Friday night preview capsules: Plenty of story lines for Blue Devils vs. Trojans

  • Posted: Friday, October 11, 2013 12:08 a.m.
    UPDATED: Friday, October 11, 2013 12:26 a.m.
Staff photo by Mike Adams
Williston-Elko’s Antonio Coleman (1) and the Blue Devils will face former teammate Jarius Jenkins and Hunter-Kinard-Tyler in a Region 4-A battle.
Staff photo by Mike Adams Williston-Elko’s Antonio Coleman (1) and the Blue Devils will face former teammate Jarius Jenkins and Hunter-Kinard-Tyler in a Region 4-A battle.

Williston-Elko (5-2, 3-0) at Hunter-Kinard-Tyler (5-1, 2-0)

Last time they played

Williston-Elko defeated Hunter-Kinard-Tyler 42-0 last season.

Players to watch

Williston-Elko

• Taylor Hearn, OL/DL. A Clemson commit, Hearn has led the Blue Devils’ offensive line to dominant performances over a pair of region contenders in Wagener-Salley and Fox Creek.

• Faheem Richburg, WR/DB. In addition to being a presence in the Williston-Elko running game, Richburg is the team’s leading receiver with 17 catches for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He’s also picked off three passes on defense.

• Andrew Milligan, RB. Milligan has established himself as one of the Blue Devils’ main rushing assets and leads the team with 537 yards and seven touchdowns on 74 carries.

Hunter-Kinard-Tyler

• Jarius Jenkins, RB. Jenkins had 167 rushing yards and a 60-yard receiving touchdown last week. Add in the fact that he’s a transfer from Williston-Elko, and plenty of eyes will be on the junior tonight.

• Khaliq Anthony, QB. Anthony led the way for the Trojans last week, completing 9 of 15 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown, with 17 carries for 73 yards on the ground.

• Greg Bowens, DL. Bowens recorded five tackles and returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown in the Trojans’ 26-14 win over Blackville-Hilda.

What this means

This is the game Williston-Elko fans and observers of Class A fans likely circled back in the summer when news came out that Jenkins, the Blue Devils’ star from a year ago, had transferred to H-K-T.

The teams have done nothing to change the game’s high-profile status, sitting at the top of Region 4-A together. Yet Williston-Elko head coach Dwayne Garrick has said all along he’d place no greater importance on the Trojans than any other region foe, and he stuck to that line this week.

“It’s another region game,” he said. “We’ve got to focus on all of them.”

He did concede that the game has a higher importance because of the region standings. With the Blue Devils competing for high seeds in the Class A, Division I playoffs, the bonus points that come with winning the region will be vital to hosting at least a game or two in the playoffs.

“The importance of the winning part is we need to pick up those playoff points,” he said.

Keys to the game

Even with Jenkins looming in the Trojan backfield, Garrick pointed to Anthony as a major issue from his signal caller spot in the spread formation. As he showed last week, he’s capable of burning a defense either running or throwing the football.

“They’re really no different from Wagener-Salley,” Garrick said, putting Anthony in the same category as the War Eagles’ Malcolm Stroman. “We’ve got to contain the quarterback; that’s probably the biggest threat.”

The Blue Devils have shown the ability to hurt defenses both ways as well, and the offensive front led by Hearn have been a big part of that. Garrick said the team would evaluate which course of action to take after trying some things in the first quarter.

“We’ll go in and just kind of feel out the first quarter and see where we need to go from there,” he said.

What they’re saying

“Especially being in the Upper State, the best competition in A football is in the Division I, Upper State,” — Dwayne Garrick, Williston-Elko head coach

Midland Valley (4-2, 1-0) at Swansea (4-2, 1-0)

Last time they played

Swansea defeated Midland Valley 41-0 last season.

Players to watch

Midland Valley

• Daniel Carr, QB. Carr’s ability to extend plays by eluding pressure always makes the Mustangs a threat to break loose for a big play.

• Dré Carr, RB. Dré Carr can help the Mustangs dominate possession of the ball with his methodical, hard-nosed running which has produced 619 yards and 12 touchdowns on 100 carries this season.

