Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Wando football doesn't want the asterisk.
Two years ago, the Warriors won 10 games and were anointed Class AAAA Region VII champs after Goose Creek was forced to forfeit its season. After an injury-plagued, four-win 2013 campaign, a talented senior core looks to lead a host of new starters back to the top of Region VII, this time winning it outright.
“We want to do what no other Wando team has done, and without people thinking we lucked into it,” Warriors senior tight end Ben Jacques said. “We've got a lot of energy and leadership this year. We've got players who'll pour it all out for 48 minutes until the whistle blows and that's what it takes to win.”
Jacques reportedly turned in a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and a 31-inch vertical leap at 6-foot-6, 240 pounds at the Rivals camp this summer. His athletic potential has earned him several FCS offers, including UNCC where he committed in July. He caught one touchdown last season while molding his game to supplement the Warriors' run-oriented, spread offense that averaged 23 points per game.
Wando head coach Jimmy Noonan expects the progression of junior quarterback Bailey Hart to help balance the Warriors' no-huddle, option-based attack this year and take the focus off of feature back Kenny Waring.
Waring rushed for 1,450 yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior last season, averaging 8.3 yards per carry. The versatile speed back was also second on the team with 21 catches. He's been clocked at 4.35 in the 40 and is a state champion in the 100-meter dash and long jump. Waring already has offers from South Carolina State and Charleston Southern and hopes to draw more attention by leading Wando deep into the playoffs this year.
“I want to lead this team to state,” Waring said. “My expectations are to be better than I was last year to help the team. I want to be a leader, help the underclassmen out and get all of us ready.”
The Warriors hope to see improvement on defense this season after allowing 30 points per game last year. Wando's 3-4 base is led by outside linebacker Tyler Ragsdale. The 6-foot-2, 216-pound senior led Wando with 81.5 tackles, 4 sacks and 18 hurries last season. Ragsdale power cleans 340 pounds and earned Wando's Ultimate Warrior title this summer as the team's top conditioned athlete.
With just three returning starters, this year's unit has recruited help from the offense, utilizing two-way athletes like Darius Wade, Tre Smith, Terrell Venning and Nick Taylor in its secondary.
“We need some guys to make an impact on both sides of the ball and they're picking it up very well,” Noonan said. “We're very multiple on defense. We're going to be attacking and very active. These guys are excited to get their lunch pails and work boots on together.”
Wando opens a three-game road trip week two at Ashley Ridge, followed by trips to Lexington and Summerville. Eight of the Warriors' first nine opponents won at least six games last season, four won 10 or more. Noonan says scheduling tough early and including Midlands teams like Lexington and White Knoll is crucial in preparing for Region VII and the Big 16 playoffs.
“You can't sugarcoat AAAA football,” Noonan said. “A lot of folks run away from the challenge, but we don't believe in that. We want to build and build through the season. We're working for when the weather gets cold.
“We don't care who the opponent is. This is a true Wando football team. These players are going to lay it on the line every day for Wando.”
Wando opens the season Aug. 29 at home against White Knoll.
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.