5 Things to Watch
By Alex Smith
The teams that are playing their best football heading into the playoffs are as follows – Chapman, Dorman, and Gaffney. The Chapman Panthers have been the top ranked team in 3A all season, and have not disappointed. Coach Hodge’s team rolled to an undefeated regular season behind Mr. Football finalist quarterback Colton Bailey and a loaded offense that averaged well over 50 points per game. Coach Dave Gutshall and the Dorman Cavaliers are also red hot as they have rolled off eight straight victories after opening the year with back to back losses. The Cavs have got it done the old fashioned way this year, rushing for over 300 yards a game behind a dominant offensive line. The Gaffney Indians have been somewhat up and down this year, but Coach Dan Jones seems to have righted the ship just in time. The Indians enter having won three straight since falling to Dorman. Quarterback Tyshun Sarratt and Dennis Smith have been fantastic recently as they have averaged 40.3 points per game during the win streak. I expect all three of these teams to advance to round 2 and all are serious threats to make it to Columbia.
This one is simple. The Spartanburg Vikings. The Vikings limp into the postseason having lost three straight games following a five game winning streak. Spartanburg’s recent issues are very uncharacteristic of a Chris Miller led team with penalties and turnovers causing problems, especially in the second half. The Vikings will open on the road against Westside, a team they dominated 47-11 during the regular season. The question for the Vikings is where they stand mentally. They clearly have the talent to compete with anyone, but they will need to cut down on these self inflicted mistakes. I foresee Spartanburg winning this game, but if the fumbles are still a problem, don’t look for the Vikings to get past round 2.
Game of the Week
Our Fox Sports Game of the Week presented by Speed Factory is the Broome Centurions facing off against the Walhalla Razorbacks. Coach Lynn Fleming has done a phenomenal job in his first year at his alma mater, leading his team to a 7-3 record and a playoff appearance. Broome’s only losses this year are against Chapman, Newberry and Byrnes. Broome will be making their first playoff appearance since 2014, and I think they will be ready. I expect Broome to be able to dominate in the rushing game, and I believe they’ll need another big game from running back Jarius Jeter to move on to round 2. Look for the Centurions to pull off a close one, and remain a very dangerous team that no one will want to play going forward.
Can Union keep their season going?
After struggling for most of the season the Yellow Jackets were able to win two of their last three to sneak into the playoffs as a the three seed in Region II-4A. Union has a tough draw in the first round as they will be on the road at 8-2 Belton-Honea Path. Coach Bradley Adams did a nice job this season keeping his team focused on the task at hand, despite an 0-7 start. While the victories over Blue Ridge and Travelers Rest aren’t exactly impressive, it was enough to get into the postseason. The Jackets struggled offensively for most of the season but have found something recently, putting up 44 points per game over their last three. While I won’t go as far as picking Union to win, I do believe they can be competitive and keep this one close. If BHP is looking past the Jackets and ahead to the next round, perhaps Union can shock the world. Doubtful, but that’s why they play the games.
Can anyone stop T.L. Hanna?
First year coach Reggie Shaw has the Byrnes Rebels back in the playoffs where they belong. The only problem is they must open up with a road game against the 10-0 T.L. Hanna Yellow Jackets. Hanna opened the season with three victories over teams from Region III-5A. Byrnes has relied heavily on their team speed and athleticism on defense to lead them to a 7-3 record. The concern is the availability of Shrine Bowl linebacker K.J. Jones. His injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Rebels as the Jackets will look to run the ball right into the heart of the Byrnes defense. Yellow Jacket quarterback Alex Meredith runs the option offense to perfection, and I don’t think Byrnes will be able to score enough points to keep up. It’s been a great year for the Byrnes program, but I think this is a tough draw in round 1 and the Rebels will be sent home without a postseason win in Coach Shaw’s first season.