5 Lowcountry games to watch as a ‘normal’ high school football season kicks off | Prep Zone

For the first time since 2019, the Lowcountry high school football season seems pretty normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on high school athletics for the better part of 2020 and 2021, but things seem under control as the 2022 prep football season begins.

“Week zero” — that’s what the SC High School League calls the first week of the regular season — games will be played on Aug. 19, as will the Dorchester County jamboree that includes Summerville, Fort Dorchester, Ashley Ridge and Woodland.

Here’s a quick look at five games of interest in the area:

South Florence at Goose Creek

There will be no shortage of talent on the field when the Class AAAA Bruins visit the Class AAAAA Gators. Two of the state’s top senior quarterbacks will be on display South Florence’s LaNorris Sellers is a verbal commitment to Syracuse, while Goose Creek senior Drew Moore has committed to Mercer of the Southern Conference. Both teams also have good receiving corps, so fans can expect the ball to be flying early and often.

Gray Collegiate at Oceanside Collegiate

Two of the top teams in Class AA will meet at The Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium as Oceanside Collegiate hosts the defending Class AA state champions from Gray Collegiate in Columbia. The sister schools have become rivals in recent years, with Gray winning the last two meetings after Oceanside won in 2018.

Oceanside Collegiate first-year head coach Chad Wilkes, whose squad moves down from Class AAA, expects an intense, emotional showdown. He says his team will benefit from the early competition.

“It’s a chance to see where we are against the best in AA,” Wilkes said. “They are as good or better in most every area over last year. We feel like we have a pretty good team as well. I’m sure both teams will be highly motivated to play.”

Berkeley at Timberland

The Stags hold a 13-3 edge in the series, but this is the first meeting since 2017. Timberland’s last win in the series came in 2011. The Wolves are coming off a nine-win season last fall and look to contend in Class AA while Berkeley seeks to get 2022 off to a good start after managing just two wins last season. Timberland senior linebacker Omari Jenkins is one of the top defenders in the Lowcountry this season.

Stratford vs. Avon (Ohio) in Orlando, Florida

Stratford travels to Universal Studios Resort to open the season. Dennie McDaniel’s Knights will make the six-hour drive south to take on Ohio powerhouse Avon High School. This game begins a very competitive non-region slate of games for the Knights, who will also play Lexington and Dutch Fork during the first month of the season.

Avon has won at least 10 games for 12 consecutive seasons under coach Mike Elder, including five seasons of 12 or more victories.

“Avon is a football-rich area in Ohio so we know what we’re facing,” McDaniel said. “This is a great opportunity for our players and our program. It’s a chance to test ourselves and see where we stand. It’s a great challenge but we are excited about the competition. It’s going to tell us a lot about what we have right off the bat.”

With no game next Friday, McDaniel says some players will stay over in Florida for the weekend and enjoy the amusement park.

“We don’t meet again until Tuesday so this is a great chance to relax and have some fun,” the coach said. “But, Friday night is all about work.”

Cane Bay at Beaufort

Beaufort is the defending Class AAAA Lower State champion, but has moved to Class AAA this season. The Eagles boast one of the state’s top defensive linemen in West Virginia commit Eamon Smalls.

Cane Bay won nine games last season and enters this season with high expectations. Running back TJ Wright has a veteran line in front of him while senior linebacker Cam Avery anchors a good defensive front seven.

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