Laurens (6-5) at North Augusta (10-1)

Last time they played

Laurens defeated North Augusta 30-0 in the 2008 postseason.

Players to watch


• Quinn Suber, QB/RB. Suber spent much of the season as the Raiders’ quarterback, but has logged more time at running back in recent games where his ability to run the ball effectively has made it a smooth transition. He manned both spots in last week’s overtime loss to Greenwood and ran for a game-best 92 yards and a touchdown.

• Toby Jackson, QB. Just a sophomore, Jackson’s ability to operate the offense and run the ball has given Laurens more versatility. In two starts he’s completed 18 of 29 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns while running for another.

• Zed Anderson, DB. Anderson was part of a smothering Laurens’ defense that held Greenwood’s outstanding running back Octavious Morgan to just three yards last week while he recorded two interceptions and blocked a punt in the previous game.

North Augusta

• Ronald Williams, LB/RB. Williams has been called unselfish by North Augusta head coach Dan Pippin for his willingness to primarily play linebacker for the Yellow Jackets when he might be the best running back on the team. Williams has proven his value on defense with a team-best 97 tackles – four for a loss of yards – and he’s emerged as the team’s top short distance back in recent weeks, running for five touchdowns and more critical first-down conversions.

• Keyon West and Dre Dunbar, WRs. No area team possesses such a talented and potent combination of top receivers, who are as efficient on short, quick patterns as they are stretching the defense or getting the ball in space and making would-be tacklers miss. West leads all area receivers with 70 catches for 909 yards and 12 touchdowns while Dunbar isn’t far behind with 42 receptions for 592 yards 10 scores of his own.

• Brandon Maddox, DL. Maddox has shown his toughness matches his skills this season, playing the entire 2013 campaign with a torn ACL and still managing to total 65 tackles – five for loss of yards – and three sacks, including a critical sack in last week’s Region 5-AAAA-clinching win over Dutch Fork.

What this means

This is the first round of the Class AAAA, Division II playoffs, so it’s pretty simple – win or the season is over.

When Pippin first arrived at North Augusta, he said that was a time when just making the playoffs was a big deal.

“It still is,” he said this week, “but now our goals are a little different.”

The main goal is to make the state championship game, which will be played on Dec. 7 at Williams-Brice Stadium, home of the University of South Carolina football team.

The Yellow Jackets have come close in recent years, twice making it to the state semifinals, but winning at least one playoff game every season since 2008. That was the year they were shutout by Laurens in the first round, 30-0.

Pippin said that game was critical to the growth of the North Augusta program.

“A lot of the stuff we do now is because of what happened in that game,” he said, adding that the experience his coaches and players have gleaned in the subsequent years should help prepare them for tonight, and not leave them feeling overwhelmed by the situation. “A majority of the kids have played in the playoffs last year and were on the team two years ago. They know what’s at stake but we still want to enjoy the experience.”

Ironically, 2008 was the last season Laurens won a playoff game. The Raiders advanced to the state semifinals that season, but missed the playoffs the following year and have been eliminated in the first round the past three seasons. A win tonight would show that longtime head coach Greg Lawson has the program headed back in the right direction.

Keys to the game

North Augusta will stick to its zone-read offense, with quarterback Trib Reece leading the way. Expect the Yellow Jackets to continue to do what they’ve done all season, rush to the line of scrimmage and mix in hurry-up with a more patient approach that allows Reece and the coaches to read where the defense is lining up.

The Raiders could end up in different positions than they start in. That’s because of a tendency they have to stunt, a lot. They’ll primarily work out of a 4-3 base package but could shift to a dime package to try and stifle the North Augusta passing game. They’re a big, physical unit that plays with aggression.

The same is true of a sizeable offensive line. The Yellow Jackets must hold their own against the Laurens’ front and look to wear them down as they have against so many opponents this season.

Stopping the Raiders’ running game will be critical, but North Augusta has been up to several critical challenges throughout the season. Facing offensive powerhouses like Dutch Fork, Strom Thurmond and Lexington among others, the Jackets have had one of the best defenses in fewest points allowed in all of Class AAAA. They’ve surrendered 139 points this season, an average of slightly more than 12 points per game.

