1. Strom Thurmond (50)
Final Record: 12-2, 5-0 Region 5-AAA
Notable: Won Region 5-AAA championship and advanced to Class AAA Lower State title game
The Rebels were the undisputed king of the Aiken Standard power rankings, holding the top spot in the poll the entire season, and were the unanimous selection almost every week. Their season came to a somewhat unexpected end on Friday in a 20-10 loss to Hartsville, a week shy of the state championship game. But it was still a remarkable year for the boys from Johnston, who dominated almost every opponent and won 12 consecutive games at one point.
2. Silver Bluff (45)
Final Record: 11-2, 5-0 Region 5-AA
Notable: Won Region 5-AA championship and advanced to Class AA, Division II Lower State title game
The Bulldogs overachieved in many ways all season and in spite of the loss of key seniors from last yearís squad and a rash of injuries, they returned to the state semifinals for the second season in a row. Unfortunately for Silver Bluff, a tough Bishop England squad eliminated it for the second consecutive year, falling 42-7 on Friday. But a perfect run through the region and holding their own as one of the top teams in Aiken-area rivalry games makes this a season to be proud of for the Bulldogs.
3. North Augusta (40)
Final Record: 9-4, 4-1 Region 5-AAAA
Notable: Finished second in Region 5-AAAA and advanced to the second round of the Class AAAA, Division II playoffs
The Yellow Jackets just missed returning to the state semifinals for the third consecutive season because of a last-second field goal in a loss to Greenwood, an undefeated squad that has one of the best home-field advantages in all of South Carolina. In spite of the challenges, North Augusta played one of its best games of the season Ė one that included a five-game winning streak and a second-place finish in the region to Dutch Fork, which is playing for the state title Ė against Greenwood, which will also vie for a state crown. The Yellow Jackets overcame the loss of more than a dozen starters from last yearís team but made a near-seamless transition this season and established a strong foundation of players expected to return next season.
4. Williston-Elko (34)
Final Record: 8-3, 6-0 Region 4-A
Notable: Won Region 4-A championship and lost in the first round of the Class A, Division I playoffs
The Blue Devils continued their dominance in region, stretching their winning streak against conference foes to 30 consecutive games thatís intact heading into next year. After winning the region crown, they made an unexpected early exit from the playoffs, losing to Ware Shoals following a fourth-quarter collapse. While the end of the season might have come sooner than expected, it was another strong year in Williston and there should be no let up next season.
5. Wagener-Salley (31)
Final Record: 8-3, 4-2 Region 4-A
Notable: Finished fourth in Region 4-A and lost in the first round of the Class A, Division II playoffs
This was a breakthrough season for the War Eagles. After being mired in one losing season after another, they rose from the bottom of the region ranks to one of the most exciting teams, fueled by a high-powered offense. The season came to an abrupt end in the playoff opener, as Wagener-Salley lost to Blackville-Hilda for the second time this year, with the two games decided by a total of six points. But it shouldnít be another eight-year absence between playoff berths as the War Eagles are expected to have most of this seasonís top contributors back in 2013.
6. Midland Valley (23)
Final Record: 4-7, 3-2 Region 5-AAA
Notable: Finished third in Region 5-AAA and lost in the first round of the Class AAA playoffs
Despite a losing record, this is a season to be proud of for anyone associated with the Midland Valley football program. The Mustangs overcame a one-win season in 2011 and a slow start to this year, that included four consecutive losses to win four of their last six regular-season games. They returned to the playoffs after a one-year absence thanks in large part to the contributions of a core of freshmen and sophomores who could lead to a bright future for Midland Valley.
7. Ridge Spring-Monetta (21)
Final Record: 4-7, 2-4 Region 4-A
Notable: Finished fifth in Region 4-A and lost in the first round of the Class A, Division I playoffs
Under first-year head coach Heath Corley, the Trojans adjusted to a new style and returned to the postseason. Several key players are expected to return in 2013 raising the level of expectations for a team that struggled against the tougher opponents on its schedule.
8. South Aiken (16)
Final Record: 2-9, 2-3 Region 5-AAAA
Notable: Finished fourth in Region 5-AAAA and missed the playoffs for the third year in a row
Decimated by injuries and perhaps the toughest schedule in South Carolina, the Thoroughbreds lost their first seven games of the season. But the team never quit, got lots of players back for the end of the year which saw the T-Breds go 2-2 in the final four games and threaten for a playoff spot. It might be some consolation that three of the teams to beat South Aiken are playing for a state title, while three more advanced to the state semifinals and eight of the nine made the playoffs. But the best salve for the T-Breds was winning their season finale over Aiken, snapping a four-game losing skid to their crosstown rivals and finishing a trying year the best way possible with the hope it can carry over to 2013.
9. Fox Creek (9)
Final Record: 2-8, 1-5 Region 4-A
Notable: Finished fifth in Region 4-A and missed the playoffs for the first time in the past three seasons
The Predators took a step back from the success they enjoyed the past few seasons because of the loss of too many key players to graduation and failed to qualify for the postseason. To their credit, the players that took the field this season for Fox Creek competed hard in every game and laid the foundation for what could be the next playoff run in the young programís history.
10. Aiken (6)
Final Record: 2-9, 0-5 Region 5-AAAA
Notable: Finished sixth in Region 5-AAAA and missed the playoffs for the third year in a row
The Hornets lost their last seven games in what turned out to be a disappointing season. They had small numbers of players on the team and when injuries occurred, didnít have enough depth to overcome them as well as issues on offense that were never resolved. Aiken will need great spring and summer sessions to show its headed in the right direction and can begin to reclaim its spot as the team to beat for area rivals, otherwise next season could also be very difficult.
What do the rankings mean?
The Aiken Standard power rankings is a system designed by our sports staff to rank the strength of the 10 area high school football teams. Five voters - Noah Feit (sports editor), Jeremy Timmerman (sports writer), Scott Rodgers (sports writer), Ed Girardeau (ASTV play-by-play voice) and Ken Brace (ASTV analyst) - ranked each team 1-10, based on the teamsí strength within their class. Ranking Wagener-Salley ahead of Aiken, for example, isnít a prediction that the War Eagles would win the head-to-head battle between those two clubs, but instead an indication of the votersí belief that Wagener-Salley is a bigger force within Class A than Aiken is within Class AAAA. A team received 10 points for a first-place vote, nine for a second-place vote, eight for a third place vote, etc. The votes were then tallied, and the teams were put in order based on their point totals. This is the final poll of the season.