When I launched LowcoSports.com in 2017, I knew one of the things I wanted to carry on was the tradition of picking an all-area football team, a process both I and The Island News editor Mike McCombs participated in as staffers at The Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette.
It was always a way to honor the very best in this oft-forgotten corner of the state and shine a light on the successes of our kids, and that goes directly toward the mission of LowcoSports.
As I recall, my first all-area football meeting at the old Upper Crust Pizza in Moss Creek (or was it at the one on Lady’s Island that year?) involved the sports staff of the then-distinct newspapers picking an all-area team of players from just eight schools — four “South of the Broad” and four “North of the Broad,” which included Jasper County.
This year’s All-Lowco Football Teams honor players from four counties — Beaufort, Jasper, Colleton, and Hampton — and 18 schools, making it our most difficult task in picking the team yet, but also elevating the prestige of making the list.
Certainly, there are deserving players who were left off this list and picks you will want to quibble with, but remember that there is a high school kid on the other side of every argument. To move someone up, you have to take someone down.
These guys gave their best effort all fall and provided one of the most thrilling high school football seasons we’ve seen in the Lowco. This is our best effort at recognizing them.
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COACH OF THE YEAR
Bryce Lybrand | Beaufort High
13-1, Region 8-3A Champions, Class 3A State Champions
The Eagles lost Lybrand’s first five games as head coach in 2019. They haven’t lost many since, and they won the biggest one the program has seen in nearly eight decades.
Since that 0-4 start in Lybrand’s debut season at the helm, Beaufort has gone 34-7, including a 25-4 mark over the past two seasons, which have ended with back-to-back trips to the state championship game.
A blowout loss to South Pointe in the Class 4A title game in 2021 left a sour taste, and Lybrand and the terrific staff he has assembled on Lady’s Island pushed all the right buttons to get the Eagles back to the mountaintop.
Lybrand was especially masterful with his creativity on offense, first shifting the load to Fields and later introducing new wrinkles that better utilized Phares and left opposing defenses spinning.
Along with offensive coordinator Logan Powell and defensive coordinator Rob Gorrell, Lybrand and the Eagles were among the best in the state at making second-half adjustments, an ability that shined in the postseason.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Colton Phares | Sr. | Beaufort High
69 tkls, 5 TFL, 4 INTs, 9 PBUs, 2 FFs
598 rush yds, 6 TDs; 349 rec. yds, 4 TDs
Rarely has a more talented or well-rounded football player graced the Lowcountry. The Appalachian State-bound Phares was already regarded as one of the top defensive players in the state, a D1 defensive back with the build of a high school linebacker, a penchant for big hits, and off-the-charts ball skills.
But no one anticipated the impact he would make on offense and in the return game.
When Kacy Fields moved to the backfield, Phares emerged as the Eagles’ go-to receiver for a period before joining Fields in an unstoppable rushing duo that powered Beaufort High all the way to the Class 3A state title.
And the Eagles never would have made it to that stage if not for Phares’ heroics in the return game with four eye-popping return TDs, including a pair in the playoffs.
OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Kacy Fields | Sr. | Beaufort High
2,230 rush yds, 32 TDs; 234 rec. yds, 1 TD
The biggest breakout star of the season was already regarded as one of the Lowco’s top players, a dynamic and versatile receiver who could also make an impact on defense if called upon, but his full transition to the backfield in the fourth game of the season changed everything.
Over the Eagles’ last 11 games — all wins — Fields averaged 196.2 rushing yards per game and scored 32 rushing touchdowns.
His breakout performance against Bluffton with 340 yards and 5 TDs on 30 carries put the state on notice, but even when defensive coordinators started building the gameplan around limiting Fields, he recorded 11 straight games with at least 130 rushing yards, including three 200-yard outputs.
The capper was a phenomenal performance in the state championship game, in which he racked up 219 yards on 37 carries with three touchdowns and turned the momentum with a 93-yard kickoff return TD.
