Ridge Spring-Monetta (5-5) at Wagener-Salley (7-3)

Last time they played


Wagener-Salley defeated Ridge Spring-Monetta 35-28 last week.


Players to watch


Ridge Spring-Monetta


• Travious Wigfall, RB. Wigfall was responsible for all four of the Trojan’s touchdowns in last weeks loss. He exploded for 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns and added a receiving touchdown as well.


• Samuel Bedenbaugh, QB. Bedenbaugh also got in on the rushing action, going for 91 yards. He continues to be effective in the passing game in place of the injured Reggie Preston.


• Stanley Roland, LB. Roland is the leading tackler for the Trojans and will be tasked with helping slow down Eric Corley and Ke’Aunri Holmes.


Wagener-Salley


• Quintin Clemons, DE. Clemons’ 23 tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss don’t make him one of the War Eagles’ top defenders, but he’ll be tasked with replacing injured UNC Charlotte commit RJ Tyler for at least this week.


• Eric Corley, RB. Corley is second in the area to Wigfall in rushing with 1,271 yards, and he returned a key kickoff for an 85-yard touchdown in last week’s win.


• Malcolm Stroman, QB. Stroman accounted for more than 600 rushing yards, 1,200 passing yards and 23 total touchdowns in the regular season for the War Eagles.


What this means


After a tough loss for the Trojans in the regular season finale, Ridge Spring-Monetta will get a chance to exact revenge for the seven-point loss last Thursday. This time, however, the game will be in Wagener, and the stakes are much higher as the Class A, Division II playoffs get started.


Ridge Spring-Monetta head coach Heath Corley said he and his team tries not to get to worried about going on the road. Wagener’s home field advantage may be nullified by the Trojans approach to away games.


“We don’t buy into what goes on outside the fence,” he said. “We let everybody else enjoy the atmosphere. When teams get caught up in the environment too much, that’s when big plays are given up.”


The War Eagles, meanwhile, have earned their first home playoff game since 2004, also the last time they advanced past the first round of the playoffs.


Head coach Ken Tucker said that he had avoided talking about any sort of future in the playoffs with his players, focusing instead on the urgency of the moment.


“You know, all week, I’ve been preaching to them, ‘You’ve got to take this thing now one week at a time, one play at a time,’” Tucker said.


Keys to the game


Not much of the gameplan will be different for the Trojans. Corley said the run will still be a big part of the game for his team, and he hopes that the passing game is a little more crisp this time around. The biggest thing he is hoping will change is his teams play along the line.


“We pretty much got manhandled up front, and (Eric Corley) and (Holmes) ran at will,” the coach said. “We have to do a better job up front, and we’ll have a good chance.”


In addition to the play of the line, Ridge Spring-Monetta gave up some big plays. Corley hopes last week’s game woke his team up.


“It was just a rude reminder that you can’t take a play off or relax at all,” he said.


Tucker said that, in addition to the usual focus on the running game on offense, Wagener-Salley has had to find ways to replace Tyler in each of their formations. The tight end and defensive end sprained his MCL last week.


“He’s out at least this week, and then they’re going to re-evaluate next week,” Tucker said.


His absence on defense will be even more noticeable on the defensive line, as he’s the team leader in tackles for loss with 11. On top of that, the War Eagle coaching staff saw need to tweak other things along that front to contain Wigfall. Tucker said that last week, his defensive line had trouble “controlling gaps” and got out of position at times.


“We went back and watched the film,” he said. “We saw things we didn’t do well.”


What they’re saying


“Usually your rivals get a whole year to rub it in your face after a big loss, but they only got seven days. Now we get a chance to avenge last week’s outcome,” — Heath Corley, Ridge Spring-Monetta head coach


“There’s 17 guys out there that’s got a lot of starts, and they’ve earned the trust they’ve gotten and everything else they’ve gotten,” — Ken Tucker, Wagener-Salley head coach


Midland Valley (6-4) at Hartsville (9-1)

Last time they played


This is the first meeting between the programs.


Players to watch


Midland Valley


• Dré Carr, RB. Carr was limited to one carry in last week’s loss to Strom Thurmond because of a groin injury and is questionable to play tonight. If he can’t go, the Mustangs will either go with his younger brother Drekwon Carr or junior varsity call up Devon Young, both lacking in experience. The regular backup, Derrick O’Conner, isn’t available because of off-the-field issues, which will also hurt Midland Valley’s defense where he was a starting linebacker.


• Daniel Carr, QB. If Dré can’t play, Daniel Carr becomes the top running threat, but he’ll have to be careful not to take too many hits or leave himself exposed against a physical defense.


• Kameron Brown, WR/DB. Brown is on fire and leads all area receivers with 15 touchdown catches, and in his increased role on defense has recorded three interceptions in the past two games.