• Trenton Baughman, WR. Kameron Brown draws more attention, but Baughman makes opponents pay for letting him get open with 14 receptions for 336 yards and four touchdowns this season.

Swansea

• Travis Loadholt, RB. Loadholt was the focal point of the Tigers’ offense last year when he rushed for more than 1,300 yards and a dozen touchdowns and is the lead back again this season.

• Johnathan Sutton, LB. The inside linebacker who anchors Swansea’s defense has college offers from South Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, UCLA, North Carolina and North Carolina State.

• Clay Lucas, QB. Lucas is completing more than 70 percent of his passes this season and leads his squad operating out of a number of different formations inlcuding the spread and also bunched up double-tight end looks.

What this means

Both of these squads opened Region 5-AAA play last week with wins and are among a group of four squads – including Brookland-Cayce and Gilbert – that are trying to make a push for one of the top two playoff berths and possibly unseat Strom Thurmond as the region’s top team. The winner of this game will have a huge advantage, with the other three contenders suffering at least one region setback after tonight’s games, while either the Mustangs or Tigers will have an unblemished mark.

“I’m glad to be 1-0,” said Rick Knight, Midland Valley head coach. “A win (tonight) puts you in the driver’s seat for home field in the playoffs. There’s a lot of ball to play, but beating Swansea at Swansea would give you a leg up.”

The Mustangs could also be playing with a chip on their shoulder. A year ago, the Tigers were one of the top-ranked teams in all of Class AAA and dispatched most of their opponents during the regular season. Midland Valley was one of the teams that lost to Swansea, finishing on the wrong side of a 41-point shutout.

The gap between the teams is much closer this season, and could favor the Mustangs – who field a prolific offense that’s averaging more than 31 points per game. In fact, it could be the Mustangs who hold the upper hand as the Tigers have lost two of three, with the only win coming in a well-contested game against a struggling Airport squad.

Keys to the game

The team that can effectively run the ball will likely win this game. Both teams have shown the ability to score in bunches and are balanced in their approach of attack. It stands to reason that if one team can dominate the ball with its running game it will dictate tempo and keep its potent counterpart stuck on the sideline.

Conversely, the defense that can limit the opposing running game and force obvious passing situations will have the upper hand.

“We need to get three-and-outs and get off the field,” Knight said of his defense, which has struggled for much of the season and is surrendering a shade less than 32 points per game. “We need intensity to get off the field on big downs. I can’t expect my offense to go out and score five or six touchdowns every Friday.”

The encouraging sign for Knight has been his defense’s play as of late. Two weeks ago, it shut out Baptist Hill and in spite of surrendering 28 points last Friday, it rose up in critical situations and shut Gilbert down in the red zone.

Swansea has had as much difficulty on defense, but surrendered 67 points combined in its two losses. It could be vulnerable to the Mustangs big-play abilities, but Knight isn’t expecting much of a drop off from the unit that held his team scoreless in 2012.

“Swansea has a toughness on defense,” he said, adding that he’s looking forward to the challenge. “They’ve been around the block, won games and expect to win games. But I expect to do what we’ve done and get better on offense.”

What they’re saying

“For our postseason hopes, this is a huge game,” — Rick Knight, Midland Valley head coach

Wade Hampton (3-3, 0-1) at Silver Bluff (5-1, 1-0)

Last time they played

Silver Bluff defeated Wade Hampton 35-7 last season.

Players to watch

Wade Hampton

• Sheldon Swofford, QB. The Red Devils’ quarterback has found success throwing the ball this season.

• D.J. Davis, RB. Davis is the Red Devils go-to running back.

• Daniel Gordon, WR. Gordon is one of the talented receivers Silver Bluff head Coach Al Lown has taken note of in preparing for this weeks game.

Silver Bluff

• Shaquez Wright, RB. Wright has already rushed for more than 600 yards on the year and has six rushing touchdowns.

• RJ Stallings, RB. Not only is Stallings one of the area’s top backs, he also leads the Bulldogs in receiving yardage.

