Monday, August 5, 2013
Wando football coach Jimmy Noonan captured the upcoming season in three words during the Warriors' first official team practice Friday morning: “Happy New Year.”
After rolling through the regular season with only a loss to national powerhouse Goose Creek – which was later ruled a Wando win because of a Goose Creek rules violation – the Warriors had accomplished the best record in program history.
Then, White Knoll happened. Wando lost its opening 4A state playoff game. “That's 4A football,” Noonan said. “Our guys have to know and understand you have to be at your best every single Friday night.”
That's in the past now, evidenced by only five returning starters – three on offense and two on defense – from last season. Happy New Year.
“There's always an excitement to get started,” he said. “The fresh cut grass – it has not its luster.”
Kenny Waring returns to the backfield, which appears to be less crowded than last year. Only a sophomore at the time, Waring emerged as the go-to tailback in the second half of the season, grabbing the job from a few capable seniors.
“He's ready for a great junior year,” Noonan said. “He had to share the load last year, but he'll be the main guy.”
The starting quarterback job is a battle between a senior, junior and sophomore. Dalton Stubbs, a senior, is the only one with repetitions at the varsity level, but they're minimal. Will Coleman, a junior, transferred from Ashley Ridge. And, sophomore Bailey Hart is also vying for the position. He is Christian Hart's brother, who amassed 2,787 yards, 26 passing touchdowns and a 60-percent completion rate last year.
Every high school program strives for offensive balance, but its rare to accomplish it. Wando's play selections were 50.5 percent run and 49.5 percent pass. Noonan called that “perfect.”
“It's tough on the defense when you can actually have true balance. We will seek balance,” he said. “Ultimately, we'll have to determine whether we're capable of that.”
Nolan Kelleher, a major Division I prospect on the offensive line, enters his senior year with plenty to look forward to. He reduced 26 scholarship offers to eight preferences from SEC and ACC programs. Noonan said he plans to make a decision by the halfway point of the season. He led the team in pancakes (33) and was third in knockdowns (29).
On defense, Wando returns leading tackler Matt Norman and defensive back Chance Price, who had two defensive touchdowns.
Wando is operating on the final season of a two-year schedule cycle. Opponents from last year will be foes again this year. The only changes will be switching home games to away games and vice versa.