Here’s to the football players.
The ones who grew up scoring in imaginary end zones with goal lines determined by trees or mailboxes or even soccer goals. The ones who played on long after the sun went down, using the glow of a lamp post before graduating to stadium lighting. Eleven players, seven, even three — one on one with an all-time quarterback — it didn’t matter.
These kids don’t spend their summers playing in the sand on the beach. They drag themselves out of bed early while others are sleeping in late. They don’t splash in the waves. They grind in the weight room while the sun comes up and then go sweat some more outside in the dirt underneath it. And for what? The only guaranteed reward is 48 minutes on Friday night. Only 10 Fridays are promised and even that isn’t always fulfilled.
The real prize is what comes with it, the memories, the lessons, the brotherhood that’ll sustain long after the final whistle is blown. Few circumstances bond young men together like bleeding beside each other in the middle of the arena like modern day gladiators. The lessons resonate differently. Players know there’s a cost of success. They know it’s earned, not given. They know it requires something more to be victorious and even after everything else, the ball may still not bounce your way. The game can be harsh, such as life.
Here’s to football.
The East Cooper area once again delivered all that we love this fall.
Triumphs were balanced with heartbreaks. Winners were humbled and new challengers emerged. Lasting legacies were cemented while promising newcomers were introduced. Old rivalries were rekindled and bubbling friction sparked new conflict. There were first-evers and not-agains. Highlights to fawn over and film sessions to forget. Leagues change, scores vary, jerseys alternate but it’s the schools, players and memories that fulfill each fall.
The 2019 All-East Cooper team features 31 of the area’s top gridiron performers. Talent and production at every position are crammed into 15 slots on offense and 15 on defense with one special teams selection.
Players were selected from a pool of nominations offered by area coaches. Statistics weighed heavily but intangibles such as leadership, consistency and impact on team success were all factored as well.
At least one player was selected from each of the eight schools in the Moultrie News’ coverage area. Academic Magnet, Bishop England, First Baptist, Oceanside, Palmetto Christian, Philip Simmons, Porter-Gaud and Wando are all represented.
No one put together a season like Keegan Williams. He didn’t just lead the area in rushing, the led the state most of season. Oceanside’s senior running back scored 46 touchdowns this season, more than any S.C. High School League player in MaxPreps’ online database. He ran for 2,231 yards, averaging 8.9 per carry and 172 per game. Just one other player on MaxPreps ran for more yards in the state; no one averaged more per game. He also caught 25 passes for 403 yards and averaged 33 yards per kick return, even bringing back one for a touchdown, for the Landsharks — the first area team to advance to the state semifinals since 2012.
Coach of the Year
Bishop England won just three games in 2018 as John Cantey struggled with health issues. Cantey returned healthy this fall to lead the resurgent Bishops to a 6-2 start that landed them in the Region 7-AAA championship game. Cantey had fewer players on roster this fall than he’s ever had in his 12-year tenure. He had to replace the team’s leading passer, rusher, receiver, and tackler from last season. Still, the Bishops came within four points of winning the region and eight points of advancing to the second round of the postseason.
Underclassman of the Year
First Baptist coach Johnny Waters wanted to bring his promising eighth-grade running back along slowly. Davian Brown wouldn’t let him. Brown earned the starting job by the third week of the season. He finished with 943 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, and scored a team-best 16 touchdowns. He added 22 tackles, six for a loss, with two sacks on defense. All of that, and he still has four years of high school ball left to play.
All-East Cooper offense
The East Cooper area was loaded with receivers this season, too many to include everyone. Appalachian State commit Sincere Brown led the bunch with 53 catches for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns. His teammate McKay Wilson added 813 yards on 50 catches with eight scores. Walker Rhue led Oceanside’s passing attack with 1,018 yards and 14 touchdowns on 52 grabs. Maken Glover was Wando’s main target, hauling in 57 catches for 651 yards and eight scores.
What good are receivers, though, without a quarterback to deliver the ball? The area had a few good ones this season. Oceanside senior Sean Cooney threw for a school record 3,002 yards and 32 touchdowns, completing 62 percent of his throws and averaging 18 yards per completion with a quarterback rating of 127.6. Will Daniel powered First Baptist with 2,779 yards and 21 touchdowns, completing 60 percent of his attempts and averaging 18 yards per completion. Daniel also ran for 320 yards, averaging 5 per carry, with three more scores.
