By Steve LeMaster
In his fifth year as the Whale Branch football program’s head coach, Jerry Hatcher is delivering new offensive looks. The rejuvenated Warriors are looking to spread things out in the 2016 season.
Hatcher has compiled a 24-21 record during his tenure as the Whale Branch football program’s head coach. The Warriors finished 6-6 overall in 2015, putting together a 3-2 record in Region 6-2A.
Whale Branch’s 2015 season ended with a loss to Marion in the Class 2A-2 quarterfinals. Marion held on to beat the Warriors 20-14 in the 2015 postseason matchup. The loss left Whale Branch just short of reaching the Lower State final.
Multiple offensive linemen are back for the Warriors. Whale Branch, however, lost standout defensive lineman Nyles Pinckney to graduation. Pinckney is now a member of the Clemson University football program and won’t be easy for Whale Branch to replace.
In high school, Pinckney, who enrolled at Clemson University in January, was rated as high as the No. 79 prospect in the nation by Tom Lemming. He was rated as the No. 196 prospect in the nation and the No. 2 overall prospect in South Carolina by Rivals. A defensive lineman, Pinckney was rated No. 261 in the nation and No. 4 player in South Carolina by ESPN.
Pinckney had an outstanding senior year at Whale Branch, finishing with 72 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, four sacks, six caused fumbles, three recovered fumbles, two blocked punts and two defensive touchdowns in 2015. He had 98 tackles, 27 for loss, nine sacks, blocked three field goals, recorded 10 forced fumbles and notched eight fumble recoveries as a junior. As a sophomore at Whale Branch, Pinckney delivered 91 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
Pinckney narrowed his college choice to Clemson and South Carolina, ultimately choosing the Tigers over the Gamecocks.
Top returning players for Whale Branch are running back Irvan Mulligan, offensive lineman/defensive lineman Caleb Hill, offensive lineman Cameron Wilson, offensive lineman/defensive lineman Chris Wilson and offensive lineman/defensive lineman Eric Saunders.
Now a sophomore, Mulligan averaged 6.9 yards per carry for the Warriors during his freshman campaign. He’ll be expected to help to lead Whale Branch offensively in the 2016 season.
Along the line, Hill and Cameron Wilson are both four-year starters.
Chris Wilson and Saunders are other experienced linemen for the Whale Branch football team.
Marion Smalls is poised to lead the Whale Branch offensive attack from his quarterback position.
The Warriors’ regular-season schedule includes games versus Hilton Head, May River, Beaufort High, Battery Creek, Bluffton, Woodland, North Charleston, Whale Branch had the first week of the 2016 season open.
Top photo: Whale Branch Early College High School head coach Jerry Hatcher talks to his players.