High School Football

The Herald’s 2018 high school football preview

Which teams in The Herald’s 12-school coverage area will challenge for state titles this season?
Which teams in The Herald’s 12-school coverage area will challenge for state titles this season?

Find all the information you need about the 12 high school football teams in The Herald’s coverage area ahead of the 2018 season.

Click on the link below to read about your favorite team:

Chester Cyclones preview

Clover Blue Eagles preview

Fort Mill Yellow Jackets preview

Great Falls Red Devils preview

Indian Land Warriors preview

Lancaster Bruins preview

Lewisville Lions preview

Nation Ford Falcons preview

Northwestern Trojans preview

Rock Hill Bearcats preview

South Pointe Stallions preview

York Cougars preview

2018-20 SCHSL realignment plan

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I

Chester

Chester.JPG
Zan Dunham is only the second freshman Chester coach Victor Floyd has started at quarterback. Bret McCormick
Chester has been building and bubbling and readying for a huge season the last two years. Will it finally happen in 2018?

“That’s what we’re hoping,” said coach Victor Floyd. “The theme this season is ‘The Next Step.’ We’re really looking for some of our guys to take that step.”

The Cyclones graduated just six seniors, returning almost everyone from last season’s nine-win playoff team. That includes multiple college prospects, led by towering offensive lineman Wyatt Tunall, who is committed to Appalachian State and looks ready to dominate. He’s one of five returning offensive linemen. With QB John Erby graduated, the Cyclones will likely pound the football more this fall, in part because of the experienced blockers returning and several tight end-type players.

Chester will only carry around 30 players for varsity games this fall, but they have talent and size on both sides of the ball.

Running back Pha’Leak Brown rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and could do that again, though the Cyclones also have Stan Mills and Emmanuel Wright, a speedster, to carry the ball.

Sophomore linebacker Octaveion Minter has big college potential and should make more plays this fall, after starting as a ninth grader. And three of the four defensive linemen that played the most last year are back. That group includes interior lineman Quay Evans, a junior starting to get high-major FBS recruiting interest.

Chester will start a freshman quarterback, Zan Dunham. He’s 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, uncommonly large for his age, and he can sling a football over 60 yards. He gives Chester something different at QB and Floyd hopes he’s the guy to help the program take the next step toward statewide contention.

Tight end/offensive lineman Da’Morrious Thompson is the other Cyclone freshman that will start. Thompson, who will probably move full-time to the offensive line in the future, is 6-foot-2, 255.

This year’s team includes the first class of players to spend four years with Floyd. They’ve already fully embraced “The Next Step” mentality.

“When your older guys are all in, those younger guys will fall in behind them,” Floyd said.

Breakout player

Defensive end Teddy Murphy started every game as a sophomore in 2017. Murphy is stout and strong -- he squats over 500 pounds -- and will provide pressure on the quarterback from the edge.

“He’s explosive,” said Floyd.

Chester hasn’t had much depth since Floyd returned in 2015, so when they’ve had physically developed freshmen and sophomores, they’ve played. Murphy is included in that group and his experiences the last two seasons should help him emerge as a playmaker this fall.

“He’s really, really grown as a player,” said Floyd. “If he’ll just play with high motor like he’s capable, he can kind of write his own ticket.”

At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Murphy will likely play linebacker in college. He runs a 4.7 40-yard dash and can cover ground.

“You’ve got people that will take him and let him be an undersized d-end, and some that are gonna make him a linebacker. But someone will like him,” Floyd said.

Last season: Finished 9-3, lost to Chapman 55-25 in the second round of 3A playoffs

Head coach: Victor Floyd, fourth season

Coaching staff: Ricky Campbell, defensive backs and co-defensive coordinator; Tim Boyd, linebackers and co-defensive coordinator; Charles Tauchman, defensive line; Jerry Caldwell, outside linebackers and safeties; Chris Dodson, offensive line; Ronald Canty, wide receivers; Brian Gordon, offensive line assistant.

2018 schedule

Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Lancaster will test the Cyclones early, in large part through their size and depth advantages.

Chester also makes a trip to Columbia (Ga.), a Decatur-based school that was 5-6 last season, losing in the first round of the Georgia 5A state playoffs. The Cyclones finish the regular season with Fairfield Central, before an interestingly-timed bye week prior to the state playoffs.

August: 17 at Aiken; 24 at Fort Mill; 31 Rock Hill

September: 7 at Columbia (Ga.); 14 Lancaster; 21 Carolina Pride; 28 Indian Land

October: 5 at Keenan; 12 Camden; 19 at Fairfield Central; 26 Bye

Most interesting game: Sept. 7 at Columbia (Ga.)

Most important game: Oct. 19 at Fairfield Central

2017 results

August: 18 Westwood, 30-23 L; 25 Franklin Christian, 70-0 W; 31 Keenan, 50-7 W

September: 8 at Lancaster, 43-22 W; 15 Lower Richland, 40-39 W; 22 Carolina Pride, 50-0 W; 29 at Indian Land, 35-34 W

October: 6 Columbia, 48-28 W; 13 at Camden, 35-14 W; 20 Fairfield Central, 34-24 L; 27 Bye

November: 3 Powdersville, 61-28 W; 10 at Chapman, 55-25 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: N/A

Rusher: Pha’Leak Brown, 1,178 yards and 14 TDs

Receiver: Terrence Mills, 184 yards

Tackler: Dorrien Bagley, 100 tackles

II

Clover

Clover’s receiving trio of Heze Massey, Zion Robbins and Jaylin Lane is one of the most talented groups in the area. Who will throw them the ball, though? Five candidates entered the QB race last spring, and coach Brian Lane has whittled that group down to four. But the starting job is still wide open, with Lane saying that the preseason scrimmages would help him pick a starter before the Blue Eagles’ Aug. 17 opener against York.

David Hall is back at running back and looking at more carries in his junior year. Sophomore B.J. Tims is built similarly to Hall, stumpy and powerful. With its deep receiving corps and backfield, can Clover make a jump in its second year of spread offensive play?

“I feel like we’re a little bit better this year than where we were last year,” said Lane. “We definitely can get into some nuances of offensive play, instead of just trying to put a product on the field and knowing how to line up.”

Season-ending injuries pounded the Blue Eagles last year during a seven-game losing streak to end the campaign. Lane thinks the 2018 team has the depth to better withstand such an onslaught if it happens again.

Clover will only have 10 or so seniors on a roster bolstered by a huge and talented junior class. Juniors Shon Brown and Hayden Johnson are leading linebackers, while senior Ryan Jones, juniors Jay Falls and Nygle Biggers and sophomore Josh Marr man the secondary; all four started last season. Biggers will play on both sides of the ball - at corner and receiver.

Lane said Johnson, who made All-Region 4-5A as a sophomore, is one of the best linebackers he’s coached, a very instinctive player with a high motor. And senior Isaiah Farmer provides quality on the defensive line. Clover’s defense emerging as a game-changing unit would alleviate some of the pressure from whichever rookie QB wins the starting gig.

