Wingate football opener will be reunion

Saturday’s college football opener between Wingate and Limestone in Gaffney, S.C., figures to be special in more ways than one.

It will be the first game in history for Limestone, which is one of seven programs around the country starting football this season.

The game will also be a reunion of the teams’ coaching staffs. Saints head coach Bobby James, offensive coordinator Craig Kerr, defensive coordinator Drew Anthony and defensive line coach Louis Swaba are former Wingate assistants under head coach Joe Reich.

“It feels like I’m going to play my brothers,” said Reich, who is in his 14th year at Wingate. “It goes back to playing in your backyard. It’s a sibling rivalry where you’re competitors and you want to beat one another. It’s kind of neat. They’re my guys. It’s great they’ve gotten to that position in their careers where they can coach against us.”

James left Wingate after six years to start the program at Limestone. The Saints’ athletic program is the second largest in NCAA Division II with 25 sports and best known for its lacrosse team, which has won three national championships. Limestone’s athletic director is Mike Cerrino, who is also coach of Major League Lacrosse’s Charlotte Hounds.

“Mike started the lacrosse program here, so he’s been in the trenches,” James said. “That turned out pretty good. If we can do some of the same things, there’s a pretty good recipe already here for potential success.”

James said there is a spot for Limestone in South Carolina’s football landscape, where only three other schools – Newberry, North Greenville and Benedict – play on the Division II level. For now, Limestone is playing as an independent with an eye on landing in a conference soon. The Saints hope to form a scheduling alliance with the South Atlantic Conference – of which Wingate is a member – in 2015.

The Saints will play their home games in Gaffney High’s stadium, just a few minutes from Limestone’s campus. James is already making local inroads recruiting: one of the Saints’ top players is former Gaffney defensive lineman Rod Oglesby. Evan Patrick, a former Olympic High standout, will start at middle linebacker.

They will be going against an established program in Wingate, which has one of the SAC’s top receivers in sophomore Jordan Berry (45 catches for 700 yards and seven touchdowns last season).

“I’m not sure what to expect from them,” Reich said. “They’re not necessarily going to run what we run. They’ll have their own ideas. But I’m going to assume they’ll be somewhat similar to what we’re doing. But you never know.”