• Jaylen Lawrence, QB/DB. Lawrence is the Bulldogs’ quarterback, but his defensive skills are a big part of Silver Bluff’s success as well. Lawrence returned an interception for a touchdown last week.

What this means

Both teams enter the games off of victories in their region openers. Silver Bluff could put itself in good position in Region 5-AA with a win in tonight’s game ahead of next week’s showdown with Edisto.

Wade Hampton hasn’t had much luck with the Bulldogs in recent years. The Red Devils last victory over Silver Bluff came in 2004, and they have been held to single digits in the teams’ last two meetings.

Keys to the game

Wade Hampton mixes in a good bit of run and passing on offense, and Lown feels more prepared for both after seeing his team adjust last week against Bamberg-Ehrhardt.

“I was pleased with what we did last week,” Lown said. “We expected (Bamberg-Ehrhardt) to come out in the pistol and run the ball a lot, but they were in the spread and threw the ball 36 times. I was happy with the adjustments out players and coaches made to hold them to seven points. Hopefully we can do more of the same on defense this week.”

On offense, the bulldogs plan to do more of the same, use their speed out of the backfield.

“Their D-Line is pretty good. They have a strong bunch, but we’re going to try to run as we always do,” Lown said.

What they’re saying

“We’re just trying to stay unbeaten in the region that’s the most important thing right now. They’re coming off a big win, and we want to get out second region win.” – Al Lown, Silver Bluff head coach

South Aiken (1-5) at Dutch Fork (4-2)

Last time they played

Dutch Fork defeated South Aiken 56-3 last season.

Players to watch

South Aiken

• Rasool Clemons, DE. The disruptive Clemons has 24 tackles this season, 10 of them for a loss of yards and has consistently drawn double and triple teams.

• Bo Baldwin, QB. A healthy Baldwin has been steadily improving each week and has accounted for close to 800 yards in total offense and eight touchdowns.

• Casey Sanders, OL/DL. Sanders has been part of an ensemble unit up front for the T-Breds that will have their work cut out for them tonight against a big, physical opponent.

Dutch Fork

• Derek Olenchuk, QB. Olenchuk is the leader of the Silver Foxes offense and has completed 93 of 128 passes for 1,312 yards and 16 touchdowns this season and is a threat on fourth down as the team’s punter.

• Marcus Taylor, LB. Taylor’s part of an aggressive defense that flies to the ball and is among the team leaders with 20 tackles and three sacks.

• Matt Colburn, RB. Colburn is Dutch Fork’s leading rusher with 866 yards and 13 touchdowns on 109 carries, but an injury has kept him out of the past two games – both losses – and his status for tonight is uncertain.

What this means

This is a big game for both teams because it’s their Region 5-AAAA opener. The Silver Foxes are the reigning region champs and played in the state championship game last season while the T-Breds narrowly missed out on the postseason in 2012 and have made qualifying for the second season their top priority this year.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs and we’ve got five games to do that,” South Aiken head coach Jeremy West said of his team, which enters tonight with a 1-5 record in large part because it played a daunting non-region schedule that included losses to five teams all ranked in the top 10 of their class in South Carolina Prep Media Football poll. “We hope the schedule we’ve played has prepared us for region play.”

The T-Breds are looking for a win, but they’ll also try to prove that they’re a better team than the one that lost to the Silver Foxes by more than 50 points a year ago. West said that game was embarassing, but believes his squad is improved, in spite of its record.

“We’ve given everybody almost everything they could handle and have been in almost every game,” he said, although he was quick to point out that the time for moral victories is over. “That’s not good enough anymore. We need to get wins and get in the playoffs.”

Getting a win has been a challenge for Dutch Fork. after storming out to a 4-0 start, it has dropped its past two games. Losing 35-21 to perennial power Goose Creek isn’t anything to be down about. But last week’s 42-41 overtime loss to Irmo, a traditional power that hasn’t been great this season, was more surprising.

The Silver Foxes have been without Colburn, their top rusher and kick returner, something that’s definitely been a factor in the losses. But they’ve made mistakes and failed to finish drives that resulted in points earlier in the season. They could be teetering on the edge, ripe for an upset. Or, as West warned, Dutch Fork could be, “good and angry,” and looking to prove they remain among the state’s elite.