Its a balanced unit with major contributions from Maddox, Williams, Kyle Saverance, Jordan Blocker, Brandon Thomas and Sebastian Hernandez among others. They’ve held all of their opponents below their season averages, with last week’s win the perfect example. Dutch Fork posted 24 points against North Augusta, the most its surrendered in a single game this season. That was nearly 20 points fewer than the Silver Foxes had been averaging this season, as they were shutout in the second half.

The challenge that Laurens will present is multiple formations. Pippin said the Raiders have used lots of different schemes on offense, ranging from the spread to the Wing-T. The job for North Augusta’s defenders will be to read where the ball is, as the plays will be similar in spite of the varied looks.

“They run everything,” said Pippin, who added his team has faced almost every type of offense at some point this season. “We’ve got to prepare for their best plays and pick up what they do the most.”

What they’re saying

“We don’t want to talk about how we won the region one week and got booted out of the playoffs the next,” — Dan Pippin, North Augusta head coach

North Myrtle Beach (9-2) at Strom Thurmond (10-1)

Last time they played

This is the teams’ first meeting.

Players to watch

North Myrtle Beach

• Delonzo Williams, RB. Williams is the team’s leading rusher with 941 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he had his biggest game of the year against state power Socastee with 239 yards on the ground in a 38-28 loss.

• Kendrick Furness, QB. Furness is capable of running, but he uses his arm most often. He torched Orangeburg-Wilkinson in last week’s 52-35 win for 283 yards and four touchdowns with an interception.

• Laquinn Bellamy, LB/RB. In addition to 82 tackles, 18 for loss and six sacks, Bellamy is the team’s second-leading rusher with 194-yard and 289-yard performances under his belt.

Strom Thurmond

• Kenyatta Dunbar, LB. The team’s leading tackler with 77, the Gardner-Webb commit added a second interception in last week’s 35-6 win over Darlington.

• Jauveer Hammond, QB. Always the driving force for the Rebels, Hammond will be tasked with evading a Chief defense that brings a ton of pressure, with four players that have six or more sacks.

• Chad Gilchrist, RB. With all that pressure coming from different points of the defense, Gilchrist’s power running – which netted him 96 yards and a touchdown last week, could be crucial to stem the tide.

What this means

Strom Thurmond will be looking to advance to the third round of the state playoffs for the seventh straight year, spanning stints at both the Class AA and AAA levels.

The key to that success, according to head coach Lee Sawyer, has been recognizing the increasing difficulty level each week and matching it with improvements by the Rebels.

“The intensity ... you’ve got to be emotionally ready to play each week,” he said. “That’s why we try to emphasize (getting better) each week in the region part of our season also.”

The Chiefs fit the bill as a step up in the competition level. Their only losses are to Myrtle Beach by two points and by 10 to Socastee, the toughest test of the year for the second-ranked team in the last media poll.

Keys to the game

Much like Strom Thurmond, North Myrtle Beach can hurt a defense in a variety of the ways. With multiple backs capable of gaining yardage on the ground and a quarterback that has thrwon for at least 200 yards and three scores in each of the last two games, the Rebel defense can’t get caught leaning toward any one threat.

“It makes us have to be more disciplined,” Sawyer said. “They spread you out, but they can run it or throw it just like we do.”

The strength of Strom Thurmond’s versatile offense will certainly be tested, particularly up front. OUt of a 3-5 base package, the Chiefs are able to mix pressure, often bringing a linebacker like Bellamy or Keyshawn Moore, who leads the team with 22 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Because of that talent throughout the defensive front, North Myrtle Beach doesn’t have to compromise coverage to get to the quarterback.

“They don’t sell out like a lot of teams have against us recently,” Sawyer said.

Fortunately for Sawyer, his quarterback has proven to be more than a little tough to bring down. Hammond is the area’s third-leading rusher with 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns, and he’s proven capable of hitting receivers like Tyree Stidem and Kendall Hill on short throws that turn into big gains.

What they’re saying

“Obviously, when you get to the second round of the playoffs, everything gets more difficult. Everybody’s more multiple, more versatile,” — Lee Sawyer, Strom Thurmond head coach

Barnwell (3-8) at Silver Bluff (9-1)

Last time they played

Silver Bluff defeated Barnwell 33-16 in the last week of the regular season.

