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50 years of football in East Cooper

  • Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wando Warriors, 1989 PROVIDED

50 years of football

BE 302 wins, .557
PCA 36 wins, .523
Wando 209 wins, .454
Moultrie 34 wins, .400
Coastal 15 wins, .288*
*since 2009

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High school football is deeply rooted in the history of East Cooper.

Friday nights in the fall, fans flock to the local stadiums to support their hometown teams. Some of the area's most legendary tales, embellished or not, take place on the local gridirons.

Under the lights, legends are made that withstand decades. Generations pass, classes graduate, but the memories continue to dance in the heads of players and fans like it just happened last season.

Bragging rights from crosstown matchups, memories of region championships and the playoff runs toward the elusive state title can all last a lifetime. But which of the area's storied programs has done it the best?

The question stirs endless debate. Different measurables, generations, classes, leagues, all factor into the discussion. As the Moultrie News celebrates its 50th anniversary, we take a look back at the past half century of high school football in East Cooper to try to find which program was the best.

We'd be remiss if we didn't start with the Moultrie Generals. The Generals were the foundation of East Cooper football. From 1964-72, Moultrie won 34 games, a winning percentage of .400. The Generals competed in different regions in Class AA and AAA until making the ascension to AAAA in 1970. With different standards of playoff qualification, Moultrie played in just one postseason game from 1964-72. Through the 1960s, the Generals had an almost annual game toward the end of each season with Bishop England High School, then located in downtown Charleston. From 1964-72, Moultrie went 3-5 against the Battling Bishops.

As the East Cooper area expanded and developed, it outgrew Moultrie, prompting the opening of Wando High School in 1973. The Warriors, a merger of the Moultrie and Laing High School teams after desegregation, became an evolution of East Cooper football. Wando is 209-251 since opening in 1973, a winning percentage of .454.

The Warriors opened in Class AAAA and made the playoffs in just their second season but didn't return again until 1984. Wando has had its best success since joining the highly competitive Big 16 at the turn of the century. Under head coach Bob Hayes, the Warriors won eight games in 2002, and won nine in 2004 with a trip to the Big 16 Lower State title game. In 2012, current head coach Jimmy Noonan led Wando to 10 wins.

Three former Wando players have been drafted into the National Football League. Travis Jervey was selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 170th pick in the fifth round of the 1995 NFL Draft. Dexter Coakley was picked 65th in the third round of the 1997 draft, and Barry Richardson was taken in the sixth round in 2008 with the 170th pick. Coakley was twice named MVP and all-conference at Wando. Jervey was named to the Shrine Bowl his senior season.

The two played together on the '89 and '90 teams, both seven-win seasons with just one combined playoff win. Richardson graded 85 percent consistency on the Warriors offensive line with 31 knockdown blocks his senior season.

Based on winning percentage and total wins, the most successful program in the East Cooper area over the past 50 years is Bishop England. The Bishops have won 301 games with a winning percentage of .557. Bishop England moved from Charleston to Daniel Island in 1998 and own a .527 winning percentage since then, still highest in the area.

Outside of regular-season wins, championships can determine a legacy. Bishop England is the only area school to lay claim to state championships, winning Class AA titles in 2011, 2012 and a Lower State title in 1976. Those three seasons are also three of the best any school in the past 50 years. The Bishops won 11 games in 1976, and 13 in both 2011 and 12.

Bishop England moved from AA to AAA in 1968 and immediately found success with eight wins its first season and 11 in its third. Over the next 20 years, under head coach Jack Cantey, the Bishops won 137 games with a winning percentage of .637 from 1970-1989.

Bishop England hit a drought without a winning season for nine years until Jim Daniel took over as head coach in 2001. After winning 31 games from 1992-2000, the Bishops and Daniel won 44 games from 2001-07. Jack Cantey's son, John, took control of the team in 2008 and has posted 53 wins in six season, a .716 winning percentage. In 2011, Bishop England finished with 10 or more wins for the first time since 1976. John Cantey delivered the school's first state title in 2011, then its second in 2012.

But matched up head to head against Wando, Bishop England is 1-4-1 all-time. The Warriors have outscored the Bishops 104-49 through the six games. The regular-season series has been dormant since 1991. The two teams will meet Aug. 22 in a preseason game at the Sertoma Football Classic.

In 2008, Daniel left Bishop England to take over a football program at Palmetto Christian entering its first year in the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA).

The Eagles found success in just their second official season with a trip to the SCISA Class A state championship game in 2009. They've made the playoffs and posted winning records in four of the six years since officially joining SCISA. Palmetto Christian has a .515 all-time winning percentage, .541 since 2008. In 2012, the Eagles ascended to Class AA and have posted back-to-back 7-4 seasons.

Coastal Christian, an evolution of the former First Baptist of Mount Pleasant, competes in the SCISA eight-man league. The Cougars are 15-37 since 2009, a winning percentage of .288. Palmetto Christian and Coastal Christian have squared off once, a 63-0 Eagles win in 2009.

Frankie Mansfield, the sports reporter for the Moultrie News can be seen all around the state following teams to meets, games, and matches. For score updates, breaking sports news, and more, follow @fjmansfield on Twitter and like Moultrie News Sports on Facebook.

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