and it begins with All-State running back Zach Doe, who rushed for 1,918 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. Wald said Doe worked even harder this offseason than last, particularly trying to improve his speed and explosiveness, which is a scary thought for opposing defenses.
He also should have more help on offense than a year ago, with Ridgeland-Hardeeville transfer Freddie Aiken joining him in the backfield and a more mature Sam Summa entering his second season at quarterback and throwing to a solid receiving corps. JPII is young along the offensive line but boasts decent size.
The area where the Golden Warriors are poised to make big improvements is on defense, where they return two of their top tacklers in linebackers Melik Frost and Jonathan Field and will benefit from the addition of Aiken.
“We’ve got to get our offense on the field as much as possible,” defensive back Adrian Skipper said. “We’ve got to control the game. If we have the ball and we’re able to control the clock, we’re going to be in a good position.”
Indeed, the offense should be able to do some damage. If the defense follows suit, JPII will be poised to keep climbing the state’s private-school ladder.
“Here’s the bottom line, defensively,” Wald said. “We gave up about 50 points per game my first year. Last year we got that number down to about 29. If we can get that number down to about 15 or 18, we’ll have a chance to be in that upper echelon.”
JOHN PAUL II GOLDEN WARRIORS FOOTBALL
Coach: Kevin Wald
Record at JPII: 6-15 (3rd season)
2017 record: 6-5 overall, 2-2 region, lost in first round of SCISA 1A playoffs
Returning starters: 7 offense, 7 defense
Offensive scheme: Multiple
Defensive scheme: 4-2-5
Top returners: RB/LB Zach Doe, LB Melik Frost, OL/DL Moxon Zehr, RB/LB Jonathan Field, WR/DB Adrian Skipper
Notable losses: OL/DL Mark Tigges, OL/DL Brad Tigges, WR/DB Nyleem Wright, WR/DB Amere Cherry, WR/DB TJ Polite-Grant, WR/DB Travis Taylor
Breakout candidates: RB/LB Freddie Aiken, OL/DL WR/DB CJ Knight, WR/DB Reco Anderson
PLAYER TO WATCH
Freddie Aiken, RB/LB: If you can force yourself to take your eyes off Zach Doe for a moment, take a look at his cousin – and new backfield mate. Aiken was the leading rusher for Ridgeland-Hardeeville last season, so he can take some of the load off Doe, and he has a chance to be a major difference-maker on the other side of the ball.
Can the passing game keep defenses honest? This one is almost too obvious. The Golden Warriors somehow scored 26 points per game last year despite completing a total of 30 passes in 11 games. Doe and Freddie Aiken are a beastly duo, but they will be even more effective if Sam Summa can get the ball to some talented receivers often enough to keep defenses from stacking the box.
REGION AND BEYOND
The Golden Warriors beat two of their new region foes – Hilton Head Christian and Hilton Head Prep – last season, and a third – Northwood Academy – finished 2-8 a year ago. On paper, at least, JPII has to be considered among the favorites to claim the region crown, but we’ll know a lot more after they host Orangeburg Prep on Sept. 28.
8/17 — vs. Cardinal Newman
8/24 — at Thomas Heyward
8/31 — at St. Andrew’s
9/7 — at Carolina Academy
9/14 — vs. Bethesda Academy
9/21 — at Hilton Head Prep*
9/28 — vs. Orangeburg Prep*
10/5 — vs. Northwood Academy*
10/12 — Open
10/19 — at Hilton Head Christian*
10/26 — vs. Colleton Prep
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