The John Paul II Catholic School football team is entering a new era.

The Golden Warriors will play in the 2A classification in the South Carolina Independent School Association. The move is unprecedented for a team that was playing 8-man football a few years ago. And although the jump to 2A ball will present new hurdles, the new kids on the block are ready for the challenge.

“The competition will get better but for our team, we return a lot of players, so I don’t know how all of that is going to shake out,” said head coach Kevin Wald. “We might be better, but the competition is going to be better as well. … If you’re moving up that means things are headed in the right direction.”

JPII boasts one of the best running backs in the state in Zachariah Doe. The speedster has already gained the attention of college coaches and, with the addition of tailback Freddie Aiken from Ridgeland-Hardeeville, the two-headed monster will be hard to tame.

“Freddie is a great kid and with him in the backfield with Zach Doe, that will be one of the better backfields probably in all of South Carolina,” said Wald. “They both could be thunder and lightning. Freddie runs well, and I think they both complement each other.”

For Doe, staying true to his game will be the key to success. He will be a key factor in the offense and his talent alone will be enough for him to produce big numbers in the ground game.

“[I am looking for] strong play – every single play, and leadership,” said Wald. “I don’t want him to get caught up in stats. Just go out and play every game as hard as you can and at the end of the season all that stuff will shake out.”

The Golden Warriors went 6-5 last year and fell 35-0 in the first round of the state playoffs. But the team is in prime position to bring home the state championship, a feat the team believes they can achieve.

“Obviously, that’s our goal and honestly that should be every team’s goal,” said Wald. “I feel pretty good about what we have returning. If we take care of the football, continue working on blocking, who knows, maybe we’ll be a team that can be standing there at the end but that’s a long way down the road.”

Latrice Williams is a freelance writer based in Savannah.