Don’t blink … you could miss out on something special.
All roads lead to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia this weekend, where another football season in South Carolina will draw to a close.
For the eight-month wait that borders on eternity, we’re given 15 weeks to take in all the pageantry and God-given talents this state’s gridiron athletes have to offer.
As with anything in life, where joy exists, there also is pain. Football is no different.
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Myrtle Beach learned the cruel, sudden reality of playoff football this past Friday night, falling to Midland Valley in the Class AAA Lower State final. A mere week after completing a comeback for the ages in defeating top-ranked Hartsville, there was little magic left for the Seahawks in their trip to Graniteville, stymied and frustrated by a hungry group of Mustangs.
Inevitably, Myrtle Beach is not alone in its feeling of despair. Countless teams before have grieved the loss of a dream deferred, and a few more will Saturday at the Weekend of Champions in Columbia.
Four teams reached the promised land last week – Abbeville, Dillon, Lamar and Southside Christian – making their championship dreams come true.
Here’s a brief look at what to expect this Saturday as the state’s final gridiron titles are awarded.
Class AAAA-Division I
Fort Dorchester vs. Dorman, noon
Of the three games set to occur on Saturday, this one has the potential to be the most exciting.
The lone undefeated team in South Carolina, Fort Dorchester has followed the lead of a balanced, yet explosive offense. No one has put the clamps on the Patriots this season as they’ve scored nearly 43 points per game.
For the season, the Fort Dorchester defense hasn’t been too shabby itself, allowing 18 points per game. The unit is not without its flaws, though, giving up 69 points the past two games, albeit against the likes of Boiling Springs and Goose Creek, capable offenses in their own right.
Now, Dorman’s Collin Hill gets his shot at the Patriots’ defense, hoping to lead his team to its first state crown since 2009.
The Colorado State commit has thrown in excess of 3,000 yards and 32 touchdowns in leading the Cavaliers to an 11-3 record. Helping the unit keep some semblance of balance is running back Shanard Bain, far and away Dorman’s leading rusher with 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns
With a pair of talented quarterbacks at the controls, expect both defenses to be under assault. For those who love offense, this could be a treat.
South Pointe vs. Midland Valley, 3 p.m.
This preseason, most had already penciled South Pointe in to be playing at Williams-Brice for a state title.
As for the team that would meet the Stallions in Columbia, the likes of Hartsville or Myrtle Beach would be obvious choices, with Midland Valley an afterthought.
Following last week’s dominating performance, please believe the Mustangs have South Pointe’s – and the rest of South Carolina’s, for that matter – attention.
Running back DreKwon Carr’s 262 yards and two touchdowns helped Midland Valley secure a berth in Saturday’s Class AAA title game opposite the Stallions, 27-12 winners over Union County in the Upper State AAA championship game.
The “Two-Carr Garage” – the backfield combination of quarterback Daniel Carr and the aforementioned DreKwon – has been key in the Mustangs’ success, the duo’s sheer power and athleticism too much for teams to match. On the other side of the ball, “Pain Inc.” is arguably playing its best ball of the year, as seen in its shutting down quarterback Drayton Arnold and a vaunted Myrtle Beach aerial attack.
But South Pointe’s mission is simple – repeat. Now, the Stallions are 48 minutes from completing the task.
Everything begins and ends with South Pointe’s run defense. Can it put the clamps on DreKwon Carr and a vaunted Midland Valley rushing attack?
If so, this game undoubtedly swings in the Stallions’ favor, largely due to the ability of cornerback Nick McCloud and his friends in the secondary to lock down opposing quarterbacks.
Class AAAA-Division II
Northwestern vs. Lexington, 6 p.m.
Similar to Midland Valley, few expected Lexington to be making the trip a few miles downs the road to Williams-Brice Stadium.
But as head coach Josh Stepp has said many times over the past few days, the Wildcats “don’t know how to lose.”
An overwhelming underdog heading into last Friday’s state semifinal contest at defending Class AAAA-Division II champion Spartanburg, an 18-yard field goal with three seconds remaining allowed Lexington to pull a 38-35 upset to advance to Saturday’s state final.
The Wildcats – outgained by nearly 300 yards – overcame that by intercepting Spartanburg quarterback Austin Scott three times, in addition to forcing a fumble.
A bruising ground game has been key in Lexington’s ability to advance to the state title game, keyed by Slade Carroll. The senior running back ran for 149 yards on Friday, enough to surpass the 2,000-yard mark for the season.
However, against an all-around juggernaut like Northwestern, the Wildcats will need all hands on deck.
Ranked No. 1 as the playoffs began, the Trojans are on a 13-game win streak in which only four teams have reached the 20-point plateau. During that same string of games, Northwestern has scored more than 40 points on 10 occasions.
Everything begins in the trenches for the Trojans, particularly defensively, where pass rushers Logan Rudolph and Trae’von Hinton have made a living harassing opposing quarterbacks.
With football season winding to a close, basketball season is cranking into high gear, whether it be on the high school, collegiate or professional level. While basketball will be the chief draw for most at Tuesday night’s Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City, the purpose goes far beyond entertainment. The event is part of ESPN’s Jimmy V Week for Cancer Research, an initiative whose roots were sown by former North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano’s 1993 ESPYs speech to “never give up” the fight against cancer, despite the odds. In the past eight years, ESPN has raised in upward of $10 million. Matchups for the Jimmy V Classic are West Virginia vs. Virginia, and Maryland vs. UConn.
Joe L. Hughes II is a sports writer for The Sun News, taking a particular interest in high school and college sports around the Palmetto State. Have any suggestions as to what should be included? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.