“It will be an interesting environment. Dutch Fork’s not used to losing,” West said.

Keys to the game

It’s true of any game, but South Aiken must have crisp execution. As West said, the T-Breds have been in almost every game they’ve played this year, but have lost more than they’ve son because of mistakes. Be it turnovers, penalties, missed assignments or missed tackles – South Aiken has done something to hurt its own chances against an elite opponent that isn’t sparing margin for error.

West said last week’s bye offered the players and coaches a chance to get back to basics and focus on better fundamental execution. He’ll be looking for that from the start, as the T-Breds have found themselves in first quarter deficits in most games. Falling in an early hole has proven to be the difference in the outcome in most of the losses.

“We can’t wait until the second quarter to say, ‘Hey, we can play with these guys.’ By then, it’s too late,” West said. “We’ve got to start fast and believe we can play with anybody.”

Speed will also be critical to this game. Dutch Fork likes to work at a rapid pace and run a lot of plays on offense. They use a variety of formations – from the spread to two tight end sets – but run similar plays out of the various schemes. It will be critical for South Aiken to disrupt that flow and stifle it by getting Olenchuk off the field.

When South Aiken has the ball, it must still be wary of Dutch Fork’s team speed. The Silver Foxes put a lot of pressure on opposing offenses, and will often bring heat from the edge. That means the T-Breds must be precise in running their plays and could try a few wrinkles to take advantage of their hosts aggressiveness.

What they’re saying

“We haven’t played our best ball yet. We’ve played quality teams, and compared to year’s past, we’ve been more competitive. But we didn’t help ourselves out,” — Jeremy West, South Aiken head coach

Aiken (1-5) at White Knoll (5-1)

Last time they played

White Knoll defeated Aiken 28-27 in overtime last season.

Players to watch

Aiken

• Terrell Lewis, RB. With Nakeem Spann hampered by a lower leg injury, Lewis had 24 carries for 88 yards last week in a 34-20 loss to Blythewood.

• Stacey Toole, WR. Toole had three catches for 51 yards and a touchdown in last week’s loss. Head coach Brian Neal said Toole’s size and speed make him a weapon.

• Defensive front. Against a much larger offensive line for the Timberwolves, Neal said his front seven will have to use their quickness as an advantage.

White Knoll

• Quinn Jones, RB. Jones had three touchdowns in a 41-21 loss to Spring Valley last week, two rushing and a 99-yard kick return.

• Craig Blakey, QB. Blakey had his best game in a 55-34 win over Carolina Forest earlier this year, completing 11 of 18 passes for 273 yards with three touchdowns, and he also ran for a score.

• Christian Taylor, OL. At 6-foot-5 and about 330 pounds, Taylro has offers Coastal Carolina, Marshall and N.C. State, and he’s received interest from several others.

What this means

Aiken has made strides in recent weeks, but due to mistakes and a couple tough opponents, the Hornets have only one win.

That doesn’t have to keep them out of the Class AAAA playoffs, though. With the top three teams out of Region 5-AAAA making the postseason automatically, tonight’s region opener takes on added meaning.

“Well, it kind of puts the bad stuff behind us and hopefully carry some of the good stuff with us into region,” Neal said.

A win over the Timberwolves, who made the Class AAAA, Division I semifinals a year ago, would further magnify that “good stuff.”

Keys to the game

Taylor and Co. will be a load up front for the Aiken defense.

Because of that, Neal said it will be important for his linemen and linebackers to stay active and not allow their larger opponents to manhandle them.

“We’ve just got to move around a little bit and not give them the same look,” he said.

The Timberwolves will try to use that size to move the football out of a couple formations, mainly the I. That’s a departure from the jumbled rugby scrum they’ve employed in recent years.

On the other side of the ball, ball security will be important for the Hornet ball carriers. They fumbled five times against Blythewood, and the combination of Lewis, Dramel Coleman and others will need to cut back on that number in their region opener.

Neal also said that he would work on quarterback Caleb Heath getting Toole the ball more, saying the issue has been play selection not execution by Toole.

