Will a local team win a state title in 2012? No one knows for sure, but there are a handful of schools with realistic chances.
Any discussion like this has to include Lincoln County. The Red Devils have won at least 10 games in a season for nine consecutive years, and they've won at least 12 in six of those. It's foolish to doubt Larry Campbell's bunch no matter who's gone. Also, private schools -- particularly Savannah Christian -- have been a Pandora's box for Lincoln County, but with separate brackets for public and private schools, this could be the Red Devils' year.
Elsewhere, fellow Region 7-A school Aquinas could be a tough out. Everyone knows about rising senior Brendan Douglas, who rushed for 1,569 yards and made 121 tackles, but there's talent in other spots. And that talent is fast thanks to Daniel Lindsey and Ruben Garnett. The Irish made the state quarterfinals a year ago and could better that this fall for the best playoff run in program history.
There are three Region 3-AAA teams with legitimate arguments to make about being contenders. Jefferson County, Thomson and Washington County are all well respected and established programs with great home advantages; the region champion will be in good shape. The Warriors are moving up a class, but the other two are staying put. The Bulldogs and Golden Hawks both went out in the first round last season, but there's enough returning talent (William Walker for WACO, Torrie Battle for Thomson, for starters) to dream of a deep, semifinal-possible run.
What a season it was for Burke County: 14-1, blowout victories seemingly every week and, finally, that state championship. Sure, Corey Mayton, DaVonte Lambert, Derwin Butler, Malcolm Aldridge and others have moved on, but anyone who watched the state final is aware of what Donquell Green can do. He's fast, he's elusive and he could be the area's most exciting player ... and he's just a junior this upcoming season. Sure, the Bears are moving up a class, but no one is going to stop them in the subregion.
Williston-Elko saw South Carolina-bound Kendric Salley go down to injury, but the Blue Devils still won 10 games and reached the state semifinals. They had lineman like Taylor Hearn and RB Jarius Jenkins to thank for that, and Jenkins has another three more years remaining.
Strom Thurmond scored less than 30 points just once in going 12-1 in 2011. Though the Rebels lost a close one to Woodruff in the Class AA, Division I semifinals and have some veterans to replace, Darius Hammond and his 1,472 rushing yards are back.
Don't count out these coaches:
Of course, there's Silver Bluff's Al Lown. Cordrea Tankersley is no longer there, but Lown was the Chronicle's South Carolina coach of the year for a reason.
Speaking of coaches to not doubt, Dan Pippin's North Augusta program isn't going to fall apart in Class AAAA.