For the first time since 2019, the Lowcountry high school football season looks pretty normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on high school athletics for the better part of 2020 and 2021, but things appear under control as the 2022 prep football season begins.

“Week Zero” — as the SC High School League calls the first week of the regular season — games will be played Aug. 19, as will Dorchester County contests that include Summerville, Fort Dorchester, Ashley Ridge and Woodland.

Here’s a quick look at five games of interest in the area:

South Florence at Goose Creek

There will be no shortage of talent on the field when the Class AAAA Bruins visit the Class AAAAA Gators. Two of the state’s top quarterbacks will be featured. Florence South’s LaNorris Sellers is a verbal commitment to Syracuse, while Goose Creek senior Drew Moore has committed to Mercer of the Southern Conference. Both teams also have good receiving corps, so fans can expect the ball to fly early and often.

College Gray at Oceanside College

Two of the top teams in Class AA will meet at the Citadel’s Johnson Hagood Stadium as Oceanside Collegiate hosts defending Class AA state champions Gray Collegiate in Columbia. The sister schools have become rivals in recent years, with Gray winning the last two meetings after Oceanside won in 2018.

First-year Oceanside Collegiate head coach Chad Wilkes, whose team is relegated from Class AAA, expects an intense and emotional matchup. He says his team will benefit from the early competition.

“It’s a chance to see where we stand against the best in AA,” Wilkes said. “They are as good or better in most every area than last year. We feel like we have a pretty good team as well. I’m sure both teams will be very motivated to play.”

High School Football Prediction: Summerville, Ashley Ridge try to close gap on Fort Dorchester in 7-AAAAA

Berkeley at Timberland

The Stags hold a 13-3 advantage in the series, but this is the first meeting since 2017. Timberland’s last win in the series came in 2011. The Wolves are coming off a nine-win season last fall and look to will compete in Class AA as Berkeley looks to get off to a good start in 2022 after managing just two wins last season. Timberland senior linebacker Omari Jenkins is one of the top linebackers in the Lowcountry this season.

Stratford vs Avon (Ohio) in Orlando, Florida

Stratford travels to Universal Studios Resort to open the season. Dennie McDaniel’s Knights will make the six-hour drive south to take on Ohio’s Avon High School. This game begins a slate of highly competitive non-region games for the Knights, who will also play Lexington and Dutch Fork during the first month of the season.

Avon has won at least 10 games for 12 straight seasons under coach Mike Elder, including five seasons with 12 or more wins.

“Avon is a football-rich area in Ohio, so we know what we’re up against,” McDaniel said. “This is a great opportunity for our players and our program. It’s a chance to test ourselves and see where we are. It’s a big challenge, but we’re excited for the competition. It will tell us a lot about what we have right away.”

With no game next Friday, McDaniel says some players will stay in Florida for the weekend and enjoy the amusement park.

“We don’t meet again until Tuesday, so this is a great chance to relax and have fun,” the coach said. “But Friday night is all about work.”

Cane Bay in Beaufort

Beaufort is the defending Class AAAA Lower State champion, but moved up to Class AAA this season. The Eagles boast one of the top defensive linemen in the state in West Virginia in commit Eamon Smalls.

Cane Bay won nine games last season and enters this season with high expectations. Running back TJ Wright has a veteran line in front of him, while senior linebacker Cam Avery anchors a solid back seven.

High School Football Prediction: Goose Creek tries to fend off challengers in Region 6-AAAAA

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