The high school football season is underway around the state of South Carolina.
Each week, The State will feature a question-and-answer segment with a prominent high school football player or coach in the Midlands along with this week’s schedule and the top games to watch.
This week, we talked with Gilbert coach Chad Leaphart, who recently became the school’s all-time winningest coach. Leaphart has 70 victories in seven seasons at his alma mater, two more than Marty Woolbright’s record of 68.
Leaphart has won four region titles during his time at Gilbert and the team is off to a 3-0 start this season. The Indians host Lexington (4-0) on Friday.
Lou Bezjak: What was it like to set the school record for wins a few weeks ago?
Chad Leaphart: It is special and meant a lot because coach Woolbright meant a lot to me. I played for coach Woolbright and all the guys who played for him, we think the world of him. He inspired me to go into this. He always said I was like a player on the field. Going into coaching is really what I wanted to do, even in high school. I knew when I was 16 or 17 years old that I wanted to be a football coach and I wanted to be the football coach at Gilbert. I have been blessed to be able to come back and get the opportunity. We have had a lot of success here thanks to a lot of good coaches, good players and everybody working together.
LB: Have you heard from Coach Woolbright after breaking the record?
CL: He called me and congratulated me. We talked about that and coaching at Gilbert. We also talked about old times and different players. We talk a couple times, maybe three or four times a year anyway. It was a nice gesture.
LB: When you took over the program, what were your expectations?
CL: I will be honest. When we came in the first year and looking at the schedule, maybe we can win three games and that would be one more than they won the year before. That would be progress. That sounds terrible, but that is the reality of it. But our kids worked extremely hard and bought into what we are doing. We did have success that first year and won 10 games. But the big goal coming in was for these kids at Gilbert to have great Friday night memories just like I did when I was playing here. When I played here, we had great success, great memories. I wanted our kids to hold our heads up and be proud of what they do and be able to play with anyone on the schedule.
We far exceeded everything. We won region championships, something that has not been done before. We have made deep playoff runs, beat 5A schools, 4A schools. We beat named brand programs like Dillon and Hartsville that a lot of people wouldn’t give us a chance to compete with. I definitely say we have had a good run.
LB: Do you have any Friday night traditions or superstitions that you have to do on gameday?
CL: Diet Mountain Dews during the day and Goody’s powder before the game. Just horrible stuff. My offensive coordinator and myself have to have Goody’s powder before the game. That goes back from when I worked with coach Sawyer at Strom Thurmond. I did it at Swansea and then kept doing it at Gilbert. That is one superstition I have done although it is probably not the best one. It clears the mind.
LB: You play Lexington this week. Dustin Curtis is now the coach there and also attended and played there. How special is it to have two coaches in the rivalry that played at their respective schools?
CL: That is kind of the way it should be. A lot of places, it doesn’t work that way for the hometown kid to come back and be the coach one day. I have a special opportunity here at Gilbert and coach Curtis at Lexington as well. He was on the Lexington team that played for the state championship in 2001. I was actually at that game. My brother (Lexington’s athletic trainer) was on the sidelines. Any coach in the state, if they had the opportunity, would come back and lead their high school program. I think they would do it.
Five must-see games this week
AC Flora (2-1) at Camden (2-2): Camden leads the all-time series at 17-11 but Flora has won two straight, including 28-19 last year. AC Flora is ranked No. 9 in this week’s Class 4A poll. AC Flora quarterback Roper Wentzky is 42-of-68 passing for 555 yards and 10 touchdowns since entering the opening game against in the fourth quarter. Falcons running back Noah Kelson leads the team with 482 yards rushing and four touchdowns. Camden has lost two straight and dropped out of the Class 3A rankings this week. The Bulldogs turned it over three times inside the 5-yard line in the 30-12 loss to Gray Collegiate last week. Camden quarterback Grayson White is 54-of-83 passing for 988 yards and 12 total touchdowns. Jaquarius Mayrant leads the Bulldogs with 22 catches for 337 yards and two TDs. Wilson Nash leads Camden in tackles with 49 while Shiver Huggins leads the team in sacks, tackles for loss and quarterback pressures.
