The final four T&D Region football teams in South Carolina High School League yet to start the 2019 season look to do so this Friday, in Week One action.
Lake Marion will try for a second week to open the season, after storms in the area forced the cancellation of the Gators' home game with Military Magnet. This week, Lake Marion travels to play at Woodland in the Byrd community outside St. George.
Elsewhere, Bamberg-Ehrhardt starts the season at Orangeburg-Wilkinson (1-0), Denmark-Olar starts at home against Bethune-Bowman (0-1), and North starts at home against Branchville (1-0).
The 2019 high school football season marks year two of the Robert Williams coaching era of the storied Bamberg-Ehrhardt Red Raiders football program.
In his first year at the helm, Williams guided his alma mater to a 10-2 record and a berth in the third round of the SCHSL Class 2A playoffs, where the Red Raiders lost a 22-21 decision to Carvers Bay in overtime. The only other blemish on the Red Raiders' 2018 record was a loss to eventual lower state champion the Barnwell Warhorses.
"We had a great year last year and obviously didn’t finish where we wanted to with both losses by 1 point," Williams said recently. "We had the ball on the last drive each time and turned it over. I thought our kids last year did everything we asked them to do.
"We just exited a little earlier than we wanted to.”
Williams said his team looks to be “a very physical team” again this year.
The Red Raiders will be looking to replace 13 seniors.
On offense, the Red Raiders will have to replace about 95 percent of their offensive production. On defense, B-E will have to make up for 80 percent of the stops made by seniors a season ago.
“We have a lot of good players, they just don’t have game experience,” Williams said. The 2019 roster has 12 seniors and 16 juniors.
Job one on offense is to replace a senior quarterback (A.J. Williams) who made the North-South All-Star Team and signed with Wake Forest. Senior Hunter Bridges is scheduled to start at quarterback for the Red Raiders, with junior Treyton Still as the backup.
In the backfield with Bridges, the running game will lean on backs T.J. Inabinet, Still, Quinton Banks, and Kavion Tyler.
Banks is a freshman who has a "physical" running style, according to Williams.
The receiving corps consists of seniors Dashanti Banks and Brice Chandler.
Williams isn't against passing more than the Red Raiders traditionally have, but he said "we’ve got to get better at pass blocking, since Hunter (Bridges) throws the ball very well.
"But, as far as running the ball, we’re going to stick to what we’ve been doing.”
The B-E O-line includes senior Hayes Ulmer at center, senior Quintell Brabham at right guard, junior Charles Jackson at left guard, senior Devonte Reid at left tackle, senior Jaylen Smith at right tackle, with Jerome Simmons and sophomore Christian Draper at tight end.
Williams acknowledged the offensive and defensive lines are the strengths of the team right now.
The defensive line is anchored by juniors Moses Myers and Trayvon Jamison, with Jaylen Smith, senior Caleb Bearden and Donovon McCaskill.
"We probably have six or seven defensive lineman who can go in there and play really well,” Williams said.
The team is “a little thin” due to injuries at outside linebacker right now. Sophomore Quincy Bias and senior Desean Brown will be playing those slots.
The secondary will consist of junior Deandre Vanzego and senior Dashanti Banks at the corners, alongside safeties junior Ty’Quez Stuckey and junior Nygheyene Glover.
"No matter what our record ends up being, if I think we’ve played the hardest we can play and our coaches coach the best they can coach, I’ll be happy,” Williams said.
The Denmark-Olar Vikings football program welcomes first-year head coach and athletics director Gregory Wright for the 2019 season.
Wright played at Cross High School and later at the University of South Carolina, where he lettered for four years under Lou Holtz and Steve Spurrier.
Before coming to Denmark-Olar, Wright coached at SCHSL Class 5A power program Dutch Fork.
Wright will be counting on a group of seniors and young players to improve on last season’s overall record for D-O (5-6).
"I have a great young group of kids; but at the same time I have a group of seniors who are going to be pretty good,” Wright said.
The Vikings return last year’s starting quarterback in Malik Palmer, which should be an edge in experience.
Wright said his defensive line will be the strong point of the team and the team has a number of good players at the skill positions.
He said it's all about players learning to “do the little things right.”
Wright said the team is excited about playing in a brand new football stadium this season.
“Its a good group of kids, I’m excited about them," Wright said. "They’re bonding well, they’re buying in and I’m impressed with them.
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"As long as they’re getting better every day, hopefully by region time we’ll be firing on all cylinders.”
The North Eagles look to get going with the 2019 season and work their way toward a win for more reasons than one.
A win at any point early in the season would end the state's longest current losing skid, which sits at 46 consecutive games.
First-year head coach William Thompson, who has been the Eagles track and field coach, would like nothing more than to see his team get a win in his first game at the helm. However, North has lost its last six straight against Branchville.
8/30 - at Orangeburg-Wilkinson
9/6 - vs. Scott's Branch
9/13 - vs. Lake Marion
9/20 - at Edisto
9/27 - at Calhoun County
10/4 - at Wade Hampton
10/11 - at Allendale-Fairfax
10/18 - vs. Woodland
10/25 - vs. Whale Branch
11/1 - at Barnwell
8/30 - vs. Bethune-Bowman
9/6 - vs. Branchville
9/12 - at Silver Bluff
9/20 - at Blackville-Hilda
9/27 - vs. North
10/4 - at Ridge Spring-Monetta
10/11 - vs. Estill
10/18 - at Hunter-Kinard-Tyler
10/25 - vs. Wagener-Salley
11/1 - at Williston-Elko
8/30 - vs. Branchville
9/6 - at Bethune-Bowman
9/13 - at Whitmire
9/20 - vs. Ridge Spring-Monetta
9/27 - at Denmark-Olar
10/4 - at Estill
10/11 - vs. Wagener-Salley
10/18 - at Williston-Elko
10/25 - vs. Hunter-Kinard-Tyler
11/1 - vs. Blackville-Hilda