Gators in state championship conversation – again
It’s gotten to be commonplace at Goose Creek High School to say the Gators should contend for a state crown.
That is once again a legitimate possibility as the sun comes up on a new season.
“As always, the expectations are very high,” Gators coach Chuck Reedy said. “We lost some very talented players but have some excellent players returning and expect to be a very good football team.”
The Gators have won 40 of their last 42 games and were 13-0 last season before being ousted from the playoffs by the high school league for using an ineligible player in the playoffs. They were not allowed to defend their 2011 championship as a result. The player in question participated in 17 plays all season and never entered a game Goose Creek led by less than 41 points.
Goose Creek lost three Division I players from the 2012 defense and another from the offense in Mr. Football Tramel Terry but bring back a pair. Running back Caleb Kinlaw has verbally committed to Georgia Tech and tight end Kalan Ritchie to South Carolina. Quarterback Dantez Bennamon is a Division I prospect too, especially in an option offense.
Juggernaut is the word that comes to mind when talking about Goose Creek’s offense. The Gators averaged 46.3 points per game last year and hope to be similarly productive.
“Our receivers are as good as we’ve ever had as a group,” Reedy said. “Our offensive linemen are basically veterans, and our backs Caleb Kinlaw and Evan McField have been in the program a long time.
“We’re very experienced and we should execute well and we have (in preseason scrimmages).”
Bennamon passed for 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for 535 more yards and six touchdowns in 2012. Kinlaw rushed for 1,006 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Both are bigger and stronger and have highlighted some plays this summer with punishing collisions on defenders. One play against Berkeley earlier this month stands out for Bennamon. With Reedy calling for his quarterback to get out of bounds, Bennamon lowered his shoulder and knocked a Berkeley player out of the scrimmage. Kinlaw ended several long runs with tough stiff arms on would-be tacklers.
“We stress being a physical, tough and hard-nosed team,” Reedy said. “That goes for the whole team.”
Seniors Jordan Barnes and Ritchie are the top pass catchers returning but only combined for 13 grabs, 170 yards and five scores in 2012. Speedy Deondre Daniels moves over from the defensive side of the ball and has big-play potential. He was one of the state’s top sprinters in track last spring.
Up front, left tackle Tyler Hood and right tackle Tre Simmons are returning starters. Malik Bryant, Brandon Travis, Zack Van Alstine and Alex Butch will handle the other three spots.
Defensively, the Gators were hit hard by graduation. Gone are DE Gerald Turner (USC), DE Mike Myers (East Carolina) and LB/DE Jalen Stevens (Connecticut), replaced mostly by role players.
“That’s really what you deal with most of the time,” said defensive line coach Joe Bowers. “When you get those Division I guys, those are special years. Ninety percent of the time you’re not going to have those types of guys.”
The lone returning starter on the defensive front is weakside defensive end DeQuan White. C.J. Polite will play the strongside defensive end. Other players in the mix in the trenches are Kyrice Williams, Ritchie, Trenton Brown, Javon Kinlaw and Devon Brown.
Seniors ILB Daylin Julius and OLB Shaquille Salley are the top two players coming back at linebacker. Julius is the top tackler returning after making 120 stops, while Salley was in on 64 stops. Juniors ILB K.J. Wood and OLB Maurice Bonneau-Gailliard have experience too and combined for 56 stops in 2012.
In the secondary, senior CB Omar McRae comes back after making 11 interceptions last fall. Andre Rhodes is on the other side.
Delonzo Prather is the safety.
Specialist Alex Jacobus will handle kicking duties, taking over for record-setter Masamitsu Ishibashi.
The Gators open the regular season on Aug. 30 at Ashley Ridge. They host Colleton County Sept. 6 in the first home game.