The return of high school football on Friday also means that the polls ranking the teams and evaluating their prospects are also coming back. Chief among them is the South Carolina Prep Media Poll, which is voted on by sports writers across the state who cover high school football and can apply what they know and offer insights into what to expect for teams across the Palmetto State.


All public schools in each of the four classifications are eligible for inclusion. Several area high school football teams are included in the Week Zero poll – this year’s inaugural poll – in anticipation for the upcoming season. At least one area school was voted among the top 10 teams in each class.


North Augusta, which is coming off a 12-2 season and a trip to the state semifinals, was the only area team included in the Class AAAA rankings. The Yellow Jackets are tabbed at No. 8 in the first poll and will play their first game on Friday, playing host to Lakeside (Georgia).


In Class AAA, Midland Valley was ranked eighth in the poll. The Mustangs are off this week but have the potential to climb in the voting because of a high-powered offense that returns most of its premier skill players from last season. They’ll actually open their season at North Augusta on Aug. 29.


The highest-ranked area team is Strom Thurmond, which is No. 2 in the Class AA rankings. The Rebels will commence their season on Friday when they travel to Aiken High to take on the Hornets. It will mark the head coaching debut for Antwuan Hillary – taking over for the retired Lee Sawyer – who’s the first Strom Thurmond alum to serve as the team’s head coach.


This will also be Strom Thurmond’s first game back in Class AA after spending the past two seasons as one of the very best in Class AAA. Silver Bluff has been a perennial power in Class AA for a long time and is coming off a Lower State championship season. Although the Bulldogs lost a large number of contributors who were seniors a year ago, their reputation as one of the state’s best programs – year in and year out – was enough to earn them a tie for No. 9 in the Week Zero poll. They open the season on Friday at home against Abbeville.


Of the area teams competing in Class A, only Williston-Elko was ranked among the top 10. The Blue Devils are No. 7 in the poll, and like Strom Thurmond, have a new head coach. Derek Youngblood takes over for the departed Dwayne Garrick and will look to maintain the high standard of success enjoyed in Williston over the past several years. He’ll get his first shot on Friday, when the Blue Devils travel for a season-opening game at Bamberg-Ehrhardt – which is ranked No. 8 in the Class A poll.


Although it didn’t find a spot in the top 10 of the Class A rankings, Ridge Spring-Monetta garnered enough support to be listed with the other teams receiving votes. The Trojans are off this week and will open the season on Aug. 29 at Saluda.


The S.C. Prep Media Football Poll is conducted by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal with voting from Andrew Macke, Greenwood Index-Journal; Bob Castello, Greenville News; Chris Dearing, The State; Ian Guerin, Myrtle Beach Sun News; Kevin Melton, Spartanburg Herald Journal; Lou Bezjak, Florence Morning News; David Shelton, Charleston Post and Courier; Bret McCormick, The Herald (Rock Hill) and Noah Feit, Aiken Standard.


Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard and has been a professional journalist for more than 15 years after graduating from Syracuse University.


S.C. Prep Media Poll


Week Zero


AAAA


1. Dutch Fork; 2. Northwestern; 3. Byrnes; 4. York; 5. South Florence; 6. Boiling Springs; 7. Summerville; 8. North Augusta; 9. Spartanburg; 10. Goose Creek


Others receiving votes: Greenwood, Spring Valley, Dorman, Sumter, Hillcrest, Stratford, Gaffney, Socastee


AAA


1. Myrtle Beach; 2. South Pointe; 3. Hartsville; 4. Wren; 5. Marlboro County; 6. Daniel; 7. Seneca; 8. Midland Valley; 9. Hanahan; 10. Greer


Others receiving votes: Broome, Belton-Honea Path, Orangeburg-Wilkinson, A.C. Flora, Swansea, Darlington, Crestwood, Union County, North Myrtle Beach, Chapin


AA


1. Dillon; 2. Strom Thurmond; 3. Batesburg-Leesville; 4. Timberland; 5. Fairfield Central; 6. Newberry; 7. Chesnee; 8. Woodruff; T9. Loris; T9. Silver Bluff; 10. Cheraw


Others receiving votes: Ninety Six, Woodland, Bishop England, Abbeville, Central


A1. Christ Church; 2. Lamar; 3. Carvers Bay; 4. Hunter-Kinard-Tyler; 5. Allendale-Fairfax; 6. Hemingway; 7. Williston-Elko; 8. Bamberg-Ehrhardt; 9. Great Falls; 10. Timmonsville


Others receiving votes: St. Joseph’s, Estill, Lakeview, Cross, Lewisville, Southside Christian, Ridge Spring-Monetta


The S.C. Prep Media Football Poll is conducted by the Spartanburg Herald-Journal with voting from Andrew Macke, Greenwood Index-Journal; Bob Castello, Greenville News; Chris Dearing, The State; Ian Guerin, Myrtle Beach Sun News; Kevin Melton, Spartanburg Herald Journal; Lou Bezjak, Florence Morning News; David Shelton, Charleston Post and Courier; Bret McCormick, The Herald (Rock Hill) and Noah Feit, Aiken Standard.