The ink is barely dry on our list of the top local sports stories of 2010, and I would still be six weeks away from remembering to write "2011" on my checks -- if I still wrote checks -- but it's never too early to start thinking about the year ahead.
As has become my annual custom, I'll use my first column of the new year to offer a few predictions for the coming year. Some are more bold -- and more serious -- than others. See if you can tell the difference. Looking to replicate the success Auburn had by hiring former high school coach Gus Malzahn to lead its offense, Clemson's Dabo Swinney taps Bluffton High School head coach Ken Cribb as his new offensive coordinator. The hire is roundly criticized, and analysts say Cribb's Wing-T offense won't succeed in major college football. But dual-threat quarterback Tajh Boyd and running backs Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington prove the critics wrong, as the Tigers break numerous school records and win the ACC title. Hilton Head Prep's girls basketball team wins its eighth SCISAA Class 3-A title in 12 years. Feeling pretty good about that one. Minutes after winning the 2011 Heritage, his third Heritage title in five years, golfer Boo Weekley tells the PGA Tour he has put together a sponsorship group that wants to save the Heritage. The tour reluctantly signs a deal with the group, and the tournament becomes known as the Boo Weekley Bass Pro Shops/Browning Rifles Heritage presented by Mossy Oak. Merchandise sales in Ridgeland increase by 400 percent in 2012. USC Beaufort wins its first NAIA national title in men's golf and its first Sun Conference title in baseball. No joke. Ron Peduzzi announces he is resigning as Hilton Head Prep's football coach to become the head of SCISAA's new Athletic Recruiting Task Force, a group aimed at cracking down on the recruitment of athletes by the state's private schools. Shortly thereafter, Hilton Head Prep announces it is seceding from SCISAA and will play as an independent for the 2011-12 school year. The football teams at Hilton Head Christian Academy and Hilton Head Prep struggle after losing quarterbacks who were three-year starters to graduation. Way out on a limb there, right? After being fired by the Cincinnati Bengals and failing to catch on as an NFL television analyst, part-time Beaufort County resident Marvin Lewis becomes the new football coach at Battery Creek High School. In the wake of the announcement, many opponents of the Beaufort County School District's plan to change the boundaries of Beaufort High School's attendance zone change their tune. The influx of new students bolsters Battery Creek's football roster, and the Dolphins follow up their 0-10 season with a region title. Beaufort golfer Mark Anderson earns his first professional victory and finishes in the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list, earning his PGA Tour card. Due to overwhelming demand from the student body, Hilton Head Christian Academy adds boys and girls lacrosse teams to its roster of sports for the 2011-12 school year. When several candidates to coach the new teams back out, though, athletics director Tommy Lewis is forced to coach both teams, making him the head coach of the Eagles' football, girls basketball and boys and girls lacrosse squads. After another all-SEC season at South Carolina, former Beaufort High School star Devin Taylor is projected to go in the first two rounds of NFL draft. Whether he turns pro or returns for his senior season? That's too bold to predict, even in this column.