Brookland-Cayce (2-1) at Chapin (3-1): Chapin has won five of the last six in series and holds a 12-6 series lead. B-C won last year’s game, 33-21. Chapin quarterback Brady Albro is 76-of-109 passing for 940 yards and 12 TDs. Receiver Maddox Floyd had 14 catches for 130 yards and a TD last week. Floyd leads the team with 28 catches for 238 yards and four TDs. Gavin Stam leads Chapin with 23 tackles, including 13 last week for Newberry. Quarterback Will Young and running back Deshaun Washington lead B-C with five rushing touchdowns. B-C coming off first loss of season to AC Flora.
Irmo (3-0) at Hartsville (4-0): One of the top games in the state this week. Hartsville is No. 2 in Class 4A and Irmo is No. 6. Irmo won the only previous meeting last year, 17-14. Irmo is coming off a bye while Hartsville rallied from 14-points down at halftime to defeat Class 3A No. 1 Dillon, 51-34. Irmo quarterback AJ Brand has thrown for 687 yards and rushed for 272 with 15 total touchdowns. RB Jaden Allen-Hendrix has 668 all-purpose yards and five touchdowns. Donovan Murph leads the Yellow Jackets with 15 catches for 243 yards and three touchdowns. Irmo’s defense is giving up just 157.6 yards and seven points per game.
Lexington (4-0) at Gilbert (3-0): Lexington leads all-time series, 3-1, including last year’s 35-21 win. Lexington is ranked No. 3 in Class 5A while Gilbert is No. 5 in 3A. Lexington is off to its best start since 2011 when it started the season 11-0. Lexington quarterback Taiden Mines has 782 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns. Brandon Cromer leads the team in receiving with 16 catches for 303 yards and two touchdowns. Montrell Byrd leads the Wildcats with 34 tackles, seven for loss and three sacks. Gilbert quarterback Drake Braddock is 39-of-57 passing for 671 yards and eight touchdowns. Running back Jaylen Jay leads the team with 491 yards rushing and six touchdowns. Wynn Meetze leads Gilbert with 26 tackles and an interception.
Gray Collegiate (4-0) at St. John’s (D.C.) (1-1): Gray picked up this game after Eau Claire forfeited its scheduled contest this week. War Eagles moved up to No. 1 in latest Class 2A rankings. BJ Montgomery leads Gray with 595 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. QB Tyler Waller has thrown for 562 yards and eight touchdowns. Jamarious Lockett leads the War Eagles with 17 catches for 461 yards and seven touchdowns. Gray’s defense has picked off eight passes. Linebackers Kaine Williams (63) and Michael Boulware (62) lead the team in tackles. Oregon commit Da’Juan Riggs leads St. John’s with 194 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. St. John’s has won back-to-back Washington Catholic Athletic Conference titles.
This week’s game schedule
AC Flora at Camden
Batesburg-Leesville at Newberry
Brookland-Cayce at Chapin
Columbia at Mid-Carolina
Crestwood at North Central
Fox Creek at Airport
Goose Creek at Blythewood
Hammond at Wilson Hall
Heathwood Hall at Cardinal Newman
Irmo at Hartsville
Keenan at Fairfield Central
Lexington at Gilbert
Lugoff-Elgin at Fort Mill
Midland Valley at Westwood
Newberry Academy at Faith Christian
North Augusta at Dutch Fork
Northside Christian at Hickory Grove
Porter-Gaud at Ben Lippen
Richard Winn at Holly Hill
Richland Northeast at Spring Valley
Ridge View at Dreher
River Bluff at Lower Richland
South Aiken at White Knoll
Swansea at CA Johnson
WW King at Andrew Jackson Academy
Gray Collegiate at St. John’s (D.C.), 1 p.m.
Lou Bezjak: (803) 771-8419, @LouatTheState
Sam Wolfe Sam Wolfe/Special To The State
Gilbert head coach Chad Leaphart speaks with players during the Lexington One Sports-A-Rama Jamboree at River Bluff High School on on Friday, August 11, 2023.
September 15, 2023 | State, The (Columbia, SC)
Author/Byline: Lou Bezjak; Staff Writer | Page: 1B | Section: Sports