Week Zero 4A/5A Preview
We’ve finally made it to opening week for 2023. Here is a look at what our teams in 4A and 5A will have coming up this Friday.
Daniel at Greer
The Greer Yellow Jackets will have quite a challenge in Week 0, as they host the Daniel Lions. Daniel is a power in 3A and they are coming off of a season in which they finished 12-1, their only loss a one point defeat to Powdersville in the playoffs. Greer meanwhile, will return its entire offensive line, as well as Junior running back Ladannian Martin, who averaged over 150 yards per game a season ago. The Jackets struggled in the non-region last year, and once again have a very difficult schedule early.
Daniel will be breaking in a new quarterback, and if Greer can get some pressure in the backfield, they have a chance to slow down an offense that averaged just under 50 points per game last season. I look for Greer to be aggressive defensively on early downs to try and force some third and long situations for the Lions. On offense, I look for Martin to get 20+ touches and carry the bulk of the load.
Greer is the more experienced team, but I’m not sure it will be enough against a Daniel team that once again expects to be one of the best teams in the upper state, regardless of classification.
Gaffney at Crest
The Gaffney Indians will open their season in North Carolina, taking on the Crest Chargers. Gaffney’s 2022 season ended in the upper state title game, while Crest finished last season at 9-4.
The Indians lost some talent from last year’s team, but it’s definitely more of a re-load than a re-build. Gaffney returns two stud running backs in Senior Quashon Tate and Sophomore Jaiden McDowell, who combined for over 1,500 yards a season ago and should top that number in 2023. Gaffney will be breaking in a new quarterback as Senior Riley Staton will be taking over for the graduated Grayson Loftis. Staton has the size (6’3″, 195 lbs) and experience (12 starts at Gray Collegiate) to pick up right where Loftis left off. His top target will be Emazon Littlejohn, who finished 2022 with 60 catches for 684 yards.
The Indians will once again be stout on the defensive side, led by a pair of defensive ends in Junior Josh Corry and Senior Caron Foster. In between them is defensive tackle Sherman Tate, who comes in at 275 lbs and started last season as a sophomore. The secondary will be inexperienced, but I expect Gaffney to be strong enough up front that it will give the guys on the back end plenty of time to adapt to the speed of the Varsity game. Crest has a big offensive line so this should be a big challenge for the Indians young defense.
The Chargers are no slouch, but I’ll take the Indians to come out and look sharp on offense and top 30 points in what I expect to be the first of many wins this season.
Byrnes at Hough
The Rebels will also head to North Carolina to open the season, as they will face the Hough Huskies. Byrnes finished 2022 at 9-4, while Hough went 11-3.
Byrnes heads into the season with high expectations. Despite losing quarterback Colby Shaw to graduation, this year’s team could be even more explosive on offense. Speed is the name of the game for the Rebels this year. Whoever ends up playing quarterback will have a plethora of weapons at their disposal. Junior running back RJ Livingston is back, and he will be joined by Freshman Tre Segarra to form a powerful running back room. Add in receivers Armoni Weaver, Chamarryus Bomar and Knai Cook, and the Rebels have arguably the best group of skill position players in the state.
As for the other side of the ball, Coach Shaw loves his front seven, led by Chris Foster. The Rebels should be pushed this Friday, but I have a hard time seeing Hough pulling out the win against this loaded Byrnes team.
T.L. Hanna at Boiling Springs
Boiling Springs will open year two under Coach Matt Reel against the T.L. Hanna Yellow Jackets. The Bulldogs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last year, while Hanna fell to Spartanburg in round 2.
The Bulldogs are the only team in Region 2 that is returning their starting quarterback, as Lincoln Huskey is back and is just a Junior. They struggled on offense last year but Coach Reel is hopeful they can be much better putting points on the board in 2023. Defensively the Bulldogs will be led by JoJo Barrett who is a tackling machine, and Senior edge rusher Calvin Jackson who hopes to cause all kinds of problems for opposing offensive tackles.
The Bulldogs are a year older and stronger, but I’m not sure they have enough to knock off a Hanna team that has been one of the better teams in the Upper State over the past few seasons. I look for this one to be tight for four quarters, but I think the Jackets come away with a close road win.
Dorman at Greenville
The Cavaliers will be breaking in a new coach for the second straight season as Jake Morris takes over for the departed Dustin Curtis. The Cavaliers went 9-3 last season, falling in the second round of the playoffs to Dutch Fork. Greenville finished 2022 with a 10-4 record, falling in the Upper State Finals to Northwestern.
The Cavaliers will have plenty of offensive production to replace, as Demarius Foster and D.J. Porter both graduated. Also gone are two standout offensive lineman in D.J. Geth and Markee Anderson, both now playing for Power 5 teams at the next level. Even with the losses, Coach Morris is confident in his offense. David Sorenson will take over at quarterback, and he has a possible star in the making on the outside with receiver Keenan Arcega-Whiteside. The offensive line won’t be as big, but don’t expect them to be a weakness, as they are led by Junior Landon Greene (330 lbs).
Dorman’s defense will have their hands full in Week 0 as they face an explosive Greenville offense. Wide receiver Mazeo Bennett is a Gamecocks commit, and he can turn a short catch into a touchdown at any time.
Greenville is expected to be one of the better teams in 4A and this should be a challenge for the Cavaliers. If Dorman can control the time of possession and create some holes for the running backs, I like Coach Morris to get win number 1 this Friday night.
South Pointe at Spartanburg
The Vikings have a brutal non-region schedule again this year, opening at home against South Pointe. The Vikings went 8-5 last season, while the Stallions finished 8-4.
Spartanburg lost a ton of talent from last year’s team, most notably quarterback Raheim Jeter. Stepping in at that position is Junior T.J. Johnson, who the coaches feel will have no problem matching Jeter’s production. Also stepping into a bigger role this year is the walking swiss army knife Calvin Choice. Choice will see time at running back, receiver, and returner among other positions on the field. The defense will be led by linebacker Cam Smith. Last season, Smith racked up 125 tackles and could improve on that number in his Junior year. Also returning on defense is defensive end Damien Coates, who played in 2021, but missed last season.
South Pointe has a ton of speed and athleticism, so the Vikings will be tested in game one. Coach Mark Hodge prefers a tough schedule early and this season will definitely start off with a fight. These could be two of the most talented teams in the state, and I think it will come down to which team can limit their mistakes. If the Vikings can limit penalties and take care of the football, they can come away with a win this Friday. If they are sloppy, the Stallions will take advantage and steal a win on the road.