“You really hope these young guys step up,” said Lane. “We’re trying to put expectations on them that they need to have for us to win ball games. Hopefully, this year can be a benchmark year where we can say, ‘hey, we started playing some really good defense and offense.’”

Breakout player

Zion Robbins would have already broken out last season, if he hadn’t broken an ankle on his first touchdown catch of the season. Robbins caught seven passes for over 100 yards in the 2017 opener against Forestview (N.C.), but missed the rest of the season after going down late in the game.

The junior wide receiver should build on the glimmer of potential he showed last season. Six-foot-1, 185 pounds, Robbins is a college prospect with high-level body control and athleticism. Lane isn’t quite sure which level Robbins could land at, but this season should add some clarity to Robbins’ future.

“He’s under the radar now, but he’s got two years,” said Lane. “Hopefully this year, he’ll make a splash in what we do.”

Last season: Finished 3-7, missed postseason

Head coach: Brian Lane, second season

Coaching staff: Steven Peeler, defensive coordinator; Wilbur Pender, outside linebackers; Jimmy Sutton, inside linebackers; Curtis Godwin, defensive line; Lee Jordan, defensive line; Devon Lowery, defensive backs; Steven Churm, offensive line; Tony Cook, wide receivers; Julian Patton, wide receivers; Tony Ashmore, running backs.

2018 schedule

Clover opens the season against York for the first time since at least the 1950s. The Blue Eagles then play four North Carolina schools in a row, before closing out non-region play against Irmo. Every region game is critical for the Blue Eagles, who missed the playoffs last season. They’ll go for a first win over Northwestern since 2006, but the Oct. 12 game against Rock Hill and Oct. 26 game against Fort Mill will likely determine whether Brian Lane’s team makes the playoffs.

August: 17 at York; 24 at Forestview (N.C.); 31 at Hunter Huss (N.C.)

September: 7 South Point (N.C.); 14 Ashbrook (N.C.); 21 Irmo; 28 at Nation Ford

October: 5 Northwestern; 12 Rock Hill; 19 Bye; 26 at Fort Mill

Most interesting game: Sept. 7 vs. South Point (N.C.)

Most important game: Oct. 26 vs. Fort Mill

2017 results

August: 18 at Ashbrook (N.C.) W 56-26; 25 Forestview (N.C.) W 41-5

September: 8 Hunter Huss (N.C.) W 42-25; 15 at Franklin Christian L 28-0; 22 York L 21-10; 29 Nation Ford L 38-27

October: 6 at Fort Mill L 38-30; 13 Northwestern L 48-18; 20 Rock Hill L 24-13; 27 at Boiling Springs L 58-17

Leading returning _______:

Passer: N/A

Rusher: David Hall, 285 yards and 4 TDs

Receiver: Heze Massey, 952 yards and 5 TDs

Tackler: Hayden Johnson, 138 tackles

III

Fort Mill

Rob McNeely 1
After 16 years coaching in North Carolina, new Fort Mill head coach Rob McNeely is leading the Fort Mill football program and is looking to help get the Jackets back on the winning track. Mac Banks

The 2018 Fort Mill Yellow Jackets’ playing style will be fast-paced and action-packed. Most of the time.

Head coach Rob McNeely replaces Ed Susi, who resigned following the 2017 season. McNeely has brought his up-tempo style of coaching from Lake Norman High School, including on the practice field where rap music and Metallica blare loudly from the speaker system. The up-tempo style of practice is something that he wants to bring the field on Friday nights.

But McNeely said his team would utilize different offensive tempos in order to keep opposing defenses confused.

“We gotta make sure we’re making first downs. We can’t go real fast and expect our defense to be on the field all night,” said McNeely. “I think with our offense and the style of play, just because we are no huddle, it doesn’t mean we have to go NASCAR pace the entire time.”

J.T. Marr, who started last season at QB and threw for over 2,100 yards, is part of the competition for the starting job, and McNeely has been impressed with his leadership throughout the spring and summer.

“You can’t negate the game reps and the experience that he got last year,” McNeely said. “For him to have been in big games or seen live bullets so to speak, is pretty valuable for him but also for us as a team.”

Dylan Helms has also been competing for the QB job.

McNeely wants to focus on the inside zone run play as a bread and butter play of their offense, which should mean more carries for senior Sebastian Lach.

“We want to be physical in the run game,” McNeely said. “There’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors. We have guys that can get to the perimeter and make some things happen, but in our run game, we want to be physical and we want to be downhill in that attack.”

On the perimeter, seniors D’Angelo Coit, Cam Saunders, Alan Stevens and junior Ben Kellam will get the first looks. Likewise for senior tight end/linebacker Caleb Smith.

“It looks like right now, we’re going to have a lot of skill guys working offense and defense,” said McNeely. “We’re going to have some pretty decent rotations, and be smart, especially early on with how much running around guys are doing and special teams play and stuff like that.”

Breakout player

Punter Kyle Romenick returns for his senior season at Fort Mill, and McNeely believes that the punt team is the most important special team and that it’s important not to outkick the coverage, which he says can happen being around high school. McNeely is excited to see what Romenick can do in 2018, especially now that he’s out of the shadow of the star kickers that dominated headlines last season, B.T. Potter, Skyler DeLong and Nick Sciba.

“Kyle has been very impressive this spring and summer. What I like the most about Kyle is his knowledge of the skill. He really has done a lot of work with our kicking coaches but he retains a lot of that knowledge, which is good to have,” McNeely said.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound senior has an scholarship offer from Boston College, as well as a preferred-walk on spot at Penn State. Romenick will likely earn more college offers/roster spots as the season progresses.

Last season: Finished 4-8, lost to Hillcrest 40-14 in the first round of 5A playoffs

Head coach: Rob McNeely, first season

Coaching staff: Dammeon Chisholm, linebackers; Matt Dow, defensive line; John Barrett, defensive backs; Tony Paciotti, offensive coordinator/QBs; Dennis Stokes, wide receivers; Shon Kendall, offensive line; Eddie Therrell, running backs.

2018 schedule

Fort Mill has a pretty winnable non-region schedule. York represents the toughest challenge, but the Yellow Jackets will be favored against Lugoff-Elgin, Camden and Lancaster, and maybe Chester. That kind of schedule should help Rob McNeely’s team find its footing under the first-year coach. Region 4-5A should be tight again and Fort Mill will want to get to two wins to avoid any tie-breaking scenarios, like the one that almost left them out of the postseason last year.

