Round 1 Recap
Yes, Jim Mora. Playoffs. I am gonna talk about playoffs and I am not kidding. Because it is, in fact, playoff time. Round one saw us start with 10 teams from our local area in the postseason. After last night we are down to just 6. Let’s dive in to what happened.
Byrnes 31 Hillcrest 28
I have to take a slice of humble pie on this one. Many Byrnes folks saw my tweet of my bracket with predictions for each round and took exception to the fact I picked Hillcrest to eliminate the Rebels last night. I will gladly eat the crow on that.
Hillcrest’s offense had been lighting up the scoreboards all season long. Over the course of their 10 regular season games, the Rams, led by QB Bennett Judy (who I would still argue is among the top quarterbacks in the state at least at the 5A level if not in the state as a whole), WR Avery McFadden, and running back Logan Coldren, had outscored opponents 422-134. That is an average of 42.2 points per game. Say what you want about their strength of schedule, but even with an easy schedule, you still have to be loaded with talent and still have to execute to put up that many points. Make no mistake about it, that Hillcrest team was loaded, well-coached, and not one for laying down when they are behind.
That’s why it is so impressive that Byrnes showed their mettle for the 2nd straight week. Last week, the rebels defense kept Grayson Loftis running for his life and managed to upset the region 2-5A champion Gaffney. Last night, although Hillcrest battled their way back and it came down to a missed field goal, the Rebels still jumped ahead early and made life difficult for that potent Ram offense.
Byrnes jumped out to a 24-0 lead, and their “strike force” held Hillcrest scoreless up until the final minute and a half of the 2nd quarter. The 2nd half was a different story. Unlike last week, the Rebels didn’t go to a straight ball control offense to keep Hillcrest’s offense off the field. That came back to haunt them as the Rebels had just 1 scoring drive, while their other 4 in the 2nd half resulted in a punt. Two of those were 3 and outs in which the Rebs tried to pass the ball rather than run. That helped Hillcrest to chip away a lot more easily, which you cannot do with a team that has the explosiveness to score as quickly as they do.
The Rebels were led by running back RJ Livingston, who ran the ball 21 times for 112 yards and 2 TDs. Quarterback Colby Shaw was 14 for 26 with 189 yards and a TD. Kyai Cook and Armoni Weaver combined for 131 yards on 9 catches, but the only rebel receiver with a TD was Ethan Morris, who hauled in 1 pass for a 22 yard TD. Chamarryus Bomar accounted for the Rebels’ only other TD, getting Byrnes on the board with an 8 yard TD run late in the 1st quarter.
Make no mistake about it – this Byrnes team is good. We established that a while back. Nobody ever said they were not good. These last two games have proven that. The Rebels are getting hot at not just a good time – the best time. If you are gonna get hot late, what better (or scarier) time than when the games matter the most. After these last 2 games, it is especially hard to doubt Byrnes. I for sure am not going to count them totally out until they show otherwise. The Rebels will move on to travel to Blythewood for round 2 this coming Friday.
Gaffney 60 Rock Hill 23
I don’t know how Rock Hill manages to do it, but the Bearcats somehow always find a way to backdoor their way into the playoffs with 2 or 3 wins. Don’t get me wrong.. I am all for underdogs and seniors getting to play 1 more game. But, just like with 16s vs 1s in the NCAA basketball tournament, it is rarer than rare to see a low seed upset a region champion and a 1 seed. At some point, you have to question the “worthwhileness” of fueling up buses to go and get spanked as a 2 win team by the likes of a team that has legitimate state championship potential.
To be a 2-win team going on the road to face Gaffney at the Reservation is a prime example of what I am talking about.
To Rock Hill’s credit, they did manage to draw first blood. That was about it. The Indians went on to score 26 unanswered to more than suffice to win this one.
That is not to say Rock Hill didn’t show some fight. They outscored Gaffney 20-7 over the final 7 minutes of the 1st half before Gaffney shut them out 27-0 in the 2nd half.
