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Defensive improvement leads Wando and Berkeley to turnaround seasons

November 8, 2016

The official end of the South Carolina High School League football regular season is Friday night with a handful of games scheduled to wrap up region play.

Heading into the state playoffs, now is a good time to examine the two biggest turnarounds in the Lowcountry.

Leading the way is Jimmy Noonan’s program at Wando High School. Wando won three games and missed the playoffs last season. Fast forward a year and Wando wrapped up the regular season last week with an 8-2 record, finishing second in Region 7-AAAAA.

The biggest reason for the five-win improvement is the defense. Wando allowed 37.4 points per game in 2015. This year’s unit is allowing 26.5 points per game. Jamel Smith is Wando’s first-year defensive coordinator. Smith played for Noonan at Spring Valley High School and went on to a solid college career at Virginia Tech. He also spent time as a graduate assistant under Tech’s defensive guru Bud Foster.

Another big difference this season is Wando’s ability to win close games. Last season, Wando lost three games by eight points or less – the difference between a winning record and a losing season.

This season, Wando has won close games. Wando’s last four wins have come by margins of five, two, four and eight points. The latter being a five-overtime thriller against Summerville last week.

“I think it speaks to the character of our young men and their willingness to keep fighting until the very end,” Noonan said Friday night.

Another team experiencing a major turnaround is Berkeley under first-year head coach Randy Robinson. The Stags were 3-7 a year ago, allowing 43.7 points per game. This season, Berkeley is 7-2 heading into a region championship game against Beaufort on Friday night. The Stags are allowing only 22.7 points per game.

“They bought in, plain and simple,” Robinson said. “This is a program with a lot of pride and tradition. I set the bar very high from day one and the kids simply bought in. They were tired of losing.”

Volleyball all-state, all-stars

Several area volleyball players have been selected all-state by the South Carolina Coaches Association of Women’s Sports (CAWS). Wando leads the way with three selections in Class AAAAA – Katie Jacques, Keegan Andrews and Sydney DeJong.

Selected in Class AAA were Emma Lawrence and Rhetta Moore of Bishop England, and Madison Malloch of Hanahan.

In Class AA, Woodland’s Sommer Knight and Auyana Carson were chosen. Class A selections include Morgan Hopson and Victoria Olares of Charleston Charter, and Jenazia Halls of Cross.

Rosters for the annual North-South all-star volleyball matches also have been released. The all-star games will be contested Nov. 19 at Erskine College. Matches begin at 9:30 a.m.

Ashley Ridge coach Chi Chi Hurley will coach the South AAAAA/AAAA team. Area players on that roster include DeJong, Jacques, Evan Atkinson of Ashley Ridge, and Savannah Roper of James Island.

Moore and Lawrence were chosen to the AAA/AA/A south roster.

SCISA Eight-man all-region

Cathedral Academy’s first-year head coach Tommy Waitt was named the Region 1 eight-man coach of the year, while Jalen Ladson was named offensive player of the year and Chandler Mahaffey was the defensive player of the year.

Coastal Christian running back Wyatt Baldwin was tabbed as the region’s player of the year. Also selected all-region from Coastal Christian were T.J. Bott, Kevin Madden, Ashton Wood, Robert Crates, David Dicker and Jonny Bott.

Cathedral Academy players named all-region include Cole Walcott, Brandon Smalls, Will Arbuckle, Zach Vinson, and Christian McClendon.

Selected from Faith Christian were Corbin Gordon, Daniel Brown and Ben Johnson. Dontrelle Brown and Keegan Boone were selected from Charleston Collegiate.

Lowcountry Top 10 Football Teams

1. Fort Dorchester – The chase for a repeat state title begins for Patriots

2. Porter-Gaud – Cyclones need one win to reach SCISA AAA final

3. Berkeley – Stags host Beaufort this week with Region 8-AAAA crown on the line

4. Cane Bay – Cobras get week off to fix defense before playoffs

5. Wando – Cardiac kids do it again; beat Summerville in five OT

6. Timberland – Senior LB/RB Joseph Moultrie carrying the Wolves late in season

7. Bishop England – Bishops snap two-game skid and now prepare for postseason

8. Summerville – Green Wave lose another close game but optimistic about playoffs

9. St. John’s – Islanders resting up for extended playoff run

10. First Baptist – Hurricanes advance to state final with a win this Friday