South Carolina State is getting a good one.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Chris Marable | Sr. | Hilton Head High
68 tkls (50 solo), 25 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 PBUs, FF, 2 FRs
After his sophomore season, Hilton Head High coach BJ Payne told us to keep an eye on Marable, because after Jaylen Sneed’s recruitment died down, Marable would create the next storm for the Seahawks.
Payne called it, as usual, but only because the student committed to the process. With an insatiable work ethic during the offseason, Marable developed into a powerful defensive tackle who can play every down and concluded his outstanding high school career for the Seahawks with a dominant campaign. The 6-foot-4, 295-pound senior displayed his elite strength and footwork to stuff his opponents’ run game, leading the team with 68 tackles including a whopping 25 stops for loss.
Marable was the lone Lowco representative in the 2022 Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and is signed to play at Wake Forest this fall.
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ALL-LOWCO 1st TEAM
QB: Xaviar Garvin | Jr. | Estill
1,345 pass yds, 22 TDs, 5 INTs; 1,301 rush yds, 11 TDs
RB: Jaiden Jones | Sr. | May River
1,233 rush yds, 16 TDs
RB: Zion Dobson | Jr. | Wade Hampton
1,065 rush yds, 15 TDs
WR: Jaylin Linder | Sr. | Bluffton
1,276 rec. yds, 16 TDs
WR: Camauri Simmons | Sr. | Bluffton
647 rec. yds, 3 TDs
OL: Payton Buhler | Sr. | Wade Hampton
Honorable Mention All-State
OL: Adrian Lamb | Jr. | Beaufort High
Protected QB, opened holes
OL: Hart Cushman | Sr. | Beaufort High
Anchor of strong OL
OL: Thomas May | Jr. | HHIHS
Honorable Mention All-State
OL: Trevor Murdaugh | Sr. | May River
Honorable Mention All-State
TE: Angelo Lewis | Sr. | Estill
393 rec. yds, 12 TDs; 384 rush yds, 5 TDs
K: Jack Troutman | Sr. | Beaufort High
4-5 FG; 51-56 PAT
P: Nathan Dalton | Sr. | May River
24 punts, 34.5 avg, 54 long, 4 inside 20
ATH: Darrion Perry | Sr. | May River
53 tkls (26 solo), 3 TFL, 3 PBUs, 2 FRs; 407 rush yds, 6 TDs
DL: Bradford Thompson | Jr. | Whale Branch
66 tkls, 19 TFL, 8 sacks
DL: Jack Sumner | Sr. | Beaufort High
54 tkls, 11 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 9 QBPs, PBU
DL: Shaikh Thompson | Jr. | HHIHS
45 tkls (33 solo), 15 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 3 QBPs, FF
DL/LB: Kavon Chisolm | Jr. | Estill
57 tkls (37 solo), 4 TFL, 6 sacks, FR
LB: JaQuinn Williams | Sr. | Bluffton
134 tkls (94 solo), 6 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 10 QBPs, INT, 3 PBUs, 2 FFs, FR
LB: Mandrell Sanders | Soph. | Wade Hampton
93 tkls (70 solo), 24 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 12 QBPs, INT, 4 PBUs
LB: Thomas Raisch | Sr. | May River
100 tkls (39 solo), 13 TFL, 1 sack, 1 QBP, INT, 3 PBUs, FF, FR
LB: Jeremiah Curry | Jr. | Bluffton
120 tkls (93 solo), 4 TFL, 1 sack, 3 QBPs, INT, 9 PBUs
DB/LB: Tysen James | Sr. | Bluffton
126 tkls (71 solo), 1 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 QBPs, INT, 3 PBUs, 2 FFs