Grayson Loftis was 12 of 14 passing for 191 yards with 2 TDs. Chas Smith led the way for the Indians, who as a team rushed for 384 yards and 6 TDs in the game. Smith carried the ball 17 times for 152 yards and 2 TDs. Quashon Tate also ran for 2 TDs with 98 yards on 14 carries. Emazon Littlejohn was the leading receiver with 5 snags for 130 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Gaffney will now turn their focus towards hosting the stingy defense of the JL Mann Patriots in round 2. I will say this.. I expect Gaffney to move on next week, but if they come out slow on offense, it may be a struggle like we haven’t seen from the Indians since they narrowly beat Hammond earlier this season. If it comes to that, it won’t be a 14-7 game, but it will still be lower scoring. But Gaffney has way too much talent and depth for JL Mann to keep up. Gaffney would have to play their worst game of the season in all facets for an upset to happen.
Spartanburg 59 Nation Ford 17
Not much to go by on this one. It was a bit of a struggle early on, with it being a 10-9 game after a quarter. Whether that was an effect of the Vikings still recovering from the flu outbreak last week or not, who knows? But, in the end, it went as expected. Spartanburg outscored the Falcons 49-18 over the final 3 quarters and the Vikings are moving on. They will go on the road for a tough test at TL Hanna next week in round two.
Dorman 37 Clover 7
Earlier this season, the Cavaliers went to face the Blue Eagles on the road and struggled their way to a 37-23 win. For this rematch on the road, the Cavaliers had a couple of big question marks going in. Dj Porter was deemed out for at least this week with a rib injury. Kendell Lewis, who although RB2 on the chart, has still been a key part of the Cavs’ offense this season, was also deemed out due to injury.
Would Demarius Foster be able to help carry Dorman to a win if needed? The answer is yes. Demarius Foster should never be doubted. His natural talent, speed and elusiveness alone make him a terror to opposing defenses. Add in Dorman’s offensive line and that is a recipe for success even if you have to be 1 dimensional.
Demarius Foster ran the ball 25 times for 277 yards and a TD. He also hauled in 2 passes for 62 yards and a TD. David Sorenson, who got the nod at QB for the Cavaliers in the absence of Porter and Hudson Talley (Talley did not play, but it was non injury-related), tallied 3 rushing TDs to go with his 6 of 9 passing for 93 yards and a TD.
Defensively, the Cavaliers were dominant, limiting Clover to just 174 yards of total offense, and just 50 yards through the air.
Here’s the thing for Dorman going forward.. We all know they drew the short end of the stick as far as their pathway through the playoffs. They have to go to Dutch Fork this week in round 2. As well as they played defensively, and as much as Demarius Foster had success moving the ball for them.. If they play like that next week, it will not be pretty. The Cavaliers cannot afford to be 1 dimensional or to allow the Silver Foxes to run the ball like Clover did. Clove ran for 124 yards on them. If they do that next week, Jarvis Green is going to run for 300.
Dorman is going to have to play absolutely out of their minds to pull the upset next week. It will help if DJ Porter is able to return. But even if he does, the Cavaliers are going to need to find a passing game. They are going to need to run screens, slants, and lots of inside runs for chunks of yardage. They are gonna have to do everything in their power to keep Dutch Fork’s offense off the field while capitalizing on any mistakes the Foxes might make. The odds are certainly stacked against Dorman. They are capable. But there are just so many things that will have to go their way to move on.
Blythweood 40 Boiling Springs 0
Boiling Springs received an at large bid to be another 2 win team going to be sacrificed to the wolves. Just like Rock Hill. That is how many would look at this. If there’s one person that was not looking at it that way, it is Matt Reel. The Boiling Springs head coach could not have been happier not only to get one more game for his seniors, but also get an extra week of practice to help further grow his young team. Remember, Boiling Springs is loaded with sophomores that have grown a lot this season. To get an extra week of practice and some playoff experience is huge for their continued growth and development.
Sadly, though, this was just not a good matchup for them. The Bulldogs’ offense could not get anything going, which wore their defense down, as has been the story all year long. Blythewood, despite fumbling the opening kickoff, was able to keep the bulldogs off the board, shutting them out (the 4th time this season that the Dogs were on the receiving end of one).