Players to watch


• Jamari Dunbar, RB. Dunbar rushed for 165 yards and scored the Warhorses’ two touchdowns in the season finale against Silver Bluff.

• William Barnes, QB. Barnes was thrust into the roll of starting quarterback midway through the season.

• Keyshawn Jenkins, RB. Jenkins is another of the Warhorses’ threats in the running game.

Silver Bluff

• Shaquez Wright, RB. In the teams’ last meeting, Wright ran free, as he has in many games this season. He finished the win with 120 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns.

• Jaylen Lawrence, QB. Lawrence has done enough in the passing game to make teams pay when they load up to protect against the run. He has also made an impact for the Bulldogs defensively.

• Deangilo Drayton, LB. As Silver Bluff’s leading tackler, Drayton will likely be a big part of the Bulldogs’ plans to stop Dunbar and company.

What this means

Silver Bluff will be coming off a bye to begin its quest to take the next step in the Class AA playoffs. The past two season the team’s run ended in the lower state final.

Barnwell hasn’t faired to well in the rivalry with the Bulldogs lately. The last victory for the Warhorses came in 2007 win they earned an 8-7 at home.

Although the Bulldogs picked up a victory over Barnwell two weeks ago, Lown says he agrees with the notion that its harder to beat a team the second time around. So his team has tried to make the most of its practice time over the past few weeks.

Keys to the game

Silver Bluff has rode the same style of play to this point, and they don’t plan to change much up now. A heavy dose of the run can be expected again for Silver Bluff. When the two two teams first met, Barnwell gave up 277 rushing yards to the Bulldogs, who also scored three of their five touchdowns on the ground. During the bye week, the Bulldogs took two day’s off to get healthy, which will pay off for them in the run game. RJ Stalling, who missed the first meeting with the Warhorses, will be back in action adding another threat on the ground.

“We’ve really took advantage of the bye week,” Lown said. “We healed up and got back to the basics in practice. Working on th efundamentals was big for us this week.”

On defense, Lown wants to limit Barnwell’s success on the early downs. He said the goal is to keep them off the field as much as possible and end any rythm they may have picked up in last weeks playoff win over North Charleston.

“We have to make plays early on,” Lown said. “We need to put them in a couple of third-and-long situations. That’s going to be the key.”

What they’re saying

“We talked about our goals early in the season, and now we’re right where we want to be. We won the region and earned the first-round bye. We’ve done it in practice all week, which is a good sign. Now, it comes down to us going out their and performing for two hours on Friday” — Al Lown, Silver Bluff head coach

Williston-Elko (9-2) at Christ Church (11-0)

Last time they played

Christ Church beat Williston-Elko 42-14 in the 2011 Class A, Division II Upper State title game.

Players to watch


• Justice Wallace, DE. The Blue Devils will need penetration and containment, and Wallace leads the team with six sacks and is tied with Jacob Vargo with nine tackles for loss.

• Antonio Coleman, RB. Despite missing time with an injury, Coleman leads the Blue Devils with 870 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He was good for 198 yards on the ground in last week’s 58-6 win over C.A. Johnson.

• Devon Fagans, RB. The strength of the Blue Devils’ offense this year has been its multiple backs capable of doing damage, and Fagans’ role in that has increased lately. He had 184 yards and four touchdowns last week.

Christ Church

• Demetrius Anthony, QB. Anthony hurt Lewisville on the ground and in the air in the Cavaliers’ 66-0 win last week, throwing for 212 yards and four touchdowns and running for 118 and three more scores in the first half.

• Quan White, ATH. White caught a touchdown pass and ran for a score last week, and he has been a factor for the Cavaliers since these two teams met during his sophomore year.

• Lee Cox, RB. Cox provides even more balance for the Cavaliers, which he showed with a 35-yard touchdown run a week ago.

What this means

Tonight’s game marks four times in the last six years that the Blue Devils and the Cavaliers have met in the state playoffs, with all four matchups happening in Greenville. Williston-Elko has won two of the previous three meetings to end Christ Church’s season on the Cavaliers’ home turf.

Because of that, Blue Devil assistant coach Derek Youngblood said that the staff was at least familiar with the core of the Cavaliers’ plans.

