High school football preview, by Tyler Cupp
The start of region play is finally here. For a majority of the games played Friday, the slate is wiped clean. Everybody is 0-0 and the it’s essentially the halfway point of the season. What you did before certainly matters to the progression of your team, but teams that are heading into region play with sub .500 or winless records, get somewhat of a mulligan on the second half. 1989 North Augusta Yellow Jackets: that team went 0-6 but then reeled off a stretch of 8 wins and one loss in their next seven to capture the state title. So it’s possible. The work put into the off season and non-conference schedule is ready to be paid off. The real season, and push for the playoffs, starts now.
LEXINGTON (3-2) AT WHITE KNOLL (4-1)
Series notes: Wildcats lead the all-time series 13-5. Lexington won last year 13-0 after losing the previous two seasons.
It is truly going to be interesting to see if the Lexington defense can slow down the Timberwolves of White Knoll. The dynamic tandem of Aveon Smith and Jamias Holloway have combined to score 22 total touchdowns this season for the T-wolves. So Lexington’s Logan Cripe (66 tackles) and the rest of the Wildcat defense will have their work cut out for them. On the other side, Lexington’s offense should be able to move the ball. Their tailback Akeem Nicholas (693 yards 2TD) is having a really good season. If it becomes a shootout, the edge may go to WK.
Fun stat: Tristan Allen (LEX) and Emori Mills (WK) are tied atop the Midlands with four interceptions each.
CHAPIN (3-1) AT DUTCH FORK (4-0)
First meeting of these teams since 2011. That’s a long time to not play considering the teams are separated by 10 miles. In fact, the two teams have only played 6 times. That may be due to Chapin being smaller in classification in previous years. But after years of growth, the two high schools are 5A and now share the same region. If any team can devise a game plan to slow down Dutch Fork at least somewhat on offense it could be Chapin. Scott Stogner is one of the better, and well respected defensive coordinators in the Midlands. But the issue may be the youth and inexperience on both sides for the Eagles. And as with every team that faces the Silver Foxes this year, you just can’t turn the ball over. So what is there to lose? Every team that faces them wants to play upset to a nationally ranked team. It’s like that undefeated team in college football where every opponent is going to give them 110% each week.
Ty Olenchuck is coming off a monster game at QB for Dutch Fork. He now has thrown for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns. Next to Westwood, Dutch Fork has to have the best combo of wideouts in the area with Gage Zirke and Jalin Hyatt. Guys like Jacob Drag (5 sacks) and James Wells (43 tackles) will have to play their best game on defense for Chapin in order to slow that offensive attack down.
IRMO(3-2) AT SPRING VALLEY(3-1)
Series notes: The Vikings have won five of the last six, including last year’s 42-21 victory. The series dates back to 1974. Spring Valley leads the all-time series 24-22.
I find this region of SV, Irmo, Blythewood, Sumter and LE the most intriguing in the Midlands. From what I have seen, read, and heard there really doesn’t seem to be a clear cut favorite among the bunch. Sumter might be the most talented and maybe the fastest from top to bottom but outside of Rock Hill, their strength of schedule is not on par with the other clubs. I tend to think SV and Irmo are both pretty good and getting better each week. Blythewood just keeps winning, too. Lugoff-Elgin will compete each week too and bound to play upset on someone. So this game between the Vikings and Yellowjackets could be really telling Friday night. Even though it’s only one game, it could really send a message to the rest of the region. I’m curious to see if the Wake Forest commit, Kendrell Flowers returns from injury and if this Spring Valley defense continues its strong play. Both offenses have the ability to keep the ball for long-time sustaining drives, so whoever is more efficient there could be your winner.
LOWER RICHLAND (1-4) AT DREHER (2-2) (MEMORIAL STADIUM)
Series notes: Dates back to 1970. Played every year from 1970 to 89 then did not play again until 2004. Have played every year since then. Dreher has won five straight including last year 22-13. Lower Richland leads the all time series 23-11.
Where this game is taking place seems almost bigger than the matchup itself. The newly renovated Memorial Stadium will see its first varsity football action of the season. I’m glad they kept Memorial and added renovations to it. It has its own uniqueness to it but also still houses a lot of history. I think the Blue Devils will be favored here. They run the football well with DaDa Washington (568 yards 7 TD). Lower Richland has gotten off to a rocky start after coming off a strong playoff run last season. A region win here would cure all that.
WESTWOOD (4-0) AT SOUTH POINTE (4-1)
One of the best games in the state. There is a lot of hype considering Westwood has pretty much steam rolled their competition. On the other hand, South Pointe may indeed be the defending four-time state champion, but they have proven that they have chinks in the armor. They lost earlier this year to Rock Hill, and about nearly lost another game to Greenville, escaping by one point. The Redhawks certainly have the talent to hang in there with the Stallions. Ahmon Green at QB has thrown for 700 yards and 11 scores. The defense has been forcing turnovers, too. The environment will be pretty tough up there in the Rock Hill area, but if Westwood can play turnover-free football and get up on the Stallions early, they absolutely have a chance to pull the upset.
Best of the rest
AC Flora at Crestwood
Good chance for AC Flora to win three in a row. This team is building confidence each week. Matthew Jamison at QB has the skill players around him like Riley and Mobley to move the ball downfield. Falcons should be slightly favored on the road here.
Camden at West Florence
One final non-region tuneup for both these teams. This game was moved a few times due to Hurricane Florence of a few weeks ago. I think we will find out just how good Camden is here. West Florence is scoring over 40 per game so this will be the best offense by far that the Bulldogs have faced.
Gilbert at Swansea
Swansea leads the all-time series 25-12. However, Gilbert has won the previous two since Chad Leaphart has been at the helm of the Indians. I expect Gilbert to bounce back but Swansea will certainly compete with this being a rivalry.
Airport at Midland Valley
Augusta Christian at Hammond
Batesburg-Leesville at Abbeville
Brookland-Cayce at North Augusta
CA Johnson at Columbia (At Keenan Stadium)
Central at North Central
Eau Claire at Calhoun County
Emerald at Mid-Carolina
Gray Collegiate at Lamar
Keenan at Fairfield Central
Pinewood Prep at Cardinal Newman
Porter-Gaud at Heathwood Hall
Richland Northeast at Lancaster
Saluda at Silver Bluff
Sumter at Lugoff-Elgin
Wilson Hall at Ben Lippen
Woodruff at Newberry
York at Ridge View