August: 17 at River Bluff; 24 Chester; 31 at Lancaster

September: 7 Camden; 14 at Lugoff-Elgin; 21 York; 28 at Rock Hill

October: 5 at Nation Ford; 12 Bye; 19 Northwestern; 26 Clover

Most interesting game: Aug. 17 at River Bluff

Most important game: Oct. 26 vs. Clover

2017 results

August: 18 Spring Valley, 41-7 L; 25 West Florence, 34-7 L

September: 1 Lancaster, 38-21 W; 8 Orangeburg-Wilkinson, 31-9 W; 15 at York, 28-21 L; 22 Bye; 29 at Northwestern, 37-20 L

October: 6 Clover, 38-30 W; 13 at Rock Hill, 21-16 L; 20 at Dorman, 45-27 L; 27 Nation Ford, 20-13 L

November: 3 at Hillcrest, 40-14 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: J.T. Marr, 2,128 yards and 16 TDs (11 INTs)

Rusher: Sebastian Lach, 152 yards and 2 TDs

Receiver: Sebastian Lach, 283 yards and 2 TDs

Tackler: Cam Saunders, 47 tackles

IV

Great Falls

Great Falls has lost 19 football games in a row, a skid dating back to 2015.

But coach Scotty Steen believes that the 2018 Red Devils are the team that can get the program headed back in the right direction, not only breaking the losing streak but winning at least a few games.

“They don’t talk about it,” said Steen. “They don’t avoid it, but they don’t mention it. It’s like an elephant in the room, you know it’s there. You don’t have to poke it. They wear it on their sleeve and I’m sure they’re eager as I am to get that taken care of.”

Depth and getting guys to participate in the program is something that Steen says will always be an issue for Great Falls. The Red Devils have 27 players on the roster this season, including 14 sophomores. Great Falls will need a handful from that group to make big production leaps this fall.

“They’re gonna be the heart of the team,” Steen said. They work extremely hard, they always show up, they’re never late, they don’t complain. They’re great kids.”

The Red Devils will have to rely on guys playing both offense and defense, including senior offensive and defensive linemen Dustin Smith and Justin Montgomery, sophomore Hunter Funderburk and sophomore wide receiver, running back and defensive back, James Strong.

Quarterback Kell Brown will return from injury this year and should be cleared to play soon. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound gunslinger will be a part of a pistol offense that will utilize the zone-read, a play that will often include sophomore running back Elijah Simpson.

“We’re going to be bigger and stronger up front and we’re going to have a little experience and we’ll be bigger and stronger in the backfield,” Steen said.

Breakout player

Scotty Steen will have to rely on guys playing both offense and defense again this year, namely 6-foot-5 junior wide receiver and safety Kelton Talford.

“Kelton Talford is poised to have a great year. He has gotten a lot bigger and stronger and has been doing well in AAU basketball as well.”

Steen believes Talford has a bright future in football and basketball and while the offers aren’t plentiful right now, he has been receiving interest from Newberry. As far as areas of improvement, Steen said he just needs to continue to grow stronger and faster in the weight room.

“I can remember when he first came in and couldn’t dunk and now he’s all over the place,” Steen said.

Last season: Finished 0-9, missed postseason

Head coach: Scotty Steen, second season

Coaching staff: Mike Bradley, assistant head coach/defensive coordinator; Tim Bennett, offensive coordinator; Antonio Artis, defensive line; Walter Lamar, defensive backs; Floyd McCorvey, offensive backs; Andy Worthy, wide receivers; Alstevis Squirewell, offensive line; Josh Heffner, linebackers.

2018 schedule

C.A. Johnson has won just six games total since 2014 and may represent one of Great Falls’ best chances to break its losing streak this fall. The Red Devils nearly edged Whitmire last season and play the Wolverines second. After that, the schedule gets tougher, especially in region play in October.

August: 16 at C.A. Johnson; 24 Whitmire; 31 at Lewisville

September: 7 at Andrew Jackson; 14 at Dixie; 21 Ware Shoals; 28 Camden Military

October: 5 Bye; 12 McBee; 19 at Lamar; 26 Timmonsville

Most interesting game: Aug. 16 at C.A. Johnson

Most important game: Oct. 26 vs. Timmonsville

2017 results

August: 25 at Whitmire, 26-16 L; 30 Blackville-Hilda, 46-14 L

September: 8 at Ware Shoals, 20-6 L; 15 Bye; 22 North Central, 47-0 L; 29 at Timmonsville, 56-0 L

October: 6 at Andrew Jackson, 48-0 L; 13 at McBee, 42-14 L; 20 Lamar, 61-6 L; 27 at Lewisville, 54-0 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: Kell Brown

Rusher: Elijah Simpson

Receiver: Kelton Talford

Tackler: Trent Isenhower or Simpson

V

Indian Land

Outsiders may think Indian Land coach Horatio Blades is nuts for lining up the non-region schedule that he put in front of his team for the 2018 season.

“I told the kids, ‘I made the schedule because I believe in you guys,’” Blades said. “I know it’s unchartered waters, as far as this school is concerned. People think we’re crazy but I think we can compete.”

The Warriors are likely to be in the 4A classification next realignment and some of those non-region games could be region contests in 2020. Might as well get used to playing those schools.

Indian Land is as well equipped as ever to tackle such a schedule. The Warriors graduated just seven seniors and return 17 of 22 starters.

Blades will go with 6-foot-7 senior Grayson Barber at QB. He’s still learning the ropes of the position but has intriguing physical attributes and is surrounded by veteran skill position players. Sophomore running back Brandon Britton has the potential to be a very effective runner out of the backfield for the Warriors, and senior Tyree Sistare will split time between the slot receiver and running back spots.

The Warriors lost standout lineman Jake Locklear, but return the other four starters: Mikey Csuhta, Christian Ressalem, Nick Yarbrough and Jesse Mace.

Almost all of the defensive backs return, led by junior A.J. Jefferson. Seniors Dorian Williams -- a Coastal Carolina commitment -- and Robbie Csuhta -- who has FBS recruiting interest -- give the Warriors a pair of thumpers in the middle of the defense. Williams can play in the secondary or at linebacker.

Indian Land lost three games by less than a touchdown in 2017, results the Warriors want to flip this coming season.

“We’re close,” Blades said. “That’s where that leadership comes in, you know what I mean? That’s the difference between those one and two-point games. They learned how to compete. We played a lot of close games the end of last year. So, I think we’re ready to take the next step.”

Breakout player

A.J. Jefferson will become a three-year starter this fall, his junior season of football at Indian Land. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound cornerback has FBS potential and was the recipient of considerable residual recruiting interest last year from graduated Warrior defensive back John Gregory, who is playing college ball at Ohio. Blades said that Coastal Carolina is very interested in Jefferson.

Jefferson, who will play both sides of the ball for the Warriors, should shift from prospect to productive standout this season. Indian Land coach Horatio Blades praised Jefferson’s ability to cover slot receivers or operate in isolation on the perimeter equally well.

“He’s got natural ball skills,” said Blades. “If you get a guy that can play outside and against slots, as a cornerback, that’s valuable.”