“We’ve just go the get him the ball more,” Neal said. “It’s more on me than it is him.”

What they’re saying

“Protecting the football is our No. 1 thing. We haven’t been doing that well.” — Brian Neal, Aiken head coach

Strom Thurmond (5-1, 1-0) at Airport (1-5, 0-1)

Last time they played

Strom Thurmond defeated Airport 41-6 last season.

Players to watch

Strom Thurmond

• Jauveer Hammond, QB. Hammond’s surgical 13-of-17, 200-yard, three-touchdown effort in a 42-13 thrashing of Brookland-Cayce last week showed that he’s continuing to heat up in the passing department.

• Kendall Hill, WR. A week after putting up 129 receiving yards against North Augusta, Hill caught a pair of touchdown passes against Brookland-Cayce.

• Kenyatta Dunbar, LB. Dunbar leads the Rebels with 37 tackles, and his inside position requires versatility and discipline.

Airport

• Kadarius Jackson, QB/WR. One of three quarterbacks the Eagles have rotated into action, Jackson completed 5 of 9 passes for 34 yards and ran for 118 yards in an early-season battle with Brookland-Cayce.

• Dylan Harrington, QB. Another option under center, Harrington completed 10 of 16 passes for 81 yards in the 35-30 loss to the Bearcats.

• Ben Wertz, WR. Lining up mostly in the slot and acting as a possession receiver, Strom Thurmond coach Lee Sawyer said Wertz was adept at moving the chains with short- to mid-range receptions.

What this means

Strom Thurmond made a statement last week, battering the previously unbeaten Bearcats to join Midland Valley and Swansea in the winners’ half of the region.

A second win would be an even bigger advantage. With the Mustangs and Tigers playing tonight, the Rebels could tie for a one-game lead or more over four teams in Region 5-AAA.

“If you can start out 2-0, you’ve separated yourself from a lot of the region,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer has been quick to point out that, even though Airport is down right now, the Eagles have caused his team trouble in the past. In 2007 – the last time the Rebels failed to win their region, Airport beat Strom Thurmond 25-19 in Johnston to take the Region 4-AAA crown.

Keys to the game

With multiple quarterbacks providing both running and passing threats, Sawyer said his linebackers will be forced to be even more focused than usual. Considering the dual threat nature of at least two of those quarterbacks, the group – including Dunbar and Nate Bright – may have to keep eyes on the skies and ground in the same play.

“They’re going to have to get in their pass drop if need be and stop that running game,” Sawyer said.

With Hammond spreading the ball around to Hill, Deondre Ryan and Tyree Stidem with success the last two weeks, players and coaches alike are showing confidence in the Rebels’ passing attach. Given the nature of the Airport defense, the Rebels may have to assert themselves on that front again tonight.

“Airport brings a lot of people, blitzes a lot, so we may have to do that even more this Friday,” Sawyer said of his team’s air attack.

What they’re saying

“They’re a team, they’re going to break out one night, ... and you’ve just got to make sure it’s not against us.” — Lee Sawyer, Strom Thurmond head coach

Fox Creek (4-2, 1-1) at North (2-4, 0-3)

Last time they played

Fox Creek defeated North 48-12 last season.

Players to watch

Fox Creek

• Deondre Baskett, QB. Baskett’s ability to pass the ball and pick up chunks of yardage on the ground makes him a key asset for the Predators offense.

• Ikel El, RB. The entire Predator’s backfield is a threat to the Eagles defense, but El is the team’s main work horse. He leads Fox Creek in rushing with 422 yards.

• Cory Lucas, LB. The Junior linebacker can be found wherever the ball is on the field. He is the leading tackler for Fox Creek so far.

North

• Darrien Wise, QB/DB. Wise is a big part of the Eagles offense, especially with his legs. He also makes an impact on the defensive side of the ball. He had a big interception last week against Wagener-Salley.

• Da’Quan Jones, RB. Da’Quan Jones is a third of the eagles rushing attack. He is also a target in the passing game at times.

• Josh Harley, RB/LB. Harley’s speed makes him dangerous out of the backfield and in the return game for the Eagles. He returned a kickoff 93 for North’s only score last week.