Hartsville


• Shy Phillips, DB. Phillips presence in the secondary usually influences opponents to try to move the ball in another direction away from the Shrine Bowl selection who has 34 tackles and three interceptions.


• Dequan Reddick, DE. The 6-foot-4, 250 pound Shrine Bowl selection has 55 tackles – 13 for a loss of yards – and six sacks this season.


• Shy McPhail, RB. McPhail ran for 140 yards and a touchdown in the Red Devils’ last game and is part of deep stable of ball carriers that also includes Brian Rivers and Aryon Dudley, with the three of them combining for 2,575 yards and 37 touchdowns.


What this means


It’s the playoffs, meaning it’s win or go home for the Mustangs and Red Devils. Midland Valley is a team that has made tremendous strides this season, returning to the playoffs for the second year in a row and posting a winning record for the first time since 2010. It’s young nucleus of players – primarily sophomores and juniors – are looking to take the next step.


“It’s great to be in the playoffs,” said Rick Knight, Midland Valley’s head coach. “We’ve made improvements, but of course we want more.”


Hartsville wants what it had last year again. It completed a inspiring run to the Class AAA state title in 2012 after one of its players died after collapsing during a game. With much of last season’s major contributors lost to graduation, the Red Devils haven’t missed a beat, losing only once this season.


Keys to the game


The team that dictates style of play will prevail. Hartsville is a powerhouse with a flock of athletes while Midland Valley is agile and explosive and able to fly up and down the field.


A question mark much of the season, the Mustangs’ defense must be up to the challenge of slowing down the Red Devils’ Wing-T offense. They have the advantage of having faced several similar offenses this season. But with an athletic and aggressive offensive line that is good at pulling, Hartsville will create a great challenge.


“Are we going to be tough enough and physical enough to stop them?” Knight asked of a unit that is playing banged up, including linebacker Garrett Boatwright who has a meniscus tear. “We’ve got to get three and outs and give our offense a chance.”


For all of the difficulties Hartsville will pose for Midland Valley, the Mustangs can be just as difficult a matchup for a team that isn’t used to playing high-octane opponents with prolific offenses.


“They haven’t seen anybody like us on offense. They come from a busted-lip conference,” Knight said of a league that specializes in power running from tight formations. “They haven’t come across a spread like ours. We’ll see how they adjust, but we’ll try to spread them out.”


The key to the Mustangs’ spread is the quarterback. Daniel Carr’s ability to extend plays and escape from seemingly impossible situations makes opposing coaches throw their hats and pull at their hair. He was tremendous against Strom Thurmond last week and will need to be even better against a defense that features two Shrine Bowl selections, two North-South selections (defensive back Dontez Rogers and linebacker Laquan Haigler) as well as star linebacker Datavious Wilson – only a sophomore. He figures to have Brown to help him out and break off routes and make remarkable plays at the tail-end of plays that rival the amazing beginnings.


“Daniel feels confident if he throws it up there, Kameron will be the only one who can come down with it,” Knight said of his quarterback, who he expects will be 100 percent healthy after suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago. “They have a unique connection. … At this point in the season, if you ain’t hurting, you ain’t playing.”


While Knight is counting on his offense to continue scoring points at a level that has averaged 31 per game this season, he also wants it to dominate the ball.


“We’ve got to have some drives to keep that offense off the field,” Knight said. “Nobody is getting first downs on them.”


What they’re saying


“If we want to be in the upper echelon, we’ve got to compete with them. Hopefully, we’re prepared,” — Rick Knight, Midland Valley head coach


C.A. Johnson (4-6) at Williston-Elko (8-2)

Last time they played


Williston-Elko won 66-18 in 2009.


Players to watch


C.A. Johnson


• Michael Knox, RB/DB. The senior has passed for more than 1,800 yards with 13 touchdown while rushing for more than 1,000 yards and five more touchdowns, but he’s been moved around late in the season.


• Peter Goodman, QB. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, the senior was the team’s leading receiver before moving to quarterback in recent weeks.


• Julis Grooms, DL. Grooms has been a force penetrating the backfield but will have to be more concerned with stopping the run than disrupting the pass this week.


Williston-Elko


• Devon Fagans, RB. Fagans had his best game of the year last week with 144 yards in a blowout win over Blackville-Hilda, and he may see some time as a feature back in a one-back set tonight.


• Faheem Richburg, WR/DB. Richburg has been the Blue Devils’ top receiver with 351 yards and three touchdowns, and they could take to the skies a little more tonight, according to head coach Dwayne Garrick. He’s also tied for the team lead with three interceptions.


• Jacob Vargo, LB. The team’s leader in tackles with 65 and tackles for loss with nine, Vargo will need to get to Goodman to help limit big plays.


What this means


Last year, a third-seeded Williston-Elko team hosted a sixth-seeded team, Ware Shoals, and got knocked out of the Class A, Division I playoffs much earlier than expected.