Last season: Finished 2-9, lost to Emerald 48-23 in first round of 3A playoffs

Head coach: Horatio Blades, second season

Coaching staff: Leon Boulware, offensive coordinator; Al Peterson, quarterbacks; Sam Wright, offensive line; Gee McNeil, wide receivers; Ted Washington, defensive line; Ko Simpson, safeties; Pat Hunt, cornerbacks/special teams.

2018 schedule

Indian Land’s schedule took steroids in the offseason. The Warriors will face York, Rock Hill, Nation Ford and South Pointe in consecutive weeks, before opening Region 4-3A play at Chester. Coach Horatio Blades beefed up the schedule because Indian Land is growing at such a fast rate that some of these schools will be region opponents before too long.

Indian Land nearly knocked off Chester and Fairfield Central last year, losing to both by a single point. Can the Warriors survive the non-region onslaught to make a move in region play?

August: 17 Lancaster; 24 Buford; 31 at York

September: 7 at Rock Hill; 14 at Nation Ford; 21 South Pointe; 28 at Chester

October: 5 Bye; 12 Keenan; 19 at Camden; 26 Fairfield Central

Most interesting game: Sept. 28 at Chester

Most important game: Oct. 19 at Camden

2017 results

August: 18 at Lancaster, 21-7 L; 25 at Buford, 34-31 L

September: 1 Blacksburg, 37-13 W; at Broome, 27-16 L; Chesterfield, 48-25 L; 22 Nation Ford, 31-7 L; 29 Chester, 35-34 L

October: 6 Bye; 12 at Columbia, 14-6 W; 20 Camden, 31-17 L; 27 at Fairfield Central, 14-13 L (OT)

November: 3 at Emerald, 48-23 L (first round of 3A playoffs)

Leading returning _______:

Passer: N/A

Rusher: Brandon Britton, 463 yards and 4 TDs

Receiver: A.J. Jefferson

Tackler: Robbie Csuhta, 114 tackles

VI

Lancaster

Lancaster.JPG
Can Lancaster’s offense find another gear under new coordinator Ed Susi? Bret McCormick

Lancaster expects to take a step forward offensively in Bobby Collins’ fifth season as head coach. The Bruins return one of the best and biggest offensive lines in the area, led by college prospect Jalen Tatah and fellow seniors Ray Heath and Fred Reid. All are 6-foot-2 or taller and weigh 290 pounds or more.

Senior QB Kemarkio Cloud returns after nearly rushing for 1,000 yards last season. “We want to be able to be 50-50 with him this year,” Collins said. “We’re still looking for a thousand yards rushing from him. It’ll be nice to have about 2,000 passing. I want to talk about him being one of the offensive players of the year in the Tri-County, if he does what he’s supposed to do.”

Cloud has receivers Zach Truesdale and Christian Woodard returning, and a new offensive play caller, former Fort Mill head coach Ed Susi. Susi is one of three former head coaches that’s assisting Collins, including former Great Falls coach Kenneth Schofield, the Bruins’ special teams guru.

The defense also has a new head man, former Fort Mill assistant and Independence head coach Bill Geiler. Geiler will lean on a pair of talented junior linebackers, Immanuel Bush and Will Burton. Bush moves from the defensive line to a standing position, while Burton is a general on the field and a college prospect as well.

“With him and Immanuel’s effort level on defense, I can’t ask for nothing else,” said Collins.

Collins thinks the Bruins’ defensive secondary -- a bit of a weakness the last few years -- will be a strength in 2018. Safeties Akeem Ford and Jaelan Harfield and cornerbacks Zyon Duncan and Nehemiah Bailey should start for Lancaster.

Defensive line has been a strength in recent years, but Lancaster was cleaned out up front by graduation and Bush’s position change. Only one defensive lineman returns with any varsity experience.

The Bruins have a fairly tough non-region schedule, but also a well-timed midseason bye week before commencing region play.

Breakout player

Nygel Moore gives Lancaster something different in its offensive backfield. The sophomore running back moved up to varsity for the final three games of the season and should get an opportunity to handle the football, alongside QB Kemarkio Cloud and running back Asont’a Clark, who are both a load to tackle.

Moore was moved up to varsity last season for the South Pointe game, but didn’t get any on-field action. But he did play against York and Ridge View, and should be ready to shoulder more of the load in 2018.

“I think he had a really good offseason, running the ball for us really, really hard,” said Collins. “With the offensive line we’ve got coming back and the addition of what coach Ed Susi likes to do on offense, it could be a breakout year for Nygel.”

Last season: Finished 3-7, missed postseason

Head coach: Bobby Collins, fifth season

Coaching staff: Ed Susi, offensive coordinator; Bill Geiler, defensive coordinator; Kenneth Schofield, special teams; Mario Carter, wide receivers; Jason Connella, quarterbacks; David Harrison, offensive line; Charles McEachin, inside linebackers; Carl Boyd, outside linebackers; Joe Watson, defensive line; Jeff Jarosz, defensive backs.

2018 schedule

Strong non-region schedule for Lancaster, including home games against Fairfield Central and Fort Mill, the former team of half of Bobby Collins’ Bruins coaching staff. Indian Land is improving and will be a litmus test game for the Warriors and Bruins in the opening week of the season. Region 3-4A is one of the best 4A leagues in the state and it’ll take two wins for the Bruins to reach the postseason. A win in the region opener against Richland Northeast is a must.

August: 17 at Indian Land; 24 Fairfield Central; 30 Fort Mill

September: 7 at Nation Ford; 14 at Chester; 21 Bye; 28 Richland Northeast

October: 5 South Pointe; 12 at York; 19 Westwood; 26 at Ridge View

Most interesting game: Aug. 17 at Indian Land

Most important game: Sept. 28 vs. Richland Northeast

2017 results

August: 18 vs. Indian Land, 21-7 W; 25 Bye

September: 1 at Fort Mill, 38-21 L; 8 Chester, 43-22 L; 15 Nation Ford, 14-7 L; 22 at Lugoff-Elgin, 27-24 W; 29 Westwood, 36-29 L

October: 6 Richland Northeast, 25-23 W; 13 at South Pointe, 45-10 L; 20 at York, 46-14 L; 27 at Ridge View, 35-17 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: Kemarkio Cloud, 956 yards and 7 TDs (and 5 INTs)

Rusher: Cloud, 912 yards and 10 TDs

Receiver: Christian Woodard, 317 yards and 1 TD

Tackler: Immanuel Bush, 98 tackles

VII

Lewisville

This coming season feels like a fresh start for Lewisville football.

The Lions graduated nine college football players the last two seasons and it’s natural for a school with an enrollment below 400 to have a dip in high level talent.

The Lions may have some of those high-level guys on their team right now, they just haven’t shown it on Friday nights yet. Receivers JaShawn Jason and Jadon Scott, running back Martez Moore and junior QB Demetric Hardin will all get the chance to shine in 2018. Hardin is 15 pounds heavier than last year and gives the Lions a running threat at QB. Four-year offensive line starter Wesley Williamson will also be important, especially with a just a few returning experienced linemen.

