DUTCH FORK (3-3) AT SOUTH AIKEN (0-6)
Last time they playedDutch Fork defeated South Aiken 31-7 in 1999.
Players to watchSouth Aiken• Bo Baldwin, QB. The heralded quarterback is returning from a broken hand suffered in the season opener and will be called on to get even more out of an offense that performed well in his absence.
• DeAndre Schoultz, WR/RB/KR/S. If Baldwin has success it will likely mean getting the ball to Schoultz, who has 673 combined rushing and receiving yards this season and four touchdowns.
• Will Holbrook, LB/TE. Holbrook performed admirably filling in at quarterback and now will be freed to show off his toughness as the leader of the defense and a interesting option as a receiver. Holbrook recorded 12 tackles in his last game pulling double duty and had his coach saying he can’t thank him enough for his effort.
Dutch Fork• Derek Olenchuk, QB. Olenchuck has impressive numbers, completing 118 of 184 passes this season for 1,470 yards and five touchdowns and could try to take advantage of the Thoroughbreds’ pass defense.
• Jordan Berry, WR. Berry is Olenchuk’s top target with 58 receptions for 889 yards (an average of 15.3 yards per catch) and five touchdowns.
• Jamar Winston, DE. Winston can cause trouble firing into opposing backfields, recording 42 tackles and four sacks so far this season.
What this meansThis is the Region 5-AAAA opener for both teams, and both are looking to show they’re better than their record indicates through their first six games.
South Aiken remains winless and is desperately in search of that first ‘W’ to snap a 15-game losing skid dating back to last season. In fairness to the Thoroughbreds, they’ve been decimated by injuries and been defeated by opponents that have combined to go 29-7 so far this season, with at least three realistic state title contenders among them. But for the first time since the season opener, South Aiken should have close to its full compliment of players as it embarks on its region schedule.
“We’ve got the full team back,” head coach Jeremy West said of his squad, which not only will have Baldwin back, but also offensive linemen Casey Sanders, Jake Reagin, and Bradley Murphy along with offensive lineman/linebacker Nick Golden, defensive linemen Rasool Clemmons and Terrance Sanders as well as running back Damion Brown. Matt Albertson and Adam Allen, who battled through pain, are also expected to be back at full strength. “We came into the season with high expectations. Now we finally get our roster back and see what we can do.”
Dutch Fork also has high hopes and has played better than it’s 3-3 mark indicates. It suffered losses to Palmetto State powerhouses Dorman and Goose Creek and top Kentucky team St. Xavier, and should be considered one of the favorites to win Region 5-AAAA. It might try to make a statement against South Aiken.
Keys to the gameDutch Fork’s offensive philosophy is similar to the one catching fire in college football run by West Virginia, Clemson and Oregon among others. The Silver Foxes play an up-tempo style and try to run as many plays as possible on their way marching up and down the field. They’re averaging 34 points per game, including the losses to the aforementioned heavyweights Dorman and Goose Creek.
WHITE KNOLL (5-1) AT AIKEN (2-4)
Last time they playedWhite Knoll won 14-7 last year.
Players to watchAiken• Nakeem Spann, RB/DB. Even after limited contributions early, Spann has 439 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the season.
• Robert Davis, DT. Davis toughed out an injury last week appears to be in better shape this week. The player nicknamed “Juicy” will need to be in top form against the Timberwolves’ running game.
• Ishmael Mays, OL. Mays and the rest of the Hornet offensive line will be tasked with holding off a bigger White Knoll defensive front.
White Knoll• Delvin Riley, QB/DB. Riley scored twice last week and also had an interception and forced fumble on defense in White Knoll’s win over Spring Valley.
• Quin Jones, RB. Jones has flourished in the Timberwolves’ scrum offense, racking up over 200 rushing yards against Carolina Forest.
• Jacob Poston, LB. Poston turned in 13 tackles, a sack and a blocked punt in White Knoll’s win over Lugoff-Elgin.
What this meansAiken got a rare treat in the middle of its schedule in the form of three home games in a row.
The catch?Those games came against Irmo, Blythewood and White Knoll. Irmo has had the Hornets’ number recently, and Blythewood and White Knoll are a combined 10-2. As a result, Aiken is coming into this game on a two-game losing streak.
Throw in the fact that tonght’s game is the Region 5-AAAA opener for both teams, and the significance of a win for either team can’t be ignored.
Aiken head coach Carey Johnson said that he was more interested in region victories but that picking up at least one win during this home stretch was important.
“You want to defend your house, no doubt about that,” he said.
Keys to the gameOn both sides of the ball, the battle in the trenches will be crucial to the Hornets’ success. Johnson said that technique and will power will be required for his team to get the upper hand against its larger foes.
“We ain’t near as big as they are, got to have a lot of heart,” Johnson said.
On offense, the Hornets are still experimenting with the right fit for quarterback, which could include Will Heggs, Devante Gaiters or even Nakeem Spann under center. Whoever is taking the snaps, the Hornets’ offensive line will have a tall task keeping his jersey clean, and Johnson added that an early passing threat will also be key to getting some relief inside.
“We’re going to have to be able to loosen them up, get the ball in the air a little bit,” he said.
On the other side of the ball, Davis and the rest of the Hornet defense will be attempting to slice through the tightly packed scrum offense that the Timberwolves usually use. They will spread out occasionally, but Johnson said he expects most snaps will come from a double-wing set with three running backs placed close to the quarterback.
