It hasn't been often that the Barnwell offense has been contained, let alone stopped, this season. That's a large part of the reason the Warhorses will be playing for a Lower State championship for the second consecutive season on Friday night.
The opponent, Bambeg-Ehrhardt (11-2), is the only team with bragging rights and the ability to say they've slowed Barnwell (11-1) this year. The Red Raiders beat the Warhorses 21-0 a little more than a month ago. It's the only blemish on the Warhorses' record.
Barnwell head coach Dwayne Garrick made it clear after that game that the Warhorses would improve .
They'll get to see just how much they have Friday night.
Despite the offense being slowed in the first meeting, Barnwell will be looking to play its traditional physical style of football. A little improvement a the point of contact up front will go a long way, with the skill the team has in the backfield.
Running back Mykal Lee has run for 1238 yards and 16 touchdowns, including two in last weeks victory against Batesburg-Leesville. His fellow running back Brandon Harvey isn't far behind with 1203 rushing yard and 17 touchdowns, which leads the team.
The problem back in October was the fact that the running game never gained momentum thanks to Bamberg-Ehrhardt's stingy defense.
The Red Raiders have shut out seven opponents this season, and only one team has scored more than 13 points against them.
Barnwell was held to 36 yards of offense on 17 plays in the first half against Bamberg-Ehrhardt the first time around. They only had two first downs in the first two quarters.
That led to the Warhorses leaving the comfort zone of the wishbone offense and passing the ball more than it had at any point during the season. Barnwell will try to strike early and often on on offense this time around and avoid having to play catch up.
“We're going to have to be creative to try to find some ways to move the football,” Garrick said.
However, the passing game certainly has some momentum heading into the matchup this time. Senior quarterback Pete Elmore completed four of his six pass attempts last week for 116 yards. He also completed a pass on a successful 2-point conversion in the second half. It was a far cry from the 5-for-19 performance against the Red Raiders in the regular season.
Lee is expecting his team to come into the game a little more prepared for whatever the defense throws at them this time.
“They beat us 21-0. The only thing we can do is practice harder, learn their defense a little bit more and do what we need to do to win,” Lee said.
While the Red Raiders defense was strong in the last matchup, the Warhorses defense was equally impressive. Barnwell contained the big-play ability of Bamberg-Ehrhardt quarterback A.J. Williams for most of the game. Bamberg's first score came as a result of a short field after a turnover, and another scoring drive was aided by some costly Barnwell penalties and crucial fourth down conversions. Williams had a hand in all three of the Red Raiders touchdowns that night, running for two and passing for another one. He also intercepted a pass on defense.
“They're great on defense. At the same time, we're going to put a few in the box and try to find a way to play some good defense ourselves,” Garrick said. “It's going to be a heck of a football game I imagine.