The significant exodus of talent -- Lewisville lost 14 seniors from last year’s team -- coincides with a step up in competition, as Will Mitchell’s program joins the 2A ranks. Lewisville slots into a region that includes Chesterfield and Pageland’s Central, as well as Buford and Andrew Jackson.

“We can compete with any of those people,” Mitchell said. “But when does depth become an issue for us?”

Lewisville had 40 players participating most of the summer, the highest number Mitchell has had during his tenure. The numbers were evenly split between skill position players and linemen, and the Lions have three or four ninth and 10th graders coming through that should significantly bulk up the team’s blocking unit, beginning this fall, and could positively impact Lewisville’s depth in a season when it especially needs as many productive players as possible.

“Really depends on how our younger linemen develop,” said Mitchell.

Breakout candidate

Nathan Kelly is only a sophomore but he’s already 6-foot-2, 215 pounds.

“That’s what the weight room will do for you,” said Mitchell.

Kelly is one of a number of Lewisville Lions that could have a breakout year. The opportunity is there for many of them, after 14 seniors graduated and left plenty of playing time in their wake. Kelly will play as an edge rusher, allowing him to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.

“He’s so explosive and his motor is always running,” said Mitchell.

The 10th grade linebacker should start picking up college recruiting interest this fall and Mitchell thinks he’ll be the Lions’ next big-time prospect if everything proceeds as anticipated in the next three years.

Last season: Finished 9-4, lost to Ridge Spring Monetta 28-24 in the third round of 1A playoffs

Head coach: Will Mitchell, seventh season

Coaching staff: Rusty Pemberton, offensive line; Billy Keels, running backs; Michael McCray, wide receivers; Rob Scott, outside linebackers/H-backs; Kevin Eaddy, defensive backs; Kirk Cannon, linebackers/defensive coordinator; Stacey Rubin, defensive line; Blake Barron, quarterbacks; Wally Weir, defense.

2018 schedule

Lewisville will ease into the season with three highly winnable games -- Eau Claire, C.A. Johnson and Great Falls -- in the opening month. But things get much tougher from September, on, starting with Carolina Pride -- you never know what iteration of that team you’ll get -- and moving on to Region 4-2A play, after a well-placed bye week Sept. 14. Lewisville plays Central for the first time ever in the region opener.

August: 17 at Eau Claire; 24 C.A. Johnson; 31 Great Falls

September: 7 Carolina Pride; 14 Bye; 21 at Central; 28 at Buford

October: 5 Lee Central; 12 at Andrew Jackson; 19 North Central; 26 Chesterfield

Most interesting game: Sept. 21 at Central

Most important game: Sept. 28 at Buford

2017 results

August: 18 Andrew Jackson, 30-6 W; 25 at Blacksburg, 18-16 W; 30 at Buford, 38-20 L

September: 8 Whitmire, 62-6 W; 15 Eau Claire, 40-16 W; 22 at C.A. Johnson, 42-14 W; 29 McBee, 66-12 W

October: 6 at Lamar, 30-6 L; 13 Bye; 20 at Timmonsville, 36-28 L; 27 Great Falls, 54-0 W

November: 3 at Wagener-Salley, 31-2 W; 10 at McCormick, 24-22 W (OT); 17 at Ridge Spring-Monetta, 28-24 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: Martez Moore, nine yards

Rusher: JaShawn Jason, 43 yards

Receiver: Demetric Hardin, 285 yards and 3 TDs

Tackler: Nathan Kelly, 55 tackles

VIII

Nation Ford

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Nation Ford’s Dawaun McCullum (8) stretches for extra yards as he is pulled down by a pair of Bearcats Friday. Jeff Sochko Special to The Herald

If Carson Carruthers is the answer at quarterback for Nation Ford, the Falcons could be in for a strong 2018.

“He’s done really well,” said Nation Ford coach Michael Allen. “He knows our offense, he knows the reads. He’s such a big guy. I told him, ‘here’s your opportunity.’”

Carruthers and the Falcons, who finished in a three-way tie for first place in Region 4-5A last season, will be tested immediately with a difficult first three games of the season against Spartanburg, Conway and South Pointe.

“I’m trying to figure out who the heck made that schedule!” Allen joked, laughing. “You know what, we’re just not gonna run from anybody and whether we win or lose, I just think there is enough information to take from those games that we can use as a coaching staff that can push us forward.”

Carruthers, a 6-foot-5 senior, is surrounded by offensive playmakers, none better than Dewuan McCullum. The Texas-San Antonio commitment never fully rid himself of a high ankle sprain in 2017, but his speed, route-running and toughness make him the team’s game-breaker on offense.

McCullum isn’t the only one, though. Nathan Lovette’s size at tight end has FCS schools intrigued. Stumpy running back Nathan Mahaffey had a strong sophomore season and should be even better this fall. He’s also a capable pass-catcher, giving Carruthers one more throwing option.

“We’ve got some people,” said Allen. “What I like is our balance across the board. Everybody is gonna have a go-to guy but across our weapons, we’re very balanced.”

Nation Ford lost punter Skyler DeLong to the Alabama Crimson Tide and placekicker Carter Richardson to graduation, but Allen has a couple of kids ready to fill the void.

The Falcons have a bunch of offensive linemen returning up front, including Garrett Buckley, Aronde Smith, Devin Hodges, Spencer Henkle, Marshall Stafford and Sean Grennan.

Allen can count on a linebacker that has FBS potential, Michael Peterson. He led The Herald’s coverage area in tackles last season and really covers ground in the middle of the field. Jon Sanders, Jaylen Keels and Ashten Schaufert give the Falcons a solid trio of senior defensive linemen. And there is another college prospect behind Peterson, at safety, Petey Tuipulotu. You probably recognize that last name. This Tuipulotu, a 6-foot-2 junior, may be the best of the bunch.

Breakout player

With Dewuan McCullum back to full health this fall, senior receiver Harrison Cohen probably won’t lead the Falcons in receiving for the second straight season. But his impact will be immense, especially in creating working room for his close friend, McCullum.

Allen called Cohen, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound pass-catcher, “a sleeper.”

“He’s just a guy you have no idea,” said Allen.

Cohen has earned some college football recruiting interest, in part because of his excellent grades and test scores. Stetson is one school that seems interested, but that number may grow if he has a big 12th grade season. While McCullum stretches the field, Cohen operates in the second level, the soft underbelly of the defense. With those two operating at full tilt, defenses have a conundrum.

“You have to make a decision,” said Allen.

Last season: Finished 5-7, lost to Greenwood 35-14 in first round of 5A playoffs

Head coach: Michael Allen, eighth season

Coaching staff: Zac Lendyak, offensive coordinator; Kirkley Russell, defensive coordinator; Wayne Richardson, defensive line; Jamale Foster, defensive backs; Pete Tuipulotu, running backs; Wayne Starkes, quarterbacks/wide receivers; Jeremy Ryan, defensive line; Chris Rust, wide receivers; Taylor Irvin, offensive line.