What they’re saying“I don’t care if they’re 0-99, right now we just start the region with a win.” — Aiken head coach Carey Johnson
SWANSEA (6-0) AT MIDLAND VALLEY (2-4)
Last time they playedMidland Valley defeated Swansea 30-10 in 2009.
Players to watchMidland Valley
• Daniel Carr, QB. The freshman has provided a spark as the Mustangs have posted a 2-0 record since he took over as the starting quarterback in large part because of his athleticism and execution.
• Dre Carr, RB. The sophomore has emerged as a workhorse running back and has as much success running for tough yards between the tackles as he has bouncing outside.
• Xavier Leaphart, LB. Leaphart is one of the players head coach Rick Knight has sighted for giving a tremendous effort which has helped him record 52 tackles, two sacks and an interception this season.
Swansea• Terrance Salley, DE/TE. Salley is among the most disruptive players on the Tigers’ stifling defense with a team-best seven sacks and also has five touchdown catches this seaosn.
• Travis Loadholt, RB. Loadholt carries the load for Swansea on offense, rushing for 860 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
• Robbie Brown, WR. Brown is the top target of quarterback Jordan Chavis and has 23 receptions for 442 yards and four touchdowns this season, making him the object of attention college recruiters.
What this meansBoth teams enter this Region 5-AAA contest on winning streaks. Midland Valley has rebounded from a slow start and won its past two games, and after one region contest is tied for first place with the preseason favorites. One of those favorites is Swansea, which is undefeated this season and coming off a solid 22-0 win over Airport, another top contender. Both teams are feeling good about what they’ve accomplished and the possibilities that lie ahead.
“We’re real pleased with how we’ve played the last two weeks,” Knight said. “The chemistry of their team is a big thing. The kids play hard, but it’s easier to play hard when you’re undefeated. … They’re having fun playing football you can tell”
Keys to the gameFor Midland Valley to extend its winning ways, it must avoid mistakes that would make it easier for a talented Swansea squad to run out to a big lead. The Mustangs must avoid turnovers that would give the Tigers a short field.
Midland Valley must also try to possess the ball as much as possible. That will mean the offense is effective but also reduce the number of opportunities Swansea has to accumulate points. Knight’s asking his defense to force the Tigers to go three-and-out as much as possible. He’s aware of Swansea’s ability on offense but knows that making it try and sustain longer drives will work in his team’s favor. It should also help in the battle of field position, setting his own offense up for success and avoiding short fields for the Tigers.
What they’re saying“We want to get better each week. We want to complete and have a chance at the end.” — Rick Knight, Midland Valley head coach
NORTH (1-5) AT FOX CREEK (1-5)
Last time they playedFox Creek won 55-20 last year.
Players to watchFox Creek• Trey Mock, QB. Mock showed toughness last week against Williston-Elko. After Deondre Baskett was forced from the game, Mock was asked to play every snap at QB for a team that was out matched physically.
• Alan Randell, DL/OL. The anchor of the Predators’ D-Line will start seeing time on the offensive line as well, in an attempt to get some more size there.
• Brandon Gladney, WR. Gladney got through last week’s game with no setbacks and should be good to go for Fox Creek this week.
North• Darrien Wise, QB//S. Wise is a mobile QB who makes big plays with his legs. The sophomore has also made strides as a passer. He also plays as a safety on defense.
• Andre Blackwell, WR/S. The 6-foot-5 Blackwell provides a bit target for Wise and he is capable of making plays just on his athleticism. He will also see time as a safety and likely be near or around Gladney most of the game.
• Malik Sanders, RB/LB. The freshman has been impressive as a running back, but he also is a strong tackler on defense. He is also a returner for the team on special teams.
What this meansBoth teams come into this matchup on losing streaks. The Predators have lost three in a row and the Eagles have lost five in a row. Conveniently enough, both teams’ lone wins came against Branchville.
This is also a game that the Predators cannot take for granted.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Fox Creek head coach Russ Schneider said. “They play hard out there. We know if we win, though, we still have a shot. These next three weeks against Hunter-Kinard-Tyler, Wagener-Salley and Blackville-Hilda are going to be tough. We need to get our stuff together for sure.”
Keys to the gameFox Creek has faced a tough stretch in recent weeks and as a result their offense has been out or sorts.
“We absolutely have to stay on our blocks this week,” Schneider said. “We need to execute our plays. There are guys out there who run things perfect in practice, but then they freeze up out there and it has led to a number of botched plays.”
With the rash of injuries the Predators have faced, however, that isn’t unexpected.
“It comes down to the kids not having game experience. We’ve had nine freshmen out there at once,” Schneider said. “It’s good in the sense that we are able to get them out there and get them some playing time, but it has been killing us not to have some of our upperclassmen in there.”
The Predators’ offense will try to get on track with Mock, Baskett and Gladney leading the way. The addition of Randell to the offensive line should also help in providing protection. Defensively, Fox Creek knows they will face a heavy dose of the run.
“They run the ball well, they move well, especially the quarterback (Wise),” Schneider said. “As luck would have it, stopping the run is something we’ve had trouble with.”
What they’re saying“I hope that we are able to get a win and the kids will feel better about themselves. I wish we could see what we have when we’re all healthy and together but that just hasn’t been the case for us.” — Russ Schneider, Fox Creek head coach