Strom Thurmond's football team has pushed all the right buttons so far. The offense has been prolific, the defense has been one of the stingiest in the area.
That's all culminated in a six-game win streak for the Rebels (6-1, 1-0 Region 5-AAA) and a ton of momentum heading into the second of their four region games.
The next test to the strong start will come by way of Swansea (2-5, 0-1) in the Aiken Standard Game of the Week on Friday in Johnston. And while Strom Thurmond has a big region game next against Gilbert, it certainly isn't overlooking Swansea.
"Our motto all season has been 'It's not who we play, it's how we play,' Strom Thurmond head coach Antwaun Hillary said. "Teams that stay the same this time of year have short seasons."
Hillary is expecting to see a very athletic Swansea team take the field. He called it the best group of receivers, top to bottom, the Rebels have faced this season.
Swansea quarterback Pryce Whitten, who Hillary referred to as "gutsy," has passed for 1,312 yards and 10 touchdowns, but the Tigers also have a strong ground game. MJ Reed carries most of the rushing load. He's run for 717 yards and four touchdowns on 114 carries this season.
There's no shortage of playmakers on the Rebels defense however. The group is only allowing 10 points per game. It's also forcing turnovers at a high rate. The Rebels have created 26 turnovers – nine interceptions and 17 fumble recoveries – through seven games.
"Just a lot of guys in the right spot at the right time. It's been disciplined football and playing the assignments," Hillary said. "A lot of people work turnover drills and all that. We just work hard on getting our guys in the right spot and knowing their responsibility."
Swansea's defense had difficulties getting stops early in the season, and some of those woes seemed to have returned last week in a 47-0 loss to Gilbert to open region play.
It won't get any easier for the Tigers this week, with quarterback Jequan Harris returning to the field after missing last week's game. Hillary made it clear that the offensive strategy will be to get the ball into the hands of the playmakers as much as possible.
"This time of year, it's not really about the x's and o's it's about the Jimmys and Joes," Hillary said. "You've got to get those guys touches."
Swansea's defense might not have to actually face a Jimmy or a Joe, but they'll have to prepare for a Jay. Jay Baker has proven to be a key target throughout the season and will likely be a big part of the game plan this week. Baker is coming off another 100-yard game – his third of the season.