Iron Horses to compete at varsity level for first time
The Philip Simmons High School football team might be a bit of an unknown entity this fall. But the Iron Horses won’t be unheralded. After years of planning, development and finally becoming a reality, the school is about to take a major step this fall by fielding a varsity football team for the first time in its brief history. The school had the foresight to hire a bright and energetic coach in Eric Bending. And the school should be thankful that its enrollment area includes the football fertile Cainhoy-Huger area.
The Iron Horses made a dry run last year and the team posted a 7-1 record. That left the school and community thirsting for a winner, which will be a challenge because there are no seniors on the roster. The flipside to that is all 22 starters return. No other school in the Palmetto State can make that claim.
Bendig, who coached at Wando, Hanahan and Ashley Ridge prior to landing the PSHS job, might not even know what to expect when his team runs onto the field Aug. 17 when the Iron Horses host Charleston Math and Science.
“If you are playing us in the first game, and you know we don’t have a senior on the team, you might not know what to expect,” said Bendig. “But if you have followed us, it’s not tough to figure out. We are going to play hard and play to win.”
The team’s roster is split about 50/50 geographically with half of the players from the Daniel Island/Clements Ferry Road corridor and the other half is from the Cainhoy/Huger area, which was a major pipeline for Hanahan the last 20 years. That part of Berkeley Country produced three major football stars in the 1990s including defensive end Courtney Brown, who was the first pick of the 2000 NFL draft and quarterback Joe Hamilton, who was the Heisman runner-up his senior season at Georgia Tech.
The Iron Horses have talent on this year’s team, but only time will tell if it is elite.
Running back Solly Bess has the potential to play at the next level. He worked hard in the weight room over the summer and is bigger and faster. That’s good news for a team that likes to run the football. He’s one of two stars in the backfield. The other is quarterback Omaro Asby who proved he could throw the football when needed. One of his top targets is RJ Watson, a game-breaking wide receiver who has good hands and moves to avoid contact after he makes the catch.
Of course, the game is won in the trenches, and that’s why the play of lineman Max Crites and Keshawn Lockwood will be so important. They will be joined by Carter Ensley, a 6-4, 250-pound transplant from New Jersey. He will also play defense.
Linebacker play will be a major strength on defense. Javier Collins-Smith showed great potential this year. Another LB with potential is freshman Tripp Williams, who will only get bigger and better. He checks in at 6-2, 210 pounds this fall.