When Midland Valley coach Rick Knight was assessing his team’s performance in Friday’s 34-27 loss to Strom Thurmond, he talked about the value of competing against a top-five team in Class AAA.
To be exact, the Rebels (9-1) were tied for No. 4 in the state in the most recent media poll, and now the Mustangs (6-4) will get a crack at the other No. 4, defending state champion Hartsville (9-1), in the first round of the playoffs.
“You play North Augusta and you play Silver Bluff and you play Strom Thurmond trying to prepare yourselves for these situations,” Knight said of his third-seeded Mustangs from Region 5-AAA. “But every team is different.”
The Red Foxes, whom Knight said were a very fast team top to bottom, came out of Region 6-AAA as the second seed after a three-way tie for first with Crestwood and Marlboro County. The tiebreaker was defensive points allowed in the head-to-head games, which went in Crestwood’s favor for the No. 1 seed thanks to a 10-7 win over the Red Foxes.
Even though Hartsville is certainly a tough draw for the first round, Knight was happy with his team’s regular-season performance.
“Of course we’d like to win another game or two; everybody would,” he said. “But I’m happy with the situation.”
Strom Thurmond won Region 5-AAA outright and drew Darlington (6-4), Region 6-AAA’s No. 4 team. Rebel head coach said that Darlington quarterback Shakeem Thomas and wide receivers like Melvin Smith are dangerous, but the Falcons are coming off back-to-back losses to Hartsville and Marlboro County with a combined score of 80-0.
“They’re a spread team, look like they’ve got speed, but they’ve struggled against good teams in the region like Marlboro County and Hartsville,” Sawyer said.
Unlike the Mustangs, the Rebels will enjoy home-field advantage at least for the first two rounds, assuming they can knock off Darlington. Sawyer said he hoped the atmosphere in Johnston, with Strom Thurmond’s recently renovated and larger stadium, will be a tough environtment for the visiting Falcons after a more than two-hour journey.
“I would hope it’s huge,” he said of the home-field advantage. “I hope, as usual, we can pack it out, make it a tough place to play for the opposing team.”
The Class AAA teams were the only ones to find out their playoff futures on Saturday. Even though the area Class A and AA schools were able to complete their seasons either Thursday or Friday, several schools throughout the state postponed games until Saturday. As a result, the brackets for those classes – with two divisions each – won’t be released until today.
That will matter very little for Region 5-AA champion Silver Bluff, which has a bye regardless in the first round.
For the area’s four Class A teams, they’ll find out at a morning meeting today whom they play on Friday. In Division I’s Upper State draw, Williston-Elko (8-2) can expect a relatively high seed thanks to their Region 4-A title and will likely play Region 3-A’s C.A. Johnson (4-6).
Head coach Dwayne Garrick wasn’t worried about the wait.
“We’ll break down what we need to do (this) afternoon and be ready for practice,” he said.
All year, the Region 4-A coaches have talked about the balance and overall strength of the Region, but that might work against Fox Creek (6-4).
The Predators finished fourth in the region with a 3-3 record, but Southside Christian (3-7) might edge them for one of the last seeds with its third-place finish in the four-team Region 2-A.
“As of right now, we might not be getting in,” said Predator head coach Russ Schneider.
Down in Division II’s Upper State draw, area fans might get a touch of déjà vu on Friday. Wagener-Salley head coach Ken Tucker said that it appears the War Eagles (7-3) will be the No. 3 seed behind Hunter-Kinard-Tyler and Region 3-A’s second-place team Great Falls, despite a 5-5 overall record.
Wagener-Salley’s likely first-round foe is Week 10 opponent and rival Ridge Spring-Monetta (5-5). Tucker said the potential familiarity negates any inconvenience resulting from the delay in the bracket process.
“Well, if it turns out to be Ridge Spring, it really won’t affect us that much because we’ve done all the work,” Tucker said, with his team having won the first matchup 35-28.
Ridge Spring-Monetta head coach Heath Corley also wasn’t fazed by the shortened work week. Corley said that, by this point in the season, the teams are well aware of their own strengths and won’t be making too many major changes, something the other coaches echoed.
“It’s nothing to it,” he said. “We’ve been doing this 11, 12 weeks now. We could do it in two days now if we needed to except for the healing process.”
All games are at 7:30 p.m.
Darlington at Strom Thurmond
Midland Valley at Hartsville
Matchups for Class A and Class AA will be announced today.
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