The area’s top two rushers in the shortened 2020 high school football season were among the leading ground gainers in all of South Carolina. One can only imagine what the final numbers will look like in a full 2021 schedule.
West Ashley’s Jahleel Porter and Goose Creek’s Demetri Simmons go about their business out of the backfield in different ways.
Porter (5-11, 185, 4.45) is a speed back with explosive capabilities on every touch, as evidenced by a 99-yard touchdown scamper last fall. In seven games, Porter amassed 1,332 rushing yards, averaging 9.3 yards per carry, while scoring 12 touchdowns.
His two biggest outings in 2020 included a 327-yard effort against Stratford and a 298-yard outing against Ashley Ridge.
“He literally is a guy that can break off a long one on every touch,” West Ashley coach Donnie Kiefer says. “But, he’s not just a fast guy. He is a physical runner, a physical football player.”
Porter also excels as a guard on the basketball court and split his 2021 summer between football camps and playing with TMP basketball. He was able to show his talents at South Carolina and East Carolina football camps in June. Though he is still waiting on official offers, Porter is getting a lot of interest from schools at all levels. While he loves both sports, he realizes football may be his ticket.
“I love basketball and football but I think football is going to present more opportunities for me,” said Porter, an all-state and All-Lowcountry selection in both sports last year.
Simmons (6-0, 190, 4.7) is not as fast as Porter but is among the most durable backs in the state. He carried the ball 214 times in eight games, an average of 27 attempts per game, far and away the top number in the state.
Simmons rushed for 1,341 yards and nine touchdowns in Goose Creek’s eight-game schedule last fall.
If the Gators have a lead in the fourth quarter, opposing teams can expect a heavy dose of Simmons, who topped 30 carries in three games last season.
“The fourth quarter, that’s where you make your money,” Simmons said. “I live for those moments. I want the ball in my hands.”
Simmons also excels on the basketball court at Goose Creek. He was an all-region and All-Lowcountry selection last year. He and Porter are teammates on the TMP summer team.
Simmons attended summer camps at Mercer, Virginia Tech and Wofford, and took an unofficial visit to UNC Charlotte. Like Porter, there are no offers on the table but that could soon change.
“I’m just being patient. I know my opportunities will come,” he said.
There are several more running backs returning this fall around the area. At Hanahan, the tandem of senior Josh Shaw and sophomore Kevon Rivera will make the Hawks a difficult out in 2021. Both topped 700 rushing yards last season, combining for 18 touchdowns.
Oceanside Collegiate junior Vaughn Blue rushed for 518 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games last season. Blue will be the feature back in the Landsharks’ offensive attack this fall and also is a major threat as a receiver.
Another sophomore, First Baptist’s Davian Brown, is headed for big things this season. Brown already is a two-year starter for the SCISA powerhouse, having accumulated nearly 2,000 yards in his first two years as a varsity performer.
Wando senior Dez Loring topped the 500-yard mark with nine touchdowns in seven games last season and will be the top returning offensive player for the Warriors this fall.
Top returning running backs for 2021:
Jahleel Porter, West Ashley, Sr.
Demetri Simmons, Goose Creek, Sr.
Josh Shaw, Hanahan, Sr.
Vaughn Blue, Oceanside Collegiate, Jr.
Kevon Rivera, Hanahan, So.
Davian Brown, First Baptist, So.
Dez Loring, Wando, Sr.