White Knoll looks to repeat last year’s success

By Thomas Grant Jr.

Just last season, White Knoll football completed its climb from a winless squad to Class 5A state champion runner-up.

The Timberwolves accomplished this feat with 29 senior players who paid their dues as underclassmen under new head coach Nick Pelham.

Coming off a school-record 14-win season, White Knoll now finds itself looking to blend together a large group of rising junior varsity players filling key positions with returning starters still hungry to claim the school’s first-ever state title.

“That senior group was really excited to put White Knoll on the top and they have committed three years to work hard,” Pelham said. “So it was kind of a no-nonsense group, and we miss that feeling of it and I think sometimes some of our kids think that we’ve arrived even though this group hasn’t done it.

“So we had to use some more stern language. We had to remind them while we’re out here practicing what the point is. I think the motivation is there and I think they want to be a great team. They want to be good.

“But there’s something special about that group of seniors that have to go through the trials, the tribulations, and the failures that they had and the hard times that it meant something for them to come back for their senior year. Now, we’ve just got to make sure that all the other kids understand we’re not guaranteed anything and we’re right back to the bottom of the barrel and work our way up.”

Having a three-year starting quarterback in All-State senior Landon Sharpe provides Pelham some comfort. He’ll have a relatively new wide receiving crops to target with both Devon and Caleb Geronomi expected to be among the top targets.

The Timberwolves will also be young but promising at running back. Last year’s leading rusher Tiyon Jennings is expected at full strength before the preseason after suffering a right-hand injury.

He’ll be joined in the backfield by three newcomers in juniors Shquez Montgomery and Jordan Keith and sophomore Ja’Von Griffey, who’s also expected to see time at wide receiver.

For the first time, Pellham believes the offensive line is truly the team’s strength. It returns four starters – Donovan Sims, Hayden Hohlwein, Jaylen Gates, and Andre Quesada – and 6-foot-3, 260-pound newcomer Jeadon Johnson.

The defense lost key starters in Shrine Bowl linebacker Jaiden Kimble and defensive lineman Domenico Banks and Lincoln Illunga. Stepping up to replace them, however, are hungry newcomers in sophomore nose tackle Tyrone Jennings, junior defensive end Cornelle Rice and senior Caleb Caughman.

Senior Connor Burgess leads the linebackers at the MIKE position with rising junior Josue Esiki and outside linebacker Bradley Benjamin on the outside who’s expected to take Kimble’s role.

White Knoll faces the challenges of an ultracompetitive non-region schedule with matchups against Fort Dorchester, Sumter, Cane Bay, and Camden. This is before starting play in a region which includes its state championship game foe Dutch Fork, last year’s Class 4A Lower State runner-up and crosstown rival Irmo, and playoff teams Lexington, River Bluff and Chapin.

“We’ve got to keep telling our kids this year ‘It’s never going to be as easy at it was last year’,” Pelham said. “People aren’t going to overlook us anymore. We’re not going to ever have that kind of schedule. We had some breaks that fell our way. I still feel we’re a good team and still feel we’ve got some really talented players. But they have to practice as hard as those kids last year practiced.”


(All Games at 7:30 p.m.)

AUG. 24 – at Camden


SEPT. 6 – at Brookland-Cayce

SEPT. 13 – BYE



OCT. 4 – at River Bluff

OCT. 11 – at Dutch Fork

OCT. 18 – IRMO


NOV. 1 – at Chapin

Photo by GoFlashWin.com – White Knoll quarterback Landon Sharpe