By Tyler Cupp
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5 games to watch in Week 8 around the Midlands. Also, see analysis of Shrine Bowl and Mr.Football selections made this week.
LUGOFF-ELGIN (5-3, 2-0) AT HARTSVILLE (6-1, 2-0)
First place is on the line in Region 6-4A between the Demons and top ranked #3 Red Foxes, as you can label this one a Showdown in Kellytown.
Hartsville is one of the top programs in the state. Coming out of the Pee-Dee, the Red Foxes have put together 5 straight seasons of double digit win totals. It is mainly due to Coach Jeff Calabrese and his style of coaching. He’s only had 2 losing seasons since he began back in 2001. That’s given him an impressive record of 154-58. They are a favorite every year with him at the helm.
The Demons are coming off one of their best performances of the season Friday when they knocked off Crestwood 34-16. The LE defensive line played one of its better games too, making 6 tackles for loss. Junior Linebacker Tyrik Richardson had 4 of those himself, which included a sack. That front 7 will get the stiffest test to date with Hartsville running the pesky Wing-T offense. From the traps and counter plays that have made this offense so dangerous, LE will have to play assignment type defense and limit the big play. Tiyon Evans might be one of the best junior backs in the state, Hartsville has depended upon him all season. If the Demons are to make the upset, it will be because of their offense. They need to be efficient and mistake free on the road.
Series Notes: The Demons have not defeated a top 5 team since 2008 when they defeated Greer in the playoffs. Hartsville has not lost a region game since 2013.
SPRING VALLEY (7-0, 3-0) VS RIVER BLUFF (2-6, 1-3)
(Game to be played at Spirit Communications Park)
Another showcase at the Home of the Fireflies in Columbia Friday as the undefeated Spring Valley Vikings try to stay unbeaten against the Gators of River Bluff. This could be looked at as a trap game however, as the Vikings have a clash looming with Dutch Fork next Friday the 20th. I don’t expect Spring Valley to slow down at all here though. They seem to be getting healthy at the right time with the fearsome tandem of Jacquez Terrell and Tate Iaulauolo carrying the football. Both combined for over 230 rushing yards and 3 scores last week. River Bluff linebacker Noah Johnson, who had 5 tackles for loss last week in the win over White Knoll, will try slow down that triple option attack of SV. The problem for River Bluff will be the offense. If they are unable to put together any drives, that will immediately give SV field position and more possessions to get down field and into the end zone. Spring Valley should knock this one out of the park.
RIDGE VIEW (4-3, 0-2) AT RICHLAND NORTHEAST (3-4, 0-2)
It’s a must win game for Ridge View. After winning four of their first five games, the Blazers have dropped the last 2 games to region opponents. Granted, those two losses came against #1 South Pointe and a very good York team, the Blazers still need to bounce back and win a few games to clinch a playoff berth. I think Ridge View should win here, but the confidence and swag that Perry Parks likes to coach with needs a shot in the arm.
Series Note- Ridge View won last year 28-14. Before that, the Northeast rivals had not played since 2013.
BLYTHEWOOD (3-4, 1-2) AT LEXINGTON (5-3, 2-2)
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This is huge game here for playoff positioning. The Wildcats, who have already played and lost to Dutch Fork and Spring Valley, would more than likely lock up third place and a playoff berth with a win over Blythewood. Third place in this conference would merit a home playoff game, too. That is huge for a first year coach and young football team. Perry Woolbright has overachieved but in a good way, as he has gotten the absolute most out of this roster week to week.
The Bengals could use second region win as a way to keep playoff hopes alive. They also of course, would own a tie breaker over Irmo having previously defeated them this season. Expect a low scoring, defensive game here. The contest will feature a couple of stud linebackers with Pat Godbolt (Blythewood) and Logan Cripe (Lexington) leading the charge.
Series Note: Lexington has won 6 out of 9 in this series but the Bengals won last year 32-20.
CHAPIN (5-2, 2-0) AT LOWER RICHLAND (2-5, 0-1)
The Eagles can clinch first place with a win over the Diamond Hornets in this one. The Chapin defense has been phenomenal of late. The last three games, they have only allowed 27 total points including a shut out last week over AC Flora. Keeping this LR squad off the board will be tough however, as Tevaughn Higgins is one of the more underrated players in the Midlands. The senior QB has 600 yards rushing and 500 yards pasing with 11 total touchdowns on the season. He’s going to need help from his defense in this one.
Series Note: Chapin has dominated the series winning the last five meetings. They won last year 44-24.
Quick Hits and Headlines
-The 2017 Shrine Bowl rosters were announced this week and 7 players from the Midlands are headed to the annual All-Star showcase. Channing Tindall of Spring Valley, Bryce Thompson of Dutch Fork, Wyatt Campbell of Lugoff Elgin, Trajan Jeffcoat of Irmo, Hank Manos of Chapin, Damion Daley of Ridge View, and Newberry’s Alec Blackmon. The Shrine Bowl will be played December 16th at Wofford College
My take-Normally you expect to see some snubs here but every player selected deserves to be there. The only slight snub I would point out here is Paxton Brooks of Airport High. He might be the best kicker in the state, and is already committed to play at Tennessee. But honestly, the ones that missed the cut for the Shrine Bowl normally make the North-South roster which will be announced later this month. Also remember too, the Shrine Bowl is more about a showcase of the top prospects and commitments from the state.
-Also announced this week were the candidates for Mr.Football of the State of South Carolina. Two midlands players made the cut including Spring Valley’s Channing Tindall and Amir Abrams of Newberry.Tindall of course, is one of the top prospects in the state and the country. And Abrams has had a remarkable career with the Newberry Bulldogs. He has ran for over 5,000 yards and scored 84 touchdowns. The other candidates were Dakereon Joyner (Gatorade Player of the Year in 2016) of Fort Dorchester, Chapman QB Colton Bailey(won the 3A state championship last year), and Spartanburg linebacker Connor Shugart.
My Take-I have always thought that Mr.Football should go to not necessarily to the best player in high school football, but also to reward the career of the student athlete. Amir Abrams has been a starter since he was a freshman and his accomplishments speak for themselves in his 4 year career. However, its certainly hard to go against top college prospects like Joyner and Tindall. If you take Joyner off Fort D, are they still a top 5 team? So really it boils down to rewarding a career or looking at a MVP season Those are questions voters have to answer when making the selection.
Airport at Aiken
Bamberg-Ehrhardt at Batesburg-Leesville
Calhoun Academy at Northside Christian
Cardinal Newman at Porter-Gaud
Chester at Camden
Dreher at Orangeburg-Wilkinson
Dutch Fork at White Knoll
Edisto at Brookland-Cayce
Eau Claire at C.A. Johnson (Bolden Stadium)
Midland Valley at A.C. Flora (Memorial Stadium)
Newberry at Clinton
North Central at Buford
Pelion at Swansea
Strom Thurmond at Gilbert
Westwood at York