2023 Round 1 Recap
The first round of the 2023 playoffs has come and gone, and as is common with postseason football, it had its drama and its fair share of ugly clunkers. We came into Friday night with 10 teams in, and ended with just 4 being eliminated. The action all got started on Thursday night.
Spartanburg 31 Rock Hill 7
The Vikings came in as the 4 seed out of region II-AAAAA after beating Dorman last week in the regular season finale to force a three-way tie at the bottom of the region standings, which was broken by point differential head-to-head between all 3 at the end of the third quarter. Complicated as that sounds, it led to Boiling Springs getting the 3 seed and the tough draw of having to go take on a red-hot Dutch Fork thanks to them having been +3 on Dorman and +7 on Spartanburg. Dorman would end up getting in as the at-large bid from the upperstate.
The Vikings ended up getting a Thursday night game thanks to the rare occurrence of two teams with a higher seed sharing a stadium. Northwestern, who won their region, shares District Three Stadium with Rock Hill, who was the 2 from region III-AAAAA. Based on a “coin flip” type of decision, Northwestern took the Friday night spot.
Despite the fact that this was arguably the best Rock Hill team since Jim Ringer retired back in 2005, cruising through region play before falling to Clover in the regular season finale, struggled mightily against Spartanburg’s defense.
Mark Hodge’s squad jumped out to a 17-0 lead using an effective rushing attack. It took until the last 30 seconds of the first half for the Bearcats to finally find paydirt for what would be their lone TD of the game. Even so, Spartanburg had a chance to make it a 3 score game again at the horn, but would fall short as Will Love’s 37 yard fieldgoal attempt was blocked.
The 2 sides would go scoreless up until Spartanburg recovered a backwards pass for a fumble in the back corner of the endzone for a TD. They would add one more score in the last 5 minutes of the game to make for the final margin.
Offensively, the Vikings’ line played well enough for Trenton Lynch to have a big night. Still, despite that, they mustered just 17 points on offense. Ultimately, as has been the story all season long, it was the defense that made the difference, and that’s why it is still worth arguing that Spartanburg has one of the best defensive units in the state, particularly in the linebacking corps.
With the win, the Vikes set up a date with another really good defensive football team on the road next week as they go to JL Mann.
Dutch Fork 56 Boiling Springs 7
For many, this game had the intrigue of potentially being a close defensive game with a chance for Boiling Springs to pull off a win, or the polar opposite and it turn out to be a blowout. From the early season, many oversimplified things and read too much into the start to the season Dutch Fork had.
The Silver Foxes opened the season 0-3. They had not lost more than a game in a season since Tom Knotts first came down to the midlands back in 2010. So, naturally, many jumped to say they were down. But, when you look at the schedule they played in that stretch, it proves that you are not always what your record says, and that you should never over react to what happens early on in non-region play.
Dutch Fork’s losses came to Colquitt County (Georgia), who finished the season undefeated at 10-0 and won their region, scoring an average of 44.6 points per game. They also lost to Spartanburg in a defensive battle that didn’t see either team find the endzone until Justin Rice hauled in a 12 yard TD pass from TJ Johnson with just over 6 minutes to play in the game to give the Vikings the lead they would not relinquish, going on to a 17-6 win. The last of those first three losses came to Hough (NC), who went 9-1 and won their region, holding opponents to just 90 points through the course of the 11 games they have now played.
They lost 2 more games mid season, falling in back to back 17-14 games to Weddington (NC) and White Knoll.
The best takeaway from all that info? Dutch Fork played a really tough schedule. Which often means that when you get to the games that really matter – your region games, if you are healthy, you are battle-hardened and poised to potentially run the table. They did, going 4-0 the rest of the way, with 4 straight blowouts.
The honest truth about Dutch Fork is that they are just as potent as always, especially on offense. They have speed across the board – especially in their receiver room, and that showed. Boiling Springs did not help their own case, struggling to tackle early on, which led to a few big plays for the Foxes. But Dutch Fork absolutely outmatched the Bulldogs in all facets. The speed of their receivers led to a lot of mismatches against the Bulldog secondary and busted coverages.
It wasn’t just the offense for the Foxes. Boiling Springs QB Lincoln Huskey was under duress all night long, having been sacked 5+ times. To make matters worse, the Dogs struggled to establish any kind of run game. They went 3 and out on all but 2 series in the first half.
Long story short, tip the cap to Dutch Fork. They are hot, they are good, and they have a tough test next week on the road at TL Hanna.
Elsewhere in 5A:
- Dorman fell to Byrnes 44-17. The Cavaliers had the early advantage on the road in the rematch at Nixon Field, going up 10-0. But, once Andrew Stevens and the Rebels got going, it was over quick. Byrnes scored 24 unanswered and outscored the Cavs 21-7 the rest of the way. The last time these 2 met, the story of the game was the 3 interceptions thrown by Stevens. That was not a part of the story at all this time, as he played his best game of the season, going 15 of 20 for 325 yards and 3 TDs. Armoni Weaver hauled in 4 passes for 156 yards and a TD while Chamarryus Bomar added 85 yards on 4 catches, Tre Segarra was also solid with 17 carries for 90 yards and a TD. Ta’Lik Brooks also had a rushing score on 5 attempts for 23 yards. The Rebels will host Hillcrest in round 2.
- Gaffney dominated Lexington 47-14. The Indians take on Clover on the road next week.
Greer 29 Indian Land 28
The Yellow Jackets played in one of the 2 best thrillers this week. It came down to a last-minute 22 yard fieldgoal by Willis Ryan. He was given a second chance after initially missing the first try. He was run into, setting up the go-ahead, which just did clear the right upright with 14 seconds to play.
As far as other notable things from this game, LaDainnian Martin played after getting banged up last week against Riverside. He tallied a cool 196 yards on 23 carries with a TD. QB Chris Hall logged 221 yards on 14 of 18 passing with 3 touchdowns. The dynamic receiver duo of Chase Byrd and Brock Diggins combined for 3 TDs. Byrd led the receivers with 144 yards on 7 receptions with a pair of TDs. Diggins had the lone other receiving TD, with just 26 yards on 3 catches.
Greer now sets their sights on a tough battle with a rival in the Greenville Red Raiders.
Broome 42 Seneca 35
In the other last second thriller of the night, the Centurions mounted a phenomenal 75 yard drive in the waning minutes, which was capped by a Kamajay Brackett-Brannon dive for the pylon. On the play, Brannon was just trying to get out of bounds and stop the clock to set up a potential go-ahead fieldgoal. As he was angling towards the sideline, the defenders stopped pursuing him, which with his field awareness, was a big mistake. He dove in from the 3 and broke the plane with ease.
Prior to that big moment, the Centurions led by 2 scores before Seneca rallied to score 14 unanswered and take a narrow 35-34 lead to necessitate the comeback drive.
Brackett-Brannon ran the ball a total of 16 times for 132 yards with a pair of touchdowns. He also went 14-19 through the air for 162 yards and a TD. Jaylen McGill did McGill things with 18 carries for 173 yards and 3 TDs. Greyson Bradley was the leading receiver with 4 catches for 77 yards.
Broome has a tough draw for round 2 as they will hit the road to take on the Clinton Red Devils.
Wren 49 Woodruff 32
The Wolverines managed to backdoor their way into the playoffs. But, don’t let that fool you. The Wolverines offense has been solid all season with big contributions from junior QB TJ Morris, receivers Kory Scott and Kori Moates, and running back Trey Rodgers.
They would need big nights from all of them to survive the potent offense of the Wren Hurricanes.
In the end, they hung a nice number, but ultimately not enough. TJ Morris was 26 for 32 with 255 yards and 3 touchdowns. Aiden Gibson led the receivers with 7 receptions for 76 yards and a TD. Moates hauled in 8 passes for 58 yards and a TD while Kory Scott had 4 snags for 24 yards with a TD. Moates was also the team’s leading rusher with 57 yards on 9 attempts. The lone rushing TD of the game was scored by Aiden Gibson, who logged 50 yards on 15 touches.
While Woodruff fans may be disappointed in the way the season ended, it is hard to deny that next year looks like it has the potential to be particularly special for them.
Elsewhere in 3A:
-Chapman shut out Crescent 45-0. That sets up a 2nd round date with Chester next week in Inman.
Chesnee 21 Batesburg-Leesville 10
The Eagles picked up their first playoff win in 3 years on the road Friday night. Chesnee fell behind 7-0 early on a long TD run during the Panthers’ 2nd series of the game. It took until the last play of the first half for the Eagles to finally break the goose egg on the board when Kaylob Blanton managed to get in behind the secondary for a long 46 yard TD reception to tie the game at 7.
Batesburg-Leesville responded by reclaiming the advantage on their opening drive of the 2nd half, capped with a 25 yard fieldgoal to make it 10-7. That would be the last points the Eagles allowed, scoring the next 17 unanswered to pull away for the upset win.
KJay Proctor was 10-22 with 143 yards and a TD with the lone blemish being a pick. He also ran 13 times for 53 yards. Blanton was the leading receiver with 83 yards on 4 catches and a TD. Adonis Burgess also had a decent game receiving with 42 yards on 4 snags. Austin Bigford was the star of the game, however. He tallied 123 rushing yards on 19 carries with 2 touchdowns to lead the way. The next closest rusher was KJay Proctor.
Chesnee will have a daunting challenge ahead next week as they go on the road to take on heavy 2A title favorite Gray Collegiate.
-Landrum saw their season end in a 49-7 loss on the road at Strom Thurmond. Their lone score came on a blocked punt picked up by Sam Smith with 7 minutes to play in the game. Landrum will have to go through the growing pains with all they will lose this off season. But, just like with Woodruff, you still can’t help but feel like the future is bright for Brent Bridges’ Cardinals.