There is little doubt that Boiling Springs is only going to continue to grow and develop this offseason, and hopefully, we can look forward to much happier recaps of them in 2023.
South Pointe 38 Greer 14
Our lone participant in the 4A playoffs received a tough draw, having to face a very good South Pointe. The positive in it is that they were going to be facing them at home in Dooley Field.
Sadly, that is about the only positive for Greer. The Stallions shut them down up until the waning moments of the 3rd quarter, when Josh Runion connected with Chase Byrd for a 35 yard TD to break the goose egg. Greer would muster just one more score on a Chris Hall 3 yard TD run with about 5 minutes to play in the game.
LaDainnian Martin, who has been invaluable to the Yellow Jackets’ offense this season, was limited to just 25 yards on 11 touches. Instead, Chris Hall led the way on the ground with 78 yards on 9 attempts with a TD. Josh Runion was just 5 of 11 passing with 105 yards and a TD with 2 interceptions. He also ran the ball 3 times for 47 yards.
Chapman 20 Emerald 7
It has been pointed out repeatedly over the last month that the Chapman Panthers have found a stride on offense by getting the ball into the hands of their bigtime playmakers – receiver Shawn Cunningham and running back Mathai Scott. In the end, that was ultimately the difference in this game.
Credit to Emerald. The Vikings boast a powerful rushing attack with a sophomore QB in Key Holloway that is similar to DJ Porter. He can run the zone read and take off on designed QB run plays with effectiveness using his size and speed. He is complemented well by a running back that seems like a carbon copy of him in the senior Jaylen Foster. They managed to use that rushing attack to hold onto the ball and keep Chapman off the field.
That is not to say that the Panthers did not have chances early on. When it comes to the field position battle, Chapman kept the field flipped in their favor all first half. The issue they had was that these short field drives stalled out in the red zone. The first 2 offensive series of the game, Chapman drove down to inside the Emerald 20 only to stall. Emerald blocked a 34 yard fieldgoal try on Chapman’s first series. The 2nd series ended when Jackson Visoury missed a 37 yarder wide left. More credit to Emerald.. Not only did they limit Chapman’s offense’s time of possession.. They also limited them from getting anything going. They kept pressure on Coleman Gray and prevented him from being able to take shots downfield. They also did a good job of keeping Keanu Na and Mathai Scott from being able to establish a rushing attack. Contrary to expectations, this game went to the half scoreless.
The Panthers got the ball to start the 2nd half, once again with the field position in their favor after Emerald squibbed the kickoff. Three plays later, Coleman Gray dumped the ball off in a checkdown to Mathai Scott who broke a tackle and scampered 67 yards for a TD to finally break the goose egg (the PAT was blocked). After holding the Vikings to a 3 and out, the Panthers once again found some life on offense and went down the field, scoring on a 33 yard pass from Gray to Shawn Cunningham waiting in the flat. They went for 2, but Mathai Scott was stopped short to make it 12-0.
Emerald answered with a long drive capped by a 10 yard swing pass for a TD from Key to Jaylen Foster midway through the 4th quarter.
Needing to answer while eating clock, Chapman did just that thanks to Keanu Na. In the red zone and faced with a big 3rd down, Keanu took a handoff from Coleman Gray, stiff armed a would-be tackler, and then with half the Viking defense surrounding him, somehow kept his legs moving and pushed for an additional 10 yards, setting the Panthers up at the 3 yardline after the personal foul on Emerald after the play. Na scored the next play on a 3 yard draw for what would be the dagger in this one.
The Panthers found a way to win using a couple of big plays from their key playmakers and with Keanu Na stepping up to the plate when they needed someone to. Now, they will set their sights on a tough battle at home with the Seneca Bobcats in round 2.
Woodruff 42 Broome 34
In one of the more anticipated matchups of this round, the Woodruff Wolverines traveled to Broome for a rematch. Back in week 5, the Centurions came into Willie Varner Stadium and defeated Woodruff 27-20. What better time to get revenge than in the first round of the playoffs?