2018 schedule

Mike Allen’s Falcons will open the season with two new opponents, Spartanburg and Conway. The real test will come as the Falcons open region play against the defending 5A state champion, South Pointe. The three-week stretch against Fort Mill, Northwestern and Rock Hill will probably go a long way in determining whether or not the Falcons will finish with a winning record. Nation Ford will also face Chapin to close the regular season for the first time in school history.

August: 17 at Spartanburg; 24 Conway; 31 at South Pointe

September: 7 Lancaster; 14 Indian Land; 21 Bye; 28 Clover

October: 5 Fort Mill; 12 at Northwestern; 19 at Rock Hill; 26 at Chapin

Most interesting game: Aug. 17 at Spartanburg

Most important game: Oct. 5 vs. Fort Mill

2017 results

August: 18 at Irmo, 28-16 L; 25 South Pointe, 53-0 L

September: 1 Bye; 8 York, 21-17 L; 15 at Lancaster, 14-7 W; 22 at Indian Land, 31-7; 29 Clover, 38-27 W

October: 6 Rock Hill, 36-14 L; 13 Byrnes, 31-0 L; 20 at Northwestern, 20-17 W; 27 at Fort Mill, 20-13 W

November: 3 at Greenwood, 35-14 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: Dewuan McCullum, 195 yards and 1 TD (and 2 INTs)

Rusher: Nathan Mahaffey, 457 yards and 7 TDs

Receiver: Harrison Cohen, 466 yards and 3 TDs

Tackler: Michael Peterson, 150 tackles

IX

Northwestern

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Northwestern’s Fentrell Cypress is an on-field leader in the Trojans’ secondary. Bret McCormick

Last season was a trying one for Northwestern football. Will 2018 be much better? Hard to say, especially with a schedule that includes the reigning 4A and 5A state champions (South Pointe and Dutch Fork) and the defending 5A state finalist (Dorman).

“The sky is the limit for us,” said Trojans coach James Martin, who finished 2017 as the interim head coach but was given the job full-time in early March. “You can’t judge a season on the non-region games. The region games matter more, and being healthy for the playoffs. If we get caught up in thinking, ‘hey, they dropped two games so early, what’s going on?’ Again, we’re trying to find our way through a new system of things offensively, so we might take a hit or two, but as far as what I think we can do, I think we can do a lot of great things.”

This much is certain: the Trojans have one of the best offensive players in the state in wide receiver and South Carolina commit Jamario Holley. Running back Antonio Heath returns after a year away from the team, and he and Ghari Page (previously at Nation Ford and South Pointe) should give the Trojans strong options out of the backfield.

Rising junior QB Dustin Noller and the Northwestern offensive line are the key to the team’s offense reaching elite levels. Greg McMoore is still working back from meniscus surgery, but will anchor the line alongside Hunter Burbank and Tre Sims. Coach James Martin thought Sims had a tremendous offseason and can make a difference for an offensive line that isn’t huge, but can definitely move.

“We’re gonna be undersized,” Martin said. “I think down the road that’s gonna change for us. But you learn to deal with it and you really have to look at your blocking schemes. But these guys are really tight-knit and I expect them to do some really good things this year.”

Northwestern needs to find some new contributors for its defensive front seven. John Odom, Jaylon Baird and Jaden Campbell had their names called quite a bit during the preseason. The secondary should be strong, though, led by Virginia-committed Fentrell Cypress and D’Arthur Ratchford.

Breakout player

Gregory Bivens Jr. reminds Martin of a combination of Holley and former Trojan pass-catcher Jordan Starkes. Bivens Jr. runs great routes and has sticky hands.

Bivens Jr. caught 29 passes for 240 yards last year as a junior but should have a much bigger role this fall. A good season from Bivens Jr. would greatly help the Trojans alleviate pressure from Holley.

“It’s like a chess match, being a defensive coordinator,” said Martin. “You’ve got to ask yourself how you’re gonna play him? Are you gonna maximize all your efforts on one guy, now you’re giving up a lot of time and space to another receiver, like a Bivens, who can hurt you. You’ve got to really think about how you want to do it.”

Last season: Finished 7-5, lost to Gaffney 21-10 in second round of playoffs

Head coach: James Martin, first season

Coaching staff: Knox Baggett, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks, Grady Baggett, offensive line/tight ends, Terry Young, wide receivers; Ryan Hunt, running backs; Garrison Gist, tight ends; Bobby Page, defensive backs; Benji Young, defensive backs; Mario Donato, defensive line; David Surratt, linebackers.

2018 schedule

Northwestern freshened up its schedule heading into 2018. The Trojans play Dutch Fork for the first time ever, and face Sumter for the first time in 31 years. Ridge View is on the schedule for the first time since 2011, while the Trojans don’t play Gaffney for the first time since 2007.

If the Trojans can traverse the non-region portion of their schedule with a winning record, that would be considered a success. They should still be the favorite to win Region 4-5A, but the state of their health and confidence following the brutal non-region stretch will be critical to winning the region’s No. 1 seed.

August: 17 at South Pointe; 24 at Byrnes; 31 Dorman

September: 6 Ridge View; 14 Sumter; 21 at Dutch Fork; 28 Bye

October: 5 at Clover; 12 Nation Ford; 19 at Fort Mill; 26 Rock Hill

Most interesting game: Sept. 21 at Dutch Fork

Most important game: Oct. 26 vs. Rock Hill

2017 results

August: 18 at South Pointe, 39-7 L; 25 Dorman, 42-28 W

September: 1 at South Mecklenburg (N.C.), 45-0 W; 8 Byrnes, 48-14 L; 15 at Spartanburg, 40-14 L; 22 Gaffney, 17-13 W; 29 Fort Mill, 37-20 W

October: 6 Bye; 13 at Clover, 48-18 W; 20 Nation Ford, 20-17 L; 27 at Rock Hill, 31-21 W

November: 2 Laurens, 58-7 W; Gaffney, 21-10 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: Dustin Noller, 3,120 yards, 30 TDs (and 13 INTs)

Rusher: Marquez Cherry, 266 yards and 1 TD

Receiver: Jamario Holley, 1,178 yards and 18 TDs

Tackler: D’Arthur Ratchford, 85 tackles

X

Rock Hill

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Rock Hill’s Antonio Barber will try to pick up where he left off in 2017 when a broken bone ended his sophomore season early. Bret McCormick

A three-game winning streak to open region play in 2017 offered the Bearcats hope after several tough seasons. Losses to Northwestern and Mauldin to close out the season show there is still much work to do.

“It definitely gave us a springboard into this year,” said Rock Hill coach Bubba Pittman. “But, in the same breath, that was last year. No wins are gonna come based off of that.”

