By Alex Smith
The one that matters to everyone
The regular season will come to a close this Friday night and the game in 5A that everyone will be paying attention to is the Gaffney Indians at the Spartanburg Vikings. This game has huge playoff implications for every team in Region III-5A. The winner will secure the two seed in the region, and will be hosting a playoff game next week. The Indians have already clinched a spot in the postseason, while the Vikings need a win over Gaffney, or a Dorman victory over Byrnes to clinch a spot. This game should be very interesting as these two teams have recently been headed in different directions. Gaffney will enter having won back to back games over Boiling Springs and Byrnes, while Spartanburg has dropped two straight after a five game winning streak. The Vikings have uncharacteristically been their own worst enemy the past few weeks, losing five second half fumbles as they dropped back to back region contests. Spartanburg has struggled stopping the run this year against quick running backs and mobile quarterbacks, of which Gaffney has both. The matchup to watch while Gaffney has the ball will be Vikings’ Shrine Bowl linebacker Connor Shugart, and whether or not he shadows Indians’ quarterback Tyshun Sarratt. If Shugart is busy spying on the QB, then that could put Gaffney wide receiver Dennis Smith in one on one coverage, which is usually a mismatch that Sarratt can take advantage of. On the other side, it’s no secret that the Vikings need to get the ball in the hands of North/South selection WR/RB Damyjai Foster more often. I wouldn’t be surprised if Foster gets close to 20 total touches in this game, especially with the health of Jarel Long and Zykamren Robinson in question. This should be a close game and if Spartanburg can cut down the turnovers and make their kicks, they should be able to get another win at Gibbs Stadium. If these issues continue, look for Gaffney to take advantage and put the Vikings in serious danger of missing out on the postseason.
Chapman looks to stay unbeaten
The undefeated and top ranked Chapman Panthers will play another big game this week, as they will host the Broome Centurions. Broome enters the game having clinched at least the 3 seed in the region, with a chance to improve that and possibly win the region with a victory over the Panthers. Broome has been excellent running the football this season with running back Jarius Jeter putting up big numbers behind a great offensive line led by North/South selection Dylan Threadgill. While I think the Centurions will be able to move the ball effectively, the problem lies in stopping Colton Bailey and company. The Panthers offense has been an unstoppable force all season, and last week was no different in a 53-34 pounding of previously unbeaten Newberry. Bailey was named our Rockie Bull All-State Insurance Player of the Week for the second time this season, as he finished with 6 total touchdowns. His backfield mate DJ Twitty was no slouch either, finishing with over 200 yards from scrimmage and 3 touchdowns of his own. I think Broome will keep it close early, and Coach Fleming will do everything in his power to keep Chapman’s offense on the sideline. But in the end I think the Panthers talent on offense will be too much to handle, and I see Coach Hodge’s squad entering the playoffs unbeaten as they look for a second consecutive state title.
Can Chesnee keep it rolling?
Coach Bill Owens and the Chesnee Eagles enter the final week with a 5-4 record. They will host Christ Church with the winner securing the second seed in the region, while the loser will finish third and have to travel for the opening round of the playoffs. The problem with the Eagles this year has been consistency. They have only won back to back games once this season, and that was in weeks one and two. A win to finish the regular season would be a huge confidence booster for this team, not only beating a very good Christ Church team, but also proving that they can string together back to back good games. Quarterback Kyler Reagan has been steadily improving throughout the season, and I think they will need a big game from him and the offense to get a victory. Chesnee is only 1-3 at home this year, so home field hasn’t been very kind, but Coach Owens will certainly have some wrinkles on defense that will try and confuse Christ Church’s potent rushing attack. A win for the Eagles will prove to me that they are playing some of their best ball at the right time, and could be a dangerous team once in the playoffs.
Union fighting for a playoff spot
Union County is just 1-8 this season. However, they are still in great shape to make the postseason. A win over Travelers Rest and Union would be the three seed out of Region II-4A. If they lose, and Greer defeats Blue Ridge, they would still win a tie-breaker and be the three seed. So despite a very difficult season, one in which they have been outscored by an average of 38-17, it looks like the Yellow Jackets will still make the playoffs. The Jackets played a very difficult non-region schedule this year, and Coach Bradley Adams hopes that the stiff competition early in the season will pay off down the stretch. I think Union will take care of business on Friday, and depending on the draw they get in the first round, they could surprise some folks in November.
How does Dorman look knowing they have already clinched the region?
The Dorman Cavaliers enter the final weekend having won 7 straight games and have already clinched the Region III-3A title and the top seed for the playoffs. The Cavaliers will have nothing on the line this week as they travel to District 5 stadium to take on the Byrnes Rebels. However I don’t expect Coach Gutshall to rest his starters. Last season Byrnes got a huge upset win over the Cavs at home, and it didn’t sit to well with the coaches and players. I think Dorman will come out and play hard and try to get the win this Friday. Byrnes has also clinched a playoff birth and this game actually matters more to the other teams in the region, rather than the two playing. Coach Reggie Shaw has done a fantastic job in his first year at Byrnes, but with star linebacker KJ Jones out for this game, I think the Cavaliers will be able to run the ball at will, and could jump out to an early lead. If this happens and Dorman is up two or more scores in the second half, then I expect the starters for both teams to take a seat and begin looking forward to the postseason.