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By Tyler Cupp
DUTCH FORK (12-1) VS DORMAN (12-2)
Well, here we are. It has finally come down to this. At noon on Saturday, two high school teams will battle to be named champion at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Dutch Fork Silver Foxes and Dorman Cavaliers have become two of the Palmetto States’ dominant programs. And this weekend they will clash for the 5A State Championship. Here is my preview and breakdown of the game.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Dutch Fork lost its second game of the season to Fort Dorchester only to avenge it later in the post season 24-14 back on Friday night. Since then, they have been on a tear of the Midlands. Another note to point out, is that they made a change at quarterback as sophomore. Ty Olenchuck has been solid this season. More of a game manager, he still has been efficient completing 61% of his passes throwing for 17 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions. Ty is the little brother of Derek who led the Silver Foxes to a championship back in 2013.
Dorman started the season 0-2 including a loss to Fort Dorchester. The Cavs then went on to win 12 straight. They defeated Gaffney 14-10 in the Upper State title game. Dorman played one of the toughest schedules in the state. They played in a region with Spartanburg, Boiling Springs, and Byrnes. All of which had winning seasons this year. And in the non conference slate, they played a tough Hillcrest team along with a tough out in Rock Hill, too. In the playoffs they knocked off Greenwood, which many thought would make a deep run. So they are certainly battle tested for this state championship.
While you always want to make it about the palyers in talking about high school football, sometimes its hard to ignore the amazing and astounding numbers by the the head coaches.
Two of the best and legendary coaches in the state face one another Saturday. Tom Knotts(DF) and Dave Gutshall have combined for over 770 total wins in their respective careers. Both of which got started in the state of North Carolina. The Coaches have also combined to win 14 total state championships across both NC and SC as well.
This is the Silver Foxes 5th trip to the state final under Knotts, who is looking for his third title in seven seasons at the school.
Both coaches would love to the run the football. That’s how they got here. Maybe the most impressive of all the stats this week is the fact that Dorman has three 1,000 yard rushers, a 1,000 yard passer, and a 1,000 receiver. Just some outstanding numbers that shows not only balance, but also the firepower the Cavs have.
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Dutch Fork is impressive in its own right. The question however, will be if Bryce Thompson is to play running back or not. Against Fort Dorchester and Summerville he did not play as much, and was used primarily on defense. As most reading know, Bryce went on a tear for eight games scoring at least 3 touchdowns at one point in the season. But if he is to just play defense, Ron Huff has been carrying the load the last two games and has done very well in doing so.
In the press conference this past Monday, held at the South Carolina High School League office, both coaches joked that they will have a similar approach in playing ground and pound on offense, while also playing opportunistic defense. Both will want to establish the run and they even made it clear that they would like to have double digit possessions in the game, too. I think for Dorman though, they will need to stretch the field against Dutch Fork. If you play one dimensional against the Silver Foxes, it could be bad news.
Which offensive line will play the best? That is obviously going to be the biggest key here, too. With both teams being so reliant on the run, that will be something to watch. And turnovers could be a factor. Neither team can afford to battle back from turning it over on offense as both teams will take advantage of any chance given to them.
BY THE NUMBERS
Dutch Fork scores 45 points per game while allowing 12 per contest
Dorman scores 35 points per game while allowing 20 per contest
ALL STARS AND PLAYERS TO WATCH
Alex Smith (North/South)- 3 sacks last week in the win over Fort Dorchester
Bryce Thompson-(Shrine Bowl) – 1256 rushing yards with 27 touchdowns. Also has 600 yards receiving with 6 scores.
Coach Dave Gutshall will be the coach of the Shrine Bowl this year he takes two players with him. Offensive lineman Jordan McFadden and long snapper Austin Covan.
Dorman has a North South All Star with defensive lineman Jalen Belton making the squad.
Another player to watch and one I personally am interested in seeing is the quarterback. Of the three 1,000 yard rushers mentioned, QB Ben Batson is the one of those. Batson is the son of Clemson strength and conditioning coach Joey Batson. He has thrown for over 1700 yards along with his 1,000 on the ground. So he is obviously a focus of the offensive.
My Take: Without having seen Dorman in person, just some game film here and there, I think this could be a very close and competitive contest. I just wonder,however, after having watched Dutch Fork beat Fort Dorchester, if they can come back from all that emotion. There’s no doubt that they will be prepared but this is a young team. And while this may sound like a contradiction of the previous statement, this might be one of the most disciplined and poised teams Tom Knotts has had at Dutch Fork. Other than Bryce Thompson, no player really comes off the page in terms of size, or attributes. But it might be the most complete and deep team that Knotts as had, too.Talking with Knotts briefly at the presser this week, he was very proud and confident that this young team takes the approach that they do. He said that he doesn’t really need to settle them down, and that they move on to the next week very maturely.
I think if Dutch Fork can force Dorman to be one dimensional and make them pass, Silver Foxes will take it. Dorman will need to get pressure on the sophomore QB if it is to have success, too.
WEEKEND OF CHAMPIONS SCHEDULE
Friday (Games played at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium near Benedict)
2A Abbeville vs Bamberg-Ehrhardt
1A Baptist Hill vs Lamar
Saturday(Games played at Williams-Brice Stadium)
5A Game Dutch Fork vs Dorman
3A Chapman vs Dillon
4A South Pointe vs Hartsville