The State's Defensive Player of Year: Ridge View's Damani Staley
Damani Staley set a high bar for pass rushers following him at Ridge View High School.
After setting a school record with 21 sacks his junior season, Staley shattered that mark with 29 this year, helping the Blazers to a 10-win season and trip to the third round of the Class 4A playoffs. The South Carolina commit was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl and was named The State’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
“I don’t know if we will ever see that type of production here again. He has set the standard pretty high,” Ridge View coach Perry Parks said. “He just had such a relentless pursuit of the ball and was moving so he was pretty tough to stop.”
Parks said he wasn’t surprised Staley was able to build on his junior year for an even bigger senior season because of the work he put in the offseason – in the weight room and studying film.
“Every year I wanted to improve and do better than I did last season,” Staley said. “Every time I get a chance, hit the weight room, hit the field, got a little extra work with pass rush, linebacker drops, anything to help me improve and be better. That all helped me this season.
“I reached beyond my limit to get the record. It truly is a blessing everything that I have been able to accomplish.”
Staley had at least two sacks in all but one of the Blazers’ 13 games this season and had five against York in the regular-season finale. He said his best memory came against Blythewood when he sacked QB Jordyn Adams three times and Ridge View scored 16 points in the final 3:26 for the 23-21 win.
It was the Blazers’ second victory all-time against Blythewood.
“It was a great moment for the guys and it is all about those moments and being with your brothers,” Staley said. “That win over Blythewood made a statement in the middle of the season that we were going to be something. We got far in playoffs and really sent a statement this year.
Now, Staley looks forward to beginning the next chapter of his career at USC, a place where his father Duce was a standout. He’ll have to learn a new position, moving from defensive end to linebacker, but got a taste of that in the Shrine Bowl.
Parks doesn’t think Staley will have a problem adjusting to linebacker and expects big things from him at USC.
“He has unlimited potential,” Parks said of Staley. “I think he is going to get bigger and put on 20 or 25 pounds and I think he is going to be one of the better players in the SEC in the next two or three years.”