He has more victories — 556 — than any football coach in the nation. He has won 10 state championships. Yet, Summerville coach John McKissick still wonders what the other side is doing.
“I think you have to,” McKissick said Monday. “Our region is getting tougher and tougher and we open with games against Conway, Goose Creek and Irmo ... that’s a pretty tough schedule.”
Heading into its first practice Friday, McKissick has to find a quarterback, a go-to wide receiver and some playmakers on defense.
But he’s not alone as coaches statewide are anxious for the start of the 2008 season. The State looks at the top 10 story lines for the upcoming season.
1. Bengals again?
Blythewood High has been the topic of conversation the past two seasons, winning the 2006 Class 3A championship during their first year on the varsity level. The Bengals went undefeated last season but missed the playoffs because of rules violations.
Blythewood fans should expect more chatter. The Bengals, who have lost once in two seasons, will be playing in Class 4A under second-year coach Geremy Saitz.
And as for the powerful offense that posted record numbers the past two seasons? It’s rebuilding. Quarterback Richard Mounce, last year’s Mr. Football, will be a freshman baseball player at Clemson. Marquan Jones, Mounce’s favorite target, also is a freshman at Clemson.
2. Another title for Byrnes?
Winning a state title is more than tradition at Byrnes. It’s expected. The Rebels, under first-year coach Chris Miller, routed Summerville 48-9 to win their fifth state championship in six years. They have to be among the favorites to get back to the title game in 2008.
The Rebels return quarterback Chas Todd, who passed for 3,202 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. He was 22-of-38 for 325 yards against Summerville. Byrnes also has a strong running attack with Marcus Lattimore (284 rushes, 1,837 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2007).
3. Hammond eyes three-peat
Midway through the 2007 season, the Hammond Skyhawks were not the among the favorites to win the SCISA Class 3A title. Wilson Hall, Augusta Christian and Heathwood Hall dominated the headlines.
But Hammond, then the defending state champions, put together a run to claim its second title. The Skyhawks are preseason favorites to win their third consecutive title.
Cliff Ayers, who threw for more than 1,200 yards last season, is back to lead the Hammond offense. Senior Will Patterson may be the best linebacker in SCISA.
4. Will the Capitals have enough?
Columbia High coach Kemper Amick has seen has team make the Class 2A semifinals the past two seasons only to come up short.
Last year, the Capitals won their first 13 games before losing to Chapman in the Class 2A Upper State final.
Is this the year? Columbia, seeking its first football title since 1943, has two Division I prospects in Chris Payne and DeMario Jeffery. A 6-foot-3, 210-pound linebacker, Jeffery is one of the state’s best players. Payne, a defensive back, has committed to South Carolina.
But the Capitals will need to have improved play at quarterback and find a running back to replace 1,000-yard rusher Cedric Jeffcoat.
5. Cheraw’s dominance
Very little has changed in Class 2A. Cheraw, which won the past two state championships, is favored to win another. Why? Two reasons: Travis Small and Kenyatta Gary.
Small, a senior, has 5,589 career rushing yards and 66 touchdowns. He ran for 164 yards and two scores against Chapman in the 2A title game last season.
Gary, a senior linebacker, had 116 tackles last season, including 12 in the final.
The Braves could get a test this season. Timberland, a power in Class 3A, has moved down to Class 2A after reclassification.
6. Taneyhill’s Rams going for back-to-back
After losing to Carvers Bay in the 2006 Class A championship, the Rams defeated the Bears in the Division I title game last season.
With nearly all of its starters returning, Chesterfield could win its second consecutive crown.
During the title run, coach Steve Taneyhill played as many as 12 sophomores. Moon Edwards, who was voted the team’s lineman of the year, is among the returning starters. Simpson Miller, who led the team with 1,127 rushing yards, is returning along with Sergio Johnson, who caught 17 passes last season.
Chesterfield’s march to the state final will not be easy. The Rams will have to contend with Central, Lewisville and Great Falls in region play.
7. McKissick regroups
The Summerville Green Wave played for the Class 4A Division I title last year and lost to Byrnes. Gone from that team are all-state players A.J. Greene (Georgia) and Reid McCollum (USC).
And if Summerville is to win its 11th state title under legendary coach John McKissick, it’ll have to do it with a young roster.
Andrew Hancock and Donnie McElveen will compete for the starting quarterback job. McElveen, who is McKissick’s grandson, completed 125 of 237 for 1,865 yards and 14 touchdowns last season for Mount Tabor (N.C.).
Demetrius Sherman, a 6-3, 285-pound senior will anchor the Wave’s defensive.
8. Weekend of Champions
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Weekend of Champions will not be played at Williams-Brice Stadium.
The S.C. High School League, thanks to some nudging by state legislators, moved the high school football championship games to Clemson.
The motive behind the move was to alternate the title games between USC and Clemson.
It will be interesting to see attendance figures at Clemson.
9. Player of the year candidates
There are plenty, especially at defensive end.
Richland Northeast lineman Chris Bonds is the top prospect in the state. Sam Montgomery, a senior defensive end at Greenwood, is drawing a lot of attention from major colleges.
South Pointe’s Stephon Gilmore might be the most versatile player in the state. Gilmore, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior, could play quarterback, wide receiver, running back or on defense.
Other notables for player of the year honors: Columbia’s DeMario Jefferey and Carvers Bay’s Kwame Geathers, a 6-foot-4, 326-pounder who plays on the offensive and defensive lines.
10. Keep an eye on Region 6-3A
This could be the most competitive region in Class 3A. Wilson is the defending state champion and might not be the best team in its region this year.
Marlboro County and Crestwood could vie for the Region 6-3A crown.