Rock Hill returns a handful of offensive line contributors, led by junior center Carson Murray. Tennessee commit Antonio Barber lines up at wide receiver after playing in just six games last season because of injury. Narii Gaither, The Herald’s 2017 All-Area defensive player of the year, will be used much more often at running back in 2018. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound athlete is an explosive runner that should take advantage of the Bearcats’ offensive line continuity.

“Narii is the heart and soul of our football team,” said Pittman. “He’s Mr. Everything for us. He’s a really, really good football player, man.”

Hayden Jackson will get the chance to claim the starting QB job. He started several games last season when Logan McFadden was hurt.

Rock Hill has six offensive linemen that started games last season back in 2018. Center Carson Murray leads the group, along with Tanner Galbreath, Devin Rice and Tyrek Banks.

The Bearcats’ defensive secondary should be very strong. Safeties Nick Ervin and Anthony Jackson, who is getting FBS recruiting interest, give Rock Hill a talented pair of clean-up men. Tyreil White and Tylik Edwards round out a back four that could be very good.

The Bearcats expect to get production up front, especially from underrated senior tackle Logan Hicks and junior defensive end Thomas Rainey. Alex English played considerably as a sophomore linebacker starter and will help pilot a Bearcat defense that, while undersized, will fly around the field.

Breakout player

Tylik Edwards’ junior season got off to a very bad start. He broke his tibia and fibula in the Bearcats’ scrimmage against Greenwood on Aug. 2. Fortunately, the injury happened early enough that the 6-foot-1, 175-pound cornerback expects to return midseason. Edwards started for the Bearcats last year as a 10th grader, but Pittman thinks that once he gets back to full health, he can really emerge this fall.

“He’s got a ton of potential,” said Pittman. “He’s one that I think is definitely gonna make a name for himself this year.”

Edwards is a talented coverage defender, with strong hands. He’ll also play receiver. Edwards isn’t as physically aggressive as former Bearcat DB Jordan Morris, who is now at Coastal Carolina. But Pittman said that Edwards started to make a turn toward adding more physicality to his play during spring practice.

His recruiting is beginning to pick up, too. Morris’ recruitment picked up during his senior year, so Edwards has the advantage of being about a year ahead of schedule.

“I think he’s got a shot to be a D-I guy,” said Pittman. “I think he’s got a shot with his frame.”

Last season: Finished 4-7, lost to Mauldin 27-7 in the first round of 5A playoffs

Head coach: Bubba Pittman, fifth season

Coaching staff: Joey Fowler, assistant head coach/tight ends; Jason Layman, defensive coordinator; Chris Price, strength and conditioning/special teams; Jym Jollie, offensive line; Marcus Porter, offensive line; Tim Sawyer, wide receivers; Michael Mayer, defensive line; Bradley Catoe, running backs; Tim Jones, linebackers; Wardell Rouse, defensive line; Tony Watkins, defensive backs.

2018 schedule

Rock Hill meets Sumter for the first time since at least the 1970s, a tough season-opener that will challenge the Bearcats. South Pointe is next, but then Rock Hill tackles Chester and Indian Land, teams that are not in the same league as Dorman, Gaffney or Boiling Springs, 5A powers that filled out Rock Hill’s schedule in years past.

The Bearcats close out the season against rival Northwestern, but hope to have a playoff spot and a winning record wrapped up before then.

August: 17 at Sumter; 24 South Pointe; 31 at Chester

September: 7 Indian Land; 14 at York; 21 Lugoff-Elgin; 28 Fort Mill

October: 5 Bye; 12 at Clover; 19 Nation Ford; 26 at Northwestern

Most interesting game: Aug. 31 vs. Chester

Most important game: Oct. 26 at Northwestern

2017 results

August: 18 Blythewood, 33-14 L; 25 at York, 28-21 W

September: 1 South Pointe, 45-9 L; 8 at Boiling Springs, 48-23 L; 15 Dorman, 42-21 L; 29 at Gaffney, 44-14 L

October: 6 at Nation Ford, 36-14 W; 13 Fort Mill, 21-16 W; 20 at Clover, 24-13 W; 27 Northwestern, 31-21 L

November: 3 Mauldin, 27-7 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: Hayden Jackson, 535 yards and 3 TDs (5 INTs)

Rusher: Narii Gaither, 228 yards and 3 TDs

Receiver: Antonio Barber, 507 yards and 4 TDs

Tackler: Narii Gaither, 123 tackles

XI

South Pointe

South Pointe will probably lose a game this season -- maybe? -- and when they do, how will the Stallions react?

“That’s a great question and I’ve run that through my mind,” said coach Strait Herron. “Hopefully, we’ve matured enough to understand, especially right off the bat, these first five games, hopefully we do what we always do, play anybody. I don’t see these guys saying, ‘hey, we quit.’”

The 2018 Stallions, while not as athletic or dynamic as last season’s undefeated state champion and nationally-ranked juggernaut, have strong leadership and plenty of talent.

Jason McManus’ offensive unit can lean on the run game, led by Coastal Carolina-committed running back Joe Ervin and and a stout offensive line. Center Jackson Chappell is an FCS recruit and 2017 starters Tyrone Jackson and Dorian Jamison also return.

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South Pointe High School varsity football coach Strait Herron gestures "four" to the crowd Saturday night after his team won its fourth straight 4A state championship in Columbia. Tracy Kimball tkimball@heraldonline.com

Ervin’s backfield mate, Marice Whitlock, has moved to slot receiver. He augments a solid group led by downfield threat Ty Good and shifty slot pass-catcher Isaac Ross. Herron’s offensive unit will start with nine seniors and even first-year QB starter Tahleek Steele saw action in all 15 games last season as Derion Kendrick’s backup.

“He’s gonna really focus on executing the offense,” Herron said about Steele. “I don’t think there will be as much improvisation.”

South Pointe got cleaned out pretty good on the defensive line, but does return Adam Foxx, who is receiving college recruiting interest, and defensive end Dorian Manning. Dwayne Davis, Justin Corbin and Savion White lead the linebackers, while Wake Forest commit Jaylen Mahoney and Josh McClure marshal the secondary.

Omega Blake is a talented sophomore that could see playing time at a number of different positions, including safety. And Ervin (at linebacker) and Mahoney (at receiver) will almost certainly see extensive playing time on both sides of the ball.

“There are certain guys that have to be on the field if you want to win games,” Herron said.

South Pointe’s biggest question mark: kicker. B.T. Potter will be impossible to replace, but there isn’t even a clear option at this point, especially on punts.

Breakout player

Any number of kids could fit this role for the Stallions, but, to choose one, how about Rontarius Aldridge on the Stallions’ defensive line? He’s a 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior, undersized for a defensive lineman, but South Pointe almost always one such player and they’re almost always one of the team’s most productive defenders.

Aldridge played junior varsity as a sophomore, a decision he made rather than sit the bench on varsity. Herron thinks Aldridge is a college prospect, though it’s not yet clear which level and probably as a linebacker. But Herron expects Aldridge to step successfully into the vacancy left by Jalen Pickett-Hicks on the d-line.

“Last year, as a 10th grader in our spring game, we couldn’t block him. Our offensive line couldn’t block him,” Herron said about Aldridge. “He could have a great year for us if he continues to work.”

Last season: Finished 15-0, beat Hartsville 38-14 in 4A state title

Head coach: Strait Herron, eighth season

Coaching staff: Drew Anthony, defensive coordinator; Calvin McCullough, defensive backs; Gerald Peake, defensive line; Nathan Green, linebackers/strength; Robert Beckler, running backs; Jason McManus, offensive coordinator; Mike Zapolnik, offensive line; Wesley Curtis, wide receivers.

2018 schedule

South Pointe lightened up its non-region schedule this season, replacing Shelby (N.C.) and Buford (Ga.) with Indian Land and Greenville.

The season’s first three games are challenging, and the Region 3-4A opener offers the Stallions an opportunity to make a statement against a Westwood team that’s trending upward. Closing out the regular season with Ridge View and York isn’t easy either.

August: 17 Northwestern; 24 at Rock Hill; 31 Nation Ford

September: 7 Bye; 14 Greenville; 21 at Indian Land; 28 Westwood

October: 5 at Lancaster; 12 Richland Northeast; 19 Ridge View; 26 at York

Most interesting game: Aug. 17 vs. Northwestern

Most important game: Sept. 28 vs. Westwood

2017 results

August: 18 Northwestern, 39-7 W; 25 at Nation Ford, 53-0 W

September: 1 at Rock Hill, 45-9 W; 8 Bye; 15 at Buford (Ga.), 33-27 W; 22 Shelby, 25-0 W; 28 at Ridge View, 56-19 W

October: 6 at Westwood, 48-7 W; 13 Lancaster, 45-10 W; at Richland Northeast, 61-3 W; York, 41-27 W

November: 3 Midland Valley, 67-14 W; Belton-Honea Path, 45-3 W; Eastside, 48-0 W; at Greer, 67-21 W

December: 2 vs. Hartsville, 38-14 W

Leading returning _______:

Passer: Tahleek Steele, 327 yards and 5 TDs (2 INTs)

Rusher: Joe Ervin, 1,276 yards and 16 TDs

Receiver: Ty Good, 519 yards and 9 TDs

Tackler: Savion White, 118 tackles

XII

York

One word describes York’s 2018 football preseason outlook: potential.

A number of young players are coming down the Cougars’ talent development pipe, while several upperclassmen want to start the season well to land the college offers that have been dangled in front of them.

The Cougars look like a powerful running team, with a large and experienced offensive line anchored by college prospect Lane Towery at tackle. Juniors Will Boggs and Ashton Shannon should also make an impact alongside Towery. Senior running back Stephen Oglesby has moves and burst, and stoutly built freshman Frank Thompson has looked like a solid second option in preseason, one that’s advanced for his young age.

“There is a couple of really special football players out here that are gonna grow and mature into some college prospective players,” said coach Bobby Carroll.

QB Tanner McKinney has D-I potential. He threw for almost 2,000 yards and 16 TDs last season but needs some more receiving targets to emerge. One clear candidate is junior Jahari Moore, who has college potential. Ethan Mitchell, a three-year varsity player, is a reliable option.

York will run different offensive and defensive schemes this fall. The Cougars’ defensive line will lead the stoppers. Juniors J.Q. Guinn and Jaylon Ballard are a disruptive duo, while linebacker Brian Phillip returns to back them up. Carroll said that J.J. McNeal has emerged during the offseason as a productive outside linebacker/safety, a position that York calls “star.” Safety Max Necklen was involved in a half dozen forced turnovers last season, while Jamon Byers also provides experience in the secondary.

A tough run of games leading up to Region 3-4A play -- Dorman, Rock Hill and Fort Mill -- should help the Cougars know if the potential can become a reality.

“We’re ready for it,” said Carroll. “You always want to test yourselves against good players.”

Breakout player

If Bobby Carroll misspells a word on the whiteboard during team meetings, one player almost always will fix the spelling: senior running back Stephen Oglesby.

“He’s probably one of the most conscientious young men in about everything that he does that I’ve ever coached,” Carroll said. “He’s just an all-around great kid, great person.”

York has some quality depth at running back, led by Oglesby. He ran for 742 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017, and has looked productive already in the 2018 preseason. Oglesby is a smaller back, but hard for defenders to target and he has a zippy burst that gets him into the second level quickly.

His attention to detail will be valuable in a leadership role, especially working with Thompson, who has a bright football future.

Last season: Finished 9-3, lost to Greenville 42-27 in the second round of playoffs

Head coach: Bobby Carroll, eighth season

Coaching staff: Jamie Bolton, offensive coordinator; Spencer Carroll, quarterbacks; Anthony McFadden, wide receivers; Jarrett Neely, running backs; John Boggs, offensive line; Dustin Martin, offensive line/tight ends/H-backs; David Pierce, defensive tackles; Jamell Gaines, defensive ends; John Moorefield, linebackers; Shawn Woodard, cornerbacks; Chad Burgess, safeties.

2018 schedule

A bye week sandwiched by Clover and Indian Land represents a manageable opening month of the 2018 season for York. But September gets much harder, beginning with 5A state finalist Dorman, Rock Hill and Fort Mill, and a region opener against dangerous Ridge View. The season finale at home against South Pointe is also difficult, but the Cougars expect to have gotten the critical work out of the way before then, against region foes Westwood, Lancaster and Richland Northeast.

August: 17 Clover; 24 Bye; 31 Indian Land

September: 7 at Dorman; 14 Rock Hill; 21 at Fort Mill; 28 at Ridge View (at Blythewood HS)

October: 5 at Westwood; 12 Lancaster; 19 at Richland Northeast; 26 South Pointe

Most interesting game: Sept. 14 vs. Rock Hill

Most important game: Oct. 26 vs. South Pointe

2017 results

August: 18 Bye; 25 Rock Hill, 28-21 L; 31 at Union County, 27-20 W

September: 8 at Nation Ford, 21-17 W; 15 Fort Mill, 28-21 W; 22 at Clover, 21-10 W; 29 at Richland Northeast, 55-19 W

October: 6 Ridge View, 59-26 W; 13 Westwood, 45-17; 20 Lancaster, 46-14 W; 27 at South Pointe, 41-27 L

November: 3 Airport, 55-14 W; 10 at Greenville, 42-27 L

Leading returning _______:

Passer: Tanner McKinney, 1,945 yards and 16 TDs

Rusher: Stephen Oglesby, 742 yards and 9 TDs

Receiver: Ethan Mitchell

Tackler: Brian Phillip, 96 tackles

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