Jaden Singleton and Michael Long both stood out carrying the football. Long led Bishop England with 916 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging just about 5 yards per carry, to go with 18 catches that included three more scores. Long also had 27 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and an interception on defense. Singleton averaged 5 yards per carry too, finishing with 820 in all with eight scores to go with 28 catches for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
An offense only operates as well as the line in front of it. Porter-Gaud senior center Holston Slack is among the best of the bunch, averaging three pancakes per game and grading out highest among the Cyclones linemen. Philip Simmons guard Keyshawn Lockwood played every position on the line but center, finishing with 15 pancakes, eight knockdowns and grading out above 80 percent, while also logging two sacks and a forced fumble on defense. Wando senior tackle Elijah Booth led the Warriors with 12 knockdowns and four pancakes. Dylan Sebuck anchored the Oceanside line at left tackle, grading out highest among the Landsharks with nine pancakes, while Academic Magnet senior tackle David Roddey protected the Raptors.
Matt Kelly and Connor Rourk both play quarterback. But their value stretched beyond the traditional measure. Kelly put up 2,346 total yards and scored 22 touchdowns, throwing for 1,864 yards and running for another 482. Rourk threw for 938 and 13 touchdowns, and ran for another 1,947 yards, averaging 13 per carry, with 27 scores on the ground.
All-East Cooper defense
The East Cooper area has been loaded with linebackers over the past few years. Such is the case again as several standout among the best defenders in the area.
Bishop England senior linebacker Drew Owens posted 73 tackles, 51 solo, with eight for a loss and six sacks. Owens forced three fumbles, recovered another, logged an interception and scored a touchdown on defense. Philip Simmons junior Tyler Harper finished with 124 tackles, 16 for a loss, while forcing three fumbles, recovering five, pulling down an interception and blocking a punt. His teammate Will Ramey was named the Iron Horses’ most valuable player after 87 tackles, three fumble recoveries, one forced, and four blocked field goals on defense, to go with 339 receiving yards and four scores on offense. Porter-Gaud senior J.D. Key posted 117 tackles, 11 for a loss, with two interceptions, a fumble recovery and two blocked punts. Colby McQueen manned the middle for Wando with a team-best 73 tackles, five for a loss, five sacks, four forced fumbles, two recoveries and an interception. First Baptist senior Don McNeil finished with 73 tackles, eight for a loss with a sack.
In the trenches up front, Oceanside defensive lineman Myles Castain landed 79 tackles, 20 for a loss, with 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble, while also playing offense. Castain’s teammate Joey Boylston was a two-way standout as well, logging 16 tackles for a loss with 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, three recoveries, while also catching three touchdowns at tight end. Treyvon Green led Wando’s front with 14 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and three quarterback hurries. Mikey Blandin was a force up front for First Baptist, finishing his season with 121 tackles, nine for a loss, two sacks, a forced fumble and two recoveries.
Manning the defensive backfield, Tobias Lafayette pulled down five interceptions with 703 yards and 13 touchdowns on offense for Porter-Gaud. Bishop England Jarren McCoy went both ways as well, landing a team-best 79 tackles with two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and an interception, along with two touchdown catches on offense. Oceanside senior Gray Sobel led the Landsharks with 85 tackles, 13 for a loss, with four sacks, an interception and two blocked punts. Seniors Will Pickren and Will Bumgarner protected Wando’s secondary. Pickren logged 59.5 tackles, with a sack, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Bumgarner picked off three passes with six pass breakups, and four blocked kicks.
Oceanside senior Chris Haynes finished second in the state in scoring by kickers this season. He made seven of nine field-goal attempts with a long of 39 yards. He added 75 extra-point kicks, missing just two all season.
|Will Daniel||QB||First Baptist||JR|
|Michael Long||RB||Bishop England||JR|
|Sincere Brown||WR||First Baptist||SR|
|McKay Wilson||WR||First Baptist||SR|
|Connor Rourk||ATH||Palmetto Christian||JR|
|Keyshawn Lockwood||OL||Philip Simmons||SR|
|David Roddey||OL||Academic Magnet||SR|
|Mikey Blandin||DL||First Baptist||JR|
|Tyler Harper||LB||Philip Simmons||JR|
|Drew Owens||LB||Bishop England||SR|
|Don McNeil||LB||First Baptist||SR|
|Will Ramey||ATH||Philip Simmons||JR|
|Jarren McCoy||DB||Bishop England||SR|