DB: Keith Chisholm | Jr. | Whale Branch
27 tkls (12 solo), 4 INTs, 14 PBUs
DB: Hezekiah Abram | Jr. | Wade Hampton
54 tkls (31 solo), 3 INTs, 3 PBUs
ALL-LOWCO 2nd TEAM
QB: Max Vonhohenstraeten | Sr. | Bluffton
2,673 pass yds, 23 TDs, 18 INTs
RB: Troy Timko | Soph. | HHIHS
1,100 rush yds, 11 TDs
RB: Jamil Bobean | Jr. | Estill
784 rush yds, 5 TDs
WR: Jaquise Johnson | Jr. | Ridgeland
619 rec. yds, 5 TDs; 146 rush yds, TD
WR: Jamaris Miller | Jr. | Estill
377 rush yds, TD; 293 rec. yds, 3 TDs
OL: Robby Fletcher | Sr. | Bluffton
Bobcats’ top blocker
OL: Will Mauro | Jr. | May River
Returns to anchor line in ‘23
OL: Aaron Lamb | Sr. | Beaufort High
Blitz Border Bowl pick
OL: Austin McQuire | Sr. | Wade Hampton
Blitz Border Bowl pick
OL: Demontay Mathis | Jr. | Estill
Leader of strong OL
TE: Michael Dennison | Sr. | Beaufort High
106 rec. yds
K: Luis Rojas | Sr. | Bluffton
6-9 FG, 38 long; 27-27 PAT
P: Owen Bayes | Jr. | HHIHS
44 punts, 33.5 avg, 53 long, 10 inside 20
ATH: Ja’Darius Garrett | Sr. | Whale Branch
253 rec. yds, 5 TDs; rush TD; 29 tkls, TFL, 1 sack, INT, PBU, FF
DL: Anthony Phelan | Sr. | Battery Creek
24 tkls, 7.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, INT
DL: Robert Johnson | Jr. | Beaufort High
35 tkls, 9 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 QBPs, PBU, 2 FRs
DL: Alijah Gordon | Sr. | Wade Hampton
58 tkls (37 solo), 7 TFL, 3 sacks, 12 QBPs, INT, 2 FFs, FR
DL/LB: Leroy Tyus | Jr. | Battery Creek
21 tkls, 11 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 PBUs
LB: Shane Whittaker | Jr. | Bluffton
53 tkls (36 solo), 12 TFL, 1 sack, 8 QBPs, FR
LB: Quion Rivers | Jr. | Beaufort High
67 tkls, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 6 QBPs, INT, 2 PBUs, FF
LB: Will Codding | Soph. | Beaufort High
60 tkls, 12 TFL, 4 sacks, 2 QBPs, 2 PBUs, 2 FFs
LB: Grayson Ferguson | Sr. | Wade Hampton
102 tkls (58 solo), 10 TFL, 1 sack, 9 QBPs, 2 PBUs, 2 FFs, FR
DB/LB: Ja’leo Williams | Sr. | Wade Hampton
106 tkls (60 solo), 9 TFL, 4 QBPs
DB: Lamar Knight | Sr. | Beaufort High
30 tkls, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 QBPs, 3 PBUs, FF
DB: Jamar Knight | Sr. | Beaufort High
31 tkls, 3 TFL, 0.5 sack, 2 INTs, 5 PBUs
ALL-LOWCO HONORABLE MENTION
LB/RB | Soph. | Whale Branch
OL | Sr. | Bluffton
DL/OL | Sr. | Colleton Co.
QB | Soph. | Beaufort High
OL | Sr. | Battery Creek
QB | Jr. | Ridgeland
WR | Jr. | Bluffton
RB | Sr. | Bluffton
LB | Sr. | May River
DB | Jr. | Beaufort High
LB/DB | Sr. | Battery Creek
DB | Sr. | May River
RB | Soph. | Battery Creek
OL/DL | Sr. | Colleton Co.
DL | Jr. | May River
WR |Sr. | Ridgeland
WR | Jr. | HHIHS
QB | Soph. | May River
RB | Sr. | Battery Creek
ATH | Sr. | Whale Branch
OL | Soph. | Estill
LB | Sr. | HHIHS
LB/DB/K | Sr. | HHIHS
OL | Sr. | Whale Branch
ATH | Sr. | Wade Hampton
DL | Soph. | May River
LB | Sr. | Beaufort High
QB | Soph. | Wade Hampton
LB | Soph. | HHIHS
WR/DB | Jr. | Colleton Co.
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