What this means

Fox Creek had its four game winning streak snapped last week in a region loss to Williston-Elko. Now the Predators will be looking to bounce back and avoid losing any more ground in the region.

North looked good for the first half of its loss last week against Wagener-Salley. The Eagles only trailed by eight points heading into the half. The team will be looking to build on some of the positive moments they showed last friday night.

Keys to the game

Fox Creek head coach Russ Schneider was pleased with what his team showed him last week despite the loss. He doesn’t plan to change much in his approach this week.

“We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Schneider said. “We’ve watched a lot of film on (North) and they’re a much better team than they’ve been in the past.”

One aspect of the offense that Schneider is looking to imoprove on from last week was the running game. Schneider said he wants to get El going again after Williston figured the Predators power back out last week.

“We’ve got to get him more involved this week,” Schneider said.

What they’re saying

“North is coming in with nothing to lose in this game. On top of that were going in there on their homecoming so it’s an easy opportunity for a letdown. We’ve been telling our kids that every team in the region is good.” Russ Schneider, Fox Creek head coach.

Blackville-Hilda (2-4, 1-2) at Ridge Spring-Monetta (3-3, 0-2)

Last time they played

Blackville-Hilda defeated Ridge Spring-Monetta 31-28 last season.

Players to watch

Blackville-Hilda

• Darren Ford, RB. Ford has a couple of 100-plus yard rushing performances on the year and is a big part of the special teams for the Fighting Hawks.

• Jarvaris Washington, RB. Washington is the No. 2 back for Blackville-Hilda.

• Isaiah Harrison, QB.

Ridge Spring-Monetta

• Reggie Preston, QB. Preston is one of the many playmakers on the offensive side of the ball for the Trojans. He is close to the 1000-yard mark passing.

• Travious Wigfall, RB. Wigfall knows how to find the end zone. He has eight touchdowns on the ground this season, and he has another six receiving.

• Stanley Roland, LB. The Sophomore has made an impact for the Trojans defense. He leads Ridge Spring-Monetta with 71 tackles on the season.

What this means

Coming off a bye week the Trojans will be eager to get back in the win column tonight. Ridge Spring-Monetta dropped its first two games off region play in close fashion, with the second loss coming in double overtime to Fox Creek. The 0-2 start has put the Trojans in what is close to a must win situation against Blackville-Hilda.

Wins have been hard to come for the Hawks, who have stumbled out of the gate in region play as well. They’re also attempting to dig out of the bottom half of the standings.

“The kids are pretty upbeat,” Ridge Spring-Monetta head coach Heath Corley said of his teams mood after the two close losses. “The biggest thing is we know we’re close. We are a few plays away from being 2-0 instead of 0-2. We just have to make those couple of plays to get over the hump, and the kids know that.”

Keys to the game

Corley said his squad has mainly been focusing on what they are doing as opposed to the Fighting Hawks.

“We haven’t been overemphasizing anything in particular other than the basics,” he said. “We know what we can do on the field so we just need to execute.”

However, Corley is aware of Blackville-Hilda’s style of football and knows what his team will face tonight. The Trojans’ opponent has built a reputation as a tough football team.

“They have a hard-nose group of guys over there,” Corley said. “ They can run the football well and do a good job of producing offense.”

The bye week gave some of the Trojans a chance to recover from some injuries. However, the Trojans are still unsure if offensive guard Trenton Herrin will be back in the fold this week. Herrin hasn’t practiced with the team since the game against Fox Creek, But Corley is still holding out hope that the two-way lineman will be able to go. The coach added that getting better up front will be a key to the game this week.

Another key to the offense will be figuring out a way to get receiver Samuel Bedenbaugh more involved in the offense. He had some big games earlier in the year, but teams started taking note of his ability and put more pressure on him as the season went on.

What they’re saying

“Our region is pretty tough this year, and every team has talent. (Blackville-Hilda) is no different. They’re a tradition program and have been good for a while. That’s why coach Berry has been there so long,” — Heath Corley, Ridge Spring-Monetta head coach

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