“They’re going to do what they’re going to do,” he said. “From that standpoint, you have an idea for what they’re going to do, at least in base offense and base defense.”

This season, taking advantage of that will be as tall a task as it has ever been. The Cavaliers, who have won state titles in each of the last two seasons, are not only undefeated but largely untested.

Christ Church’s smallest margin of victory is 22 points, and the Cavaliers have held their opponents to eight points or less eight times.

Keys to the game

Williston-Elko will have to find a way to keep Anthony from having the kind of night he did against Lewisville. That could be by containing him in the pocket or limiting his passing options, but Youngblood said the main key to stopping him and White was to be disciplined.

“The biggest thing is just play assignments, just do the things we’ve coached these kids to do,” he said.

On offense, the Blue Devils’ wishbone attack could be crucial to keeping the Cavalier offense off the field. In recent weeks, Coleman, Fagans and Andrew Milligan have been more than capable of moving the ball down the field on the ground.

If Williston-Elko does go to the air, senior quarterback Dalton Mundy will likely look to Faheem Richburg. The senior has a total of 14 touchdowns running and receiving for the year and caught the game-winner in the team’s region title-clinching 6-0 win over Hunter-Kinard-Tyler earlier this season.

What they’re saying

“Just more people than your traditional Class A football game. ... Our kids should be ready for that,” — Derek Youngblood, Williston-Elko assistant coach

Ridge Spring-Monetta (6-5) at Great Falls (6-5)

Last time they played

Great Falls defeated Ridge Spring-Monetta 42-14 in the 2007 playoffs.

Players to watch

Ridge Spring-Monetta

• Travious Wigfall, RB. Wigfall and his 8.3 yards per carry has been the catalyst for Ridge Spring-Monetta’s offense this year. He has rushed for 1,401 yards and 23 touchdowns.

• Samuel Bedenbuagh, QB. Bedenbaugh has avoided making any big mistakes as the signal caller, and his ability to scramble is big for the Trojans. He also has three interceptions on the defensive side of the ball this season.

• Jacob Deloach, FB/DL. Deloach came up with a big forced fumble and recovery, which was one of the momentum swinging plays in the Trojans’ victory.

Great Falls

• Chris Culp, QB. Corley and his team have been preparing for the quarterbacks abilities passing the football as well as running.

• Jamarcus Culp, WR. The senior receiver is one of his quarterback’s favorite targets. At 6-foot-2 he may cause some problems fo the Trojans’ secondary in the game.

• Omar Dean, RB. Dean is one of the physical backs the Red Devils will use to run the ball this week. He is the No. 1 option in the tough rushing attack.

What this means

Ridge Spring Monetta advanced out of the first round of the Class A Division II playoffs for the first time in six years. The last time the Trojans advance, Great Falls ended their run in the Upper State finals. This season, Heath Corley’s team is riding the momentum of an upset of the War Eagles in which it controlled the game for 48 minutes.

Great Falls also got a win over a familiar opponent in the first round with a 29-22 win over McBee.

Corley said his teams excitement level has been high in practice after last’s victory. The momentum may be the extra boost the Trojans need in a game in which they will face a talented team.

Keys to the game

Corley acknowledged that his team will have a tough time matchup wise. Great Falls has some big, athletic players on both sides of the ball.

“Their size is going to give us fits,” Corley said. “We’ve got to play well in all facets of the game every week at this point.”

The Trojans were sharp for a majority of their first round win, but Corley pointed out the long touchdown run and kickoff return as things they cant let happen this week.

On offense, Corley is expecting to have opportunities for big plays because of the Red Devils’ aggresiveness on defense.

“We’ll definitely keep running the ball, but we’re going to have to throw a few more wrinkles in there two deal with the linebackers,” Corley said. “Ralfael Leaphart and Johnathan Elam are going to have to mak a significant play this week. That’s one thing we haven’t been able to do the past couple of weeks, get a big play in the passing game. The plays have been there for us, we’ve just have to make them.”

What they’re saying

“To be honest the atmosphere is good. Last year it was more of us wanting to win, and this year we expect to win. We know if we do the right things we can be in positions for wins. It’s good for the program.” — Heath Corley, Ridge Spring-Monetta head coach