This season, with the circumstances so similar – the seeding is identical with a different foe – Garrick said he’s reminded the players of the 2012 finish.


“They’re very aware of what happened last year,” he said.


Garrick added that he even took them on the game field to illustrate certain points about that game, that turnovers and defensive mistakes cost the Blue Devils a lead late and led to the upset. Before that, the Blue Devils had been to four straight state semifinal games.


Keys to the game


Offensively, the Hornets spread the ball around no matter who’s at quarterback. Garrick said that the combination of Goodman and Knox, as well as other skill players, was a cause for concern defensively.


“They’re a spread team,” he said, pointing to the receiving corps specifically. “We’ve got to cover well; we’re going to have to get to (Goodman) in a hurry.”


With Goodman behind center, the Blue Devils will have to corral speedy receiver Kabaris Daniels and 6-1, 195-pound wideout Charles Mallory.


Johnson runs a rare 6-2 split defense, which utilizes six men along the line of scrimmage. That allows for eight men in the box and a forceful front against the wishbone, but Garrick has a counter for that.


He feels good about the matchup and route possibilities that present themselves by switching to a single-back set with running backs Antonio Coleman and Christian Sapp lined up as slot receivers. Jet sweep running plays will be a possibility, but quarterback Dalton Mundy will also be called on for bubble screens and deeper patterns made possible by one deep safety.


“They’ll pack the box when we’re in the wishbone,” Garrick said. “I like our matchup even in the one-back set.”


What they’re saying


“Four or five plays can make a difference in the ball game, when they’re big plays,” — Dwayne Garrick, Williston-Elko head coach


Darlington (6-4) at Strom Thurmond (9-1)

Last time they played


Darlington beat Strom Thurmond 13-7 in 2003.


Players to watch


Darlington


• Tra’Quan DuBose, WR. The 5-foot-10, 155-pound junior has 627 receiving yards and eight touchdown catches this season.


• Shakeem Thomas, QB. Thomas has four rushing touchdowns, so he’s capable of making plays with his legs, but he’s also thrown for 1,448 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions.


• Thomas Wheeler, LB. Wheeler leads a speedy Falcon defense in sacks with 3½, part of 48 total tackles.


Strom Thurmond


• Chad Gilchrist, RB. According to head coach Lee Sawyer, the Rebels will have to run right up the middle against Darlington, the area Gilchrist is best in. The sophomore ran for 74 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Midland Valley last week.


• Jauveer Hammond, QB. If the Rebels are going to make noise in the Class AAA playoffs, it will be on the legs and arm of Hammond, who has more than 2,200 combined yards and 20 total touchdowns.


• Chad Stevens, NG. The sizeable lineman was the only one who had an answer for Daniel Carr last week, recording 3½ sacks in the process.


What this means


Strom Thurmond is one of the top teams in Class AAA, and the fifth-ranked Rebels can generally be penciled in for a high seed in the playoffs before the season.


Darlington isn’t necessarily one of those teams, but the Falcons certainly have experience playing such squads. Just in Region 6, the one Darlington calls home, the Falcons have played three of the top 10 teams in the class in No. 4 Hartsville, No. 6 Marlboro County and No. 9 Crestwood.


Darlington’s fourth loss is to West Florence, a winning team from Class AAAA.


Because of that, Sawyer hopes the home crowd realizes that this is not the average fourth-seeded team and could present a challenge for the home Rebels.


“I hope it’ll be a good atmosphere,” he said. “Three of their losses ... have been to teams right up there with us. I hope people know enough about them to know they’re good.”


Keys to the game


The Darlington defense isn’t one Sawyer expects his players to scoout around the corner against.


“Their defense, they can fly,” he said, adding that even Hartsville struggled to find the edges in a 41-0 beating last week.


As a result, the Rebels will lean on the power running of Gilchrist and Hammond, which might be for the best anyway. Senior Delonte Bates has been the team’s leading speed option, and while he’s been cleared medically after a shoulder injury that kept him out last week, Sawyer said he’d been favoring the shoulder at practice.


“I’m not sure how effective he’ll be,” he said. “We’ll try him and see.”


Defensively, Sawyer said the mobility that Thomas has shown in combination with the receiving options at his disposal make him tough to defend. Fortunately, he added that Thomas is in a similar mold to Daniel Carr, Midland Valley’s quarterback. Since he’s not quite as good as Carr, the fresh experience of guarding a slippery passer will benefit the Rebels, Sawyer said.


“It’s good that we did have to face Carr last week and a real good receiver like (Kameron) Brown,” he said. “The main thing we need to do is not give up the home run ball like we have several times over the last month.”


What they’re saying


“Like I told them on Monday, ‘The most they’re going to let you play now is five weeks,’” — Lee Sawyer, Strom Thurmond head coach