High school football: What to watch for in 2017

By David Shelton Special to The Post and Courier: July 27, 2017

Members of the First Baptist Team celebrate their SCISA Class AA State Title last season in Columbia. (File/Andrew Miller/Staff)


Most high school football teams across the state begin practice Friday, which means season-openers are just weeks away.

There will be many stories to follow over the course of the 10-week regular-season and into the state playoffs.  Here are some of the key storylines heading into the 2017 season:

Championship Contenders

Count First Baptist and Fort Dorchester as the most serious contenders for state titles in 2017.  The Hurricanes are loaded and enter the season as the clear favorite in SCISA Class AA again, while Fort Dorchester is again led by the state's top quarterback, Dakereon Joyner.  Timberland remains a consistent winner but the Lowcountry has not produced a Class AAA champion since James Island in the 1974-75 season.  Berkley and Cane Bay will enter the season as top 10 teams in Class AAAA. Cross will be a serious threat in Class A.  At least one team in the Lowcountry, either SCISA or SCHSL, has won a state title in seven of the last eight seasons.

Fort Dorchester enters the field before the Class AAAAA lower state championship game against Dutch Fork last December.  Fort Dorchester, which won the State Title in 2015, lost to Dutch Fork.  (File/Michael Pronzato/Staff)

Region 8-AAAA

Berkley and Cane Bay join Beaufort to form the most competitive region in the Lowcountry.  Any of the three is capable of winning Region 8-AAAA, with Colleton County rating as a potential spoiler under new head coach Coby Peeler.

Quarterback central

For the football fan that enjoys good quarterback play, the Lowcountry will feature a handful of the state's best seniors led by Joyner.  Joyner, who has committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks, is closing in on 10,000 career yards of total offense and has more than 100 touchdowns.  Transfer San Hartman, of Oceanside Collegiate is a Wake Forest commit who threw for more than 6,300 yards and 69 touchdowns in the last two years at Davidson Day in North Carolina.  Baptist Hill Senior Cale Lewis, a 6-5 pocket passer with a big arm, completed 61 percent of his attempts for more than 1,800 yards last season.  If you like the option game. two of the state's best quarterbacks are R.J. Roderick of Cane Bay and Leo Albano of Bishop England.  Roderick is a South Carolina commit and will play safety in college, but the 6-2, 215 pounder has rushed for 2,922 yards and 36 touchdowns in 30 career games.  Albano, a fourth-year starter at Bishop England, has rushed for nearly 2,400 yards in his career.

Surprise team of 2017

After consecutive non-winning seasons (4-8 in 2015, 6-6 in 2016), expect the Summerville Greenwave to return to their wining ways this fall.  Joe Call begins his third season as head coach with a nice mix of veterans on both sides of the ball.  Summerville was plagued by turnovers last season and lost four games by a total of 15 points.  Better ball security and a break or two and Summerville could be an eight-win team this season.  Summerville's first three games are against Spartanburg, Berkeley and Dutch Fork.

Timberland's Craig nearing milestone

The dean of Lowcountry head coaches, Timberland's Art Craig, is entering his 17th season at the school.  Craig who posted at least 10 wins in 11 of his first 16 seasons, begins 2017 with 196 career coaching victories.