Aynor’s football team has five goals each season and they have already checked off two this year.
“Every year we want to have a home playoff game and win the region,” said head coach Jason Allen. “We’ve been working hard all season to get to this point, where we can host in the playoffs against a quality opponent.”
The Blue Jackets (9-0, 5-0 Region 6-3A) won their first region title since 1989 to secure at least two home playoff games in the Class 3A bracket, should they advance past Friday’s opening round opponent Georgetown. The Bulldogs (3-6, 2-3 Region 7-3A) enter the playoffs having won two of their last three games and have the full attention of Allen and staff.
“We scrimmaged Georgetown over the summer, so it’s kind of funny to see them here in the postseason,” Allen said. “We know what they’ve got and they know what we’ve got, so it will be a battle. I remember how tough their defense was, they were one of the more physical teams we saw in the preseason.”
Allen likened the Georgetown offense to the offense of North Myrtle Beach, where they run an option-style attack out of the shotgun formation rather than the classic under-center style.
Aynor will be without its top offensive weapon in the contest, as senior quarterback Andrew Brown went down with a knee injury in the regular season finale at Lake City, which Aynor won 40-39.
“He went down in the first series and tweaked a knee,” Allen said of Brown. “He’s been cleared for this game, but we’re going to hold him out to make sure he’s 100 percent. We don’t want him to do serious damage by coming back too early.”
Replacing Brown at quarterback will be Noah Jones, a productive player this season playing in the Blue Jacket offense at H-back. Filling in Brown’s position is much different than replacing his production, where he threw for 691 yards and nine touchdowns while rushing for 1,026 yards and 15 scores.
“Noah did a good job for us last week, he carried the ball over 30 times and helped us get the win,” Allen said. “We’ve been beat up pretty good this year with injuries to key players. We’ve been able to overcome those all year and we’ll have to do it again if we want to keep playing this season.”
While moving from QB1 to a cheerleading role in the first round isn’t what a competitor would want, and Allen commended the attitude Brown has shown thus far.
“He’s been great about leading from the sidelines and cheering on his teammates,” Allen said. “There was a point last week (against Lake City) where he got our offense up on the sidelines and sparked us a little bit with his leadership. We’ll need him to be that leader from off the field again this week.”
Joining Jones in shouldering the load for the potent Blue Jacket offense is a tandem of running backs in Fred Pollard and Riley Phipps. Phipps has been one of the leading receivers on the Grand Strand this season, but will transition to the backfield to help his team.
“We’ve shuffled some guys and have been able to utilize some of our players in their more natural positions,” Allen said. “We’ve also been able to take some work off guys in practice by getting to call up some of our junior varsity players, so that’s helping two-fold in getting those young guys some practice and getting our varsity guys some different looks and rest late in the year.”
The winner of Friday’s game will take on the winner of second-seeded May River and third-seeded Swansea.
SCHSL Football Playoffs – Round 1
No. 4 Cane Bay at No. 1 Carolina Forest (Thursday)
No. 3 Wando at No. 2 Conway
No. 4 Lakewood at No. 1 Myrtle Beach
No. 4 North Myrtle Beach at No. 3 North Augusta
No. 4 Georgetown at No. 1 Aynor
No. 3 Waccamaw at No. 2 Dillon
Green Sea Floyds earned a first-round bye