For longer than he cares to admit, Jason Allen has been preparing for Friday night.
The first-year Aynor football coach will lead the Blue Jackets (7-1, 4-1 Region 6-3A) into the playoffs as Battery Creek comes to town.
Allen was an assistant with the Blue Jackets from 2003-17 before taking over the program when 13-year head coach Jody Jenerette left.
The Dolphins (2-8, 2-2 Region 7-3A) enter the playoffs as a No. 3 seed, having won two of their last four games. While their record doesn’t show it, Allen and his coaching staff are preparing for a strong team to make its way from Beaufort.
“They’re very athletic and really big up front on offense and defense,” Allen said of Battery Creek. “They’re going to present a big challenge for us. It’s the same thing that we saw in region play, there is unbelievable talent all across this state. They’re much better than their record shows.”
While Aynor didn’t accomplish one of its team goals to win a region championship, finishing second to unanimous Class 3A No. 1 Dillon, the Blue Jackets still have their main goal ahead of them – making a deep playoff run.
“We’re so excited to have a home playoff game as a reward for what these players have done this season,” Allen said. “I told these guys all season to dream big and we’re on the doorstep of our dreams right now. Our community and students are excited for this game and we are preparing to put our best effort on the field for them.”
All season, the Blue Jackets have been led by a strong option running game and solid defense – the classic recipe for playoff success.
“Most teams we face know what we’re planning to do on offense. We can either run it or we can’t,” Allen said. “We want to have some balance, not just in play calling but in how we operate as a team. The most important thing is to be disciplined in our execution and play calling, but we may throw in a new wrinkle or two to show our opponents a different look.”
Looking at Battery Creek, Allen is wary of the Dolphins’ size, speed and explosive ability.
In particular, offensive weapon Gabe Singleton, who will see snaps at quarterback, and DeNarol Brown, the top wideout on the team. The Dolphins also boast a large offensive line, which allows the smaller backs to hide for a second longer.
“We expect them to come out and try to pound the ball a little bit,” Allen said. “The challenge for our defense is if we can rally to the ball and make tackles. We can’t let them get any momentum, that’s when they’re the most dangerous.”
As the Blue Jackets learned last week, any team can hang around if they’re given multiple opportunities. In the regular season finale, a two-win Cheraw team battled Aynor to a 48-43 final, and the Blue Jackets had to come from behind to win.
“Aynor is not in a position to overlook anybody,” Allen said. “Right now, we are building a day at a time and trying to win each day. So, on Monday, we worry about Monday. If we can get better each day, then on Friday we’ll have a chance to win a game. We can only control our mindset and effort.”
* NOTE: Carolina Forest’s home game against Lexington has been moved to Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium because of wet field conditions.
“Our field isn’t playable right now,” Carolina Forest coach Marc Morris said. “From the numbers to the sideline we have standing water (from recent heavy rains). It would have been dangerous to put players on it.”
The game is a rematch from last season’s Class 5A playoffs in which Carolina Forest upset Lexington. This season, Carolina Forest has utilized a strong passing game and defense to compile a 7-1 record, going 4-1 in Region 6-5A – good for second place. Lexington went 6-4 on the season with a 2-2 record in Region 5-5A.
Friday’s First Round Playoff Games
Conway at River Bluff
Lexington at Carolina Forest (Moved to Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium because of field conditions)
Dreher at Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach at South Aiken
Battery Creek at Aynor
Loris at Wade Hampton
Green Sea Floyds – bye