SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Welcome to 15 Teams in 15 Days! This is WSAV’s annual high school football preview series where we do a deep dive on a new team for each of the first 15 days of August. This year, we will ask and answer four standard questions of each team, which are all listed below:
Why are you interesting?
Back in the 2020 COVID season, former WSAV sports anchor Connor DelPrete (we miss you!) minted the Savannah City Championship, unofficially awarded to the Chatham County Public School with the best record against the other public schools.
New Hampstead won that honor in 2021, going 6-1 against their public foes. The Phoenix’s only loss against an SCCPSS school was to Jenkins (33-28) on Oct. 29.
Class realignment means that hypothetical championship is pretty much a thing of the past. New Hampstead’s new schedule will see them play just two games against their fellow SCCPSS schools, as opposed to seven in 2021.
The new region will bring plenty of other changes as well. The Phoenix are now in a six-team region instead of a four-team, which means they will not automatically qualify for the playoffs. They will compete for that honor with new teams like Southeast Bulloch, Burke County and Wayne County.
Still, the Phoenix seem up for the task.
“We’re a young group and we lost a lot of seniors last year,” said senior Zion Griffin. “We picked up really well in discipline. Starting in the weight room, field-wise, special teams and definitely the film room, we picked up well.”
“They’re a good group of guys,” said head coach Kyle Hockman. “Our coaches are doing a great job of creating a culture of leadership. We’re at 95 percent attendance for 90-plus kids all summer for workouts.”
Who are your dudes?
A lot of New Hampstead’s performance is going to come down to the man under center.
Rising senior quarterback Pauly Seeley committed to Wofford College shortly before reporting to camp. He moved down to South Georgia from his native Alma, Michigan to experience what high school football is like in the south.
“It’s going to be my third year going into it (at New Hampstead) and I’m really excited just to grow and be with the program, get more comfortable with it and get more comfortable with the guys,” Seeley said. I’m excited to see what we can do.
Seeley turned in a solid performance in 2021, throwing for 1,925 yards with 22 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.
Most of Seeley’s top targets from 2021 have graduated, while running back Samari Dowdy transferred to Johnson.
Griffin is the only returning Phoenix player that caught more than 10 passes. He hauled in 25 balls for 393 yards and 4 TD.
What’s up with your coach?
Kyle Hockman was last seen leading Team Coastal Empire in the 2021-’22 Blitz Border Bowl, an experience that confirmed what he already knew about the talent in the Savannah area.
“Savannah’s got a lot of good football players,” Hockman said. “There are a lot of good football players and good coaches, coming more and more every year.”
“We’ve got to keep grinding and stay with it. There’s a lot of turnover over the years and I think if these coaches stay with it at the different schools they’re at, there’s no ceiling because we’ve got the talent.”
Hockman took over a program that had just one winning season in its first five years and has amassed a 16-15 record in his first three years. The Phoenix have been on the winning side of .500 and in the playoffs for the last two seasons.
When’s the big game?
New Hampstead’s cross-border showdown with South Carolina foe May River on Aug. 19 is definitely an interesting one.
This will be the first time that the Phoenix have played a South Carolina opponent since 2019. It’s also their first game against May River in program history.
The Phoenix are 3-2 all-time against opponents from the Palmetto State.
May River is not the only out-of-state team on New Hampstead’s schedule; they will travel all the way down to the Orlando, Florida metro to play South Lake High School on Sept. 9.