That week, Kamajay Brackett-Brannon carried the Centurions to the win with a 115 yard/1 TD rushing performance with 148 yards and a TD through the air. The other half of the dynamic duo, Jaylen McGill ran for 2 more TDs.
Last night, Woodruff made sure those 2 didn’t beat them by building a cushion themselves. Woodruff built up a 28-6 advantage at the half, and though Broome battled back, the Wolverines answered with a couple of TDs to keep Broome under pressure to battle back. Ultimately, they held on to win by a TD.
McGill still tallied 2 rushing TDs on 14 rushes for 56 yards. “KBB” (no not Kelley Blue Book..) ran 13 times for 86 yards while throwing the ball for 247 yards and a pair of TDs.
Woodruff was led offensively by Eastin Burch and Nemo Cochran. Burch ran the ball 22 times for 97 yards and 3 TDs. Cochran hauled in 7 passes for 142 yards with a pair of TDs. Carson Tucker was 25 for 40 passing with 308 yards and 3 TDs with 3 picks.
The Wolverines will have a tough challenge ahead of them in round 2 as they will have to go on the road to perennial state title contender and upperstate favorite Daniel.
Keenan 62 Landrum 29
The Landrum Cardinals somewhat got the shaft by the SCHSL in the drama of last week that saw Ridge View have the hammer dropped on them by playing 3 ineligible players not zoned for them (they had to vacate wins, resulting in being deemed ineligible for the playoffs), as well as Newberry for a similar offense. Newberry would have been Landrum’s first round draw had it not been for their penalty – vacating a win that ultimately dropped them to a lower seed. That gave Landrum a tough draw with WJ Keenan coming to Cardinal Station for the 1st round.
This game played out as a fun shootout for a while before Keenan scored 26 unanswered to shut Landrum out in the 2nd half.
The usual suspects, Colton Link and Braden Mashtare tallied a rushing TD each. Link accumulated 173 yards on 22 touches (an average of nearly 8 yards per carry). Mashtare tallied 59 yards on 14 carries. Quarterback Titus Poore also added a TD on the ground to go with his 64 yards and a TD on 4 of 8 through the air. Mashtare also led the way receiving with 3 snags for 55 yards and a TD.
The only thing worse than an early exit in the playoffs for a good team is to see that loss be the end of the journey for both the seniors and the coach of that team. Unfortunately, last night would be the end of a 9 year tenure at Landrum for Jason Farmer, as he has announced he was stepping down from his position and that he would be moving on to hopefully pursue other coaching endeavors.
Wherever Jason Farmer ends up, I think I speak for all of us when I say that he will be greatly missed at Landrum and that the impact he had on so many young men over the last near-decade cannot be understated. Whoever ends up getting Coach Farmer will be getting not only a good, respectable, and passionate football coach/mentor, but an even better man. Best wishes to Jason!
Strom Thurmond 35 Chesnee 7
The Eagles had to go on the road to face a tough opponent in the Strom Thurmond Rebels to open their playoff journey. Unfortunately for Chesnee, it did not go over quite the way they had hoped.
The Eagles were dug into a 21-0 hole before finally putting a scoring drive together. They marched 59 yards in 8 plays to make it 21-7 with 1:30 to play in the half. Strom Thurmond answered with a TD with just under half a minute to play to take a 28-7 lead to the half, and would add one more score in the 3rd quarter to make for the eventual final of 35-7.
Chesnee had 10 different players record a rushing attempt in the game. Four of them tallied double digit yardage – Austin Bigford (46 yards), Hayden Webb (34 yards), Kyle Martin (23 yards), and Kaylob Blanton (12 yards) on a combined 19 carries. Kaylob Blanton also led the way receiving with 1 reception for 39 yards. KJ Proctor was sacked 6 times in the game, and was only 5-11 with 55 passing yards.
This young Chesnee time, like their cross-district sibling Boiling Springs, with another year experience under their belt, should be more competitive next year, and if they can just find a way to close out games, which is what plagued them so often this season, there is no telling what they can be capable of.
That’s a wrap on round 1. We still have 6 teams alive, and here is to hoping that round